The threat of a nuclear-armed Iran could be compounded by a military upgrading of moderate Arab states that would undermine Israel’s military superiority, according to media reports.
In a feverish effort to reassure Arab allies who also feel threatened by Iran, the Obama administration is said to be considering a range of possibilities, including making the F-35 fighter jet available to the United Arab Emirates, The New York Times said.
Other options on the table: a defense pact committing the U.S. to come “to the defense of Arab allies if they come under attack from outside forces,” joint training missions and a loosening of restrictions on weapons sales.
The discussion comes ahead of a Camp David summit set for May 14 for President Barack Obama and Gulf allies.
So far, there has been no official Israeli response to the report.
Kenneth M. Pollack, an expert on Middle East political and military affairs at the Brookings Institution, told the paper: “The gulf states are very concerned about this nuclear deal with Iran… Some of them believe this is the start of an Obama administration bid to trade them away.”
A decision to sell the F-35 to the United Arab Emirates would entail a reverse of policy. The administration has barred Lockheed Martin from selling the advanced fighter jet to countries besides Israel, which recently put in an order for the plane.
But “with the balance of power in the Middle East in flux, that could change,” according to defense analysts cited by an internal administration paper. “One possibility would be to wait three years after delivering the F-35 to Israel and then approve it for sale to the United Arab Emirates… which would give Israel a three-year head start.”