Almost two dozen representatives from both sides of the aisle led by GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter are urging President Donald Trump to approve sales of the MQ-9 Reaper drone to Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
In a letter sent Monday and obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation, representatives argued that Trump ought to approve the sales, reversing a decision made by the Obama administration.
The representatives gave two reasons in the letter. First, both Jordan and the United Arab Emirates are allied with the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State, and second, if Trump doesn’t approve the sale, these two Arab countries will turn to China over the long term for high-tech, armed drones, instead.
Moreover, the letter noted the sale would be a boon to defense contractor General Atomics, which manufacturers the drone in the U.S. and is located in Hunter’s home district of San Diego.
“From a domestic perspective, the sale of the MQ-9 to Jordan and the UAE could result in over $1B, initially, for the U.S. economy and with 100% of the MQ-9 manufactured in the U.S., it would preserve thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs,” the representatives wrote. “These sales will also support further innovation, research, and development and ensure the U.S. maintains its technological edge over foreign competitors, including China and other countries seeking to develop [remote piloted aircraft] technology.”
The Obama administration denied the sale in early 2015, citing the Missile Technology Control Regime. In other words, the Obama administration wanted to limit the technology to close allies. Britain and Italy have been allowed to buy the MQ-9 Reaper.
Hunter has advocated for the sale to Jordan and the UAE since 2015.
Bellingcat reported in February 2016 that Reaper drones had already made an appearance at Jordan’s Muwaffaq air base. Satellite imagery indicates the drones were already on deployment by the time Hunter sent his first letter to the Obama administration in 2015. It’s unclear if the U.S. or other coalition forces deployed the drones.
While the Trump administration hasn’t mentioned drones in particular, officials have informed Congress of their intent to embrace more generous standards for weapons exports. In particular, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has made the decision to remove conditions on human rights blocking the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain, which the Obama administration had originally implemented.
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