Hunter: U.S. must sell drones to Mid­dle East al­lies to fight ter­ror

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

A war vet­eran con­gress­man is hop­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will re­verse an­other Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion pol­icy and pro­vide drones to al­lies Jor­dan and the United Arab Emi­rates.

Rep. Dun­can Hunter, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can and a for­mer Ma­rine of­fi­cer who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, sent a let­ter to Pres­i­dent Trump this week ask­ing him to sup­port the sale of MQ-9 Reaper re­motely pi­loted air­craft to those Mid­dle East coun­tries.

Jor­dan — whose ruler, King Ab­dul­lah II, vis­ited Mr. Trump this month — is a key re­gional ally, es­pe­cially in the war against the Is­lamic State ter­ror­ist army.

The king­dom hosts thou­sands of Syr­ian refugees, is a train­ing cen­ter for Syr­ian rebels fight­ing Is­lamic State and has con­ducted bomb­ing runs in the air war.

The MQ-9 is a large of­fen­sive drone ca­pa­ble of drop­ping bombs and fir­ing mis­siles.

A Hunter aide said the State Depart­ment might turn down the sale based on ex­port con­trols.

An­other op­tion would be to lease the Reapers, which would be flown by Jor­da­nian and UAE pilots.

A third op­tion would be to sell smaller Preda­tor drones re­stricted to re­con­nais­sance du­ties.

“De­spite the com­plex set of se­cu­rity threats both Jor­dan and the UAE face, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion failed to sup­port for­mal re­quests for the MQ-9 Reaper and also a sep­a­rate re­quest from the UAE for the mar­itime con­fig­ured un­weaponized MQ-9 Sea Guardian,” Mr. Hunter wrote to the pres­i­dent.

“We firmly be­lieve these crit­i­cal coali­tion part­ners re­quire the bat­tle­field-tested ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the MQ-9 to ad­vance U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity ob­jec­tives both at home and aboard.”

Mr. Hunter said that a sale cold re­sult in $1 bil­lion for the U.S. econ­omy.

The Reaper is made by Gen­eral Atomics near Mr. Hunter’s San Diego-area district.

With the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­fus­ing to ap­prove a sale, both Jor­dan and the UAE went to a sup­plier who would fill the or­der: China.

“How­ever, both coun­tries ap­pre­ci­ate the im­por­tance of a strong bi­lat­eral de­fense re­la­tion­ship with the U.S. and pre­fer to ac­quire more ca­pa­ble and in­ter­op­er­a­ble U.S. sys­tems,” Mr. Hunter said. “Both have been un­wa­ver­ing coali­tion part­ners.”

Mr. Hunter said the ad­min­is­tra­tion needs to guard against push­ing the two al­lies to­ward China for other de­fense needs and closer mil­i­tary ties.

“The mul­ti­mis­sion MQ-9 is a force en­abler, ca­pa­ble of mit­i­gat­ing threats re­lated to the Is­lamic State, an un­pre­dictable Iran and the unchecked move­ment of peo­ple, weapons and sup­plies to Syria and Ye­men,” he said.

Ye­men is en­gulfed in a civil war pit­ting Sunni Mus­lims against Shi­ite rebels backed by Iran.

Mr. Trump and King Ab­dul­lah held a joint press con­fer­ence April 5 at the White House.

“I am deeply com­mit­ted to pre­serv­ing our strong re­la­tion­ship and to strength­en­ing Amer­ica’s long­stand­ing sup­port for Jor­dan,” Mr. Trump said.

“And you do have tremen­dous sup­port within our coun­try, I can tell you that.”

Said King Ab­dul­lah: “This is a strate­gic part­ner­ship that we keep very close to our hearts, and it is a part­ner­ship on so many lev­els that we will con­tinue, I think, with the frank dis­cus­sions that we had to­day to im­prove on as we face the chal­lenges of the fu­ture.”

The Hunter aide said he did not know if the king raised the drone is­sue with Mr. Trump.

The let­ter was co-signed by Demo­cratic Rep. Scott H. Peters, who also rep­re­sents the San Diego area, and by 14 other House mem­bers.

“We firmly be­lieve these crit­i­cal coali­tion part­ners re­quire the bat­tle­field­tested ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the MQ-9 to ad­vance U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity ob­jec­tives both at home and aboard.” — Rep. Dun­can Hunter, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can

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