The U.S. State Department has approved a possible sale of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicles to the United Arab Emirates .
In a statement on its website, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced on Thursday that the U.S. State Department had approved the sale of up to 4,569 MRAP vehicles under the Excess Defense Articles program. Together they have an estimated value of $556 million. The statement noted that the vehicles include the MaxxPro Long Wheel Base vehicle, the MaxxPro Recovery vehicle, the MaxxPro LWB chassis, the MaxxPro Dash, the MaxxPro Bases Capsule, the MaxxPro MEAP Capsule, and the MaxxPro Plus. They also include Caiman Multi-Terrain Vehicles without armor, and Caiman Base, Caiman Plus, Caiman Capsule, and MRAP All-Terrain vehicles.
This latest approval is linked to one from 2014, in which specific quantities of all of the above vehicles were specified.
The Emirati military seeks to use the vehicles “to increase force protection, to conduct humanitarian assistance operations, and to protect critical infrastructure,” according to the statement.
Approval from the State Department does not mean the sale has been concluded, as the proposed deal will now be under congressional review. Arms sales to the UAE – as well as Saudi Arabia – have been a tense subject in the U.S. Congress, where lawmakers placed a hold on a number of deals for well over a year before the White House last year invoked emergency powers to circumvent the blocks. American lawmakers have increasingly been critical of the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, where rights groups have accused the coalition of committing war crimes, charges the coalition denies. Much of the equipment in operation with the Saudi and Emirati militaries originates from Western arms suppliers, and some countries in Europe, such as Germany, have curtailed arms agreements with the Saudi-led coalition over the conflict in Yemen.
The sale of MRAP vehicles to the UAE has also attracted congressional scrutiny, after numerous reports cited the vehicles being operated by various militias in Yemen, including the Giants Brigade. CNN reported in November 2019 that the U.S. government placed a freeze on the delivery of outstanding vehicles to allow the Defense and State departments to investigate the subject. According to a letter sent to Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren from the State Department, and seen by CNN, the U.S. last year sent personnel to Saudi Arabia and the UAE as part of the investigation.
Saudi-led coalition officials denied to CNN that any violation of end-user agreements had been violated with respect to the MRAPs, and a senior Emirati official told the media outlet that “there were no instances when U.S.-made equipment was used without direct UAE oversight,” with the exception of four vehicles that Ansar Allah, the Yemeni rebel group fighting against the Saudi-led coalition, captured on the battlefield.
The results of the investigation have not been publicized. It is not clear whether Thursday’s approval for procurement by the UAE of the EDA MRAPs is indicative that a finding has been reached in the investigation, though the approval moving forward would suggest that the investigation has not generated concern in the White House about the sale of MRAP vehicles to the UAE.
The approval press release said, “The UAE has been, and continues to be, a vital U.S. partner for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East. This sale is consistent with U.S. initiatives to provide key allies in the region with modern systems that will enhance interoperability with U.S. forces and increase security.”