(AhlulBayt News Agency) - The US has signed a $12bn deal to supply dozens of F-15 jets to Qatar, despite recent high-profile claims by President Donald Trump alleging Qatar’s “high-level funding” of terrorism.
The signing of the deal on Wednesday is the latest twist in the highly contradictory US diplomacy over the crisis around Qatar – now in its second week – with the emirate targeted by a Saudi-led embargo.
Hailed by Qatar, the deal underlines the reigning confusion inside the Trump administration as it handles one of its first big foreign policy crises, which was in large part triggered by Trump.
Qatar is facing a severe economic and diplomatic boycott by Saudi Arabia and its regional allies, who cut ties last week accusing it of funding terrorist groups, a charge Doha denies.
As well as severing economic and political ties, the four governments ordered Qataris out within 14 days and called home their own citizens. Bahrain and the UAE have also outlawed any expressions of sympathy for Qatar.
Trump has repeatedly echoed the accusations against Qatar, despite attempts by his defence secretary, James Mattis, and secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, to offer a more neutral and nuanced position.
He doubled-down on his accusations on Friday, saying: “The nation of Qatar has unfortunately been a funder of terrorism, and at a very high level,” adding “the time has come to call on Qatar to end its funding.”
Despite Trump’s remarks, Pentagon and state department officials have moved to reassure the emirate, home to the largest US airbase in the Middle East and the command headquarters for US military operations in the region. Tillerson said last week that the rift was hindering the campaign against ISIS and Mattis on Wednesday signed the previously approved warplane deal with the Qatari defence minister, Khalid al-Attiyah.
The Pentagon said the jets sale would increase security cooperation between the US and Qatar. It added Mattis and Attiyah had discussed current operations against ISIS and the importance of de-escalating tensions in the Gulf.
“This is of course proof that US institutions are with us but we have never doubted that,” a Qatari official in Doha said. “Our militaries are like brothers. America’s support for Qatar is deep-rooted and not easily influenced by political changes.”
In a November memorandum, the state Department said the sale would “enhance the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country and strengthening our strategically important relationship”.
The memorandum described Qatar as “an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Persian Gulf region”.