Timing of Qatar F-15 deal more procedural than political

Qatari Defense Minister Khalid Al-Attiyah met with his US counterpart, James Mattis, to sign the agreement Wednesday.

Qatar is home to the largest United States military base in the Middle East, with more than 11,000 deployed or assigned and over 100 aircraft operating from al-Udeid Air Base.

The agreement also was signed amid the diplomatic row between the bloc of countries headed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. "America's support for Qatar is deep-rooted and not easily influenced by political changes", said an unnamed Qatari official in Doha, according to the news agency Reuters.

Qatar remains home to some 10,000 American troops at a major USA military base in the Mideast.

A senior administration official told Reuters earlier last week that the USA had no prior indication from the Saudis or Emiratis during Trump's visit that they would sever ties with Qatar.

Cavusoglu will hold a bilateral meeting with his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement late Tuesday.

Trump, who took office in January, has accused Qatar of being a "high-level" sponsor of terrorism, potentially hindering the State Department's efforts to help ease the diplomatic crisis.

It added that US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Qatar's Defence Minister Khalid al-Attiyah had also discussed the current state of operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and the importance of de-escalating tensions in the Gulf.

"We encourage all our partners in the region to work towards common solutions that enable regional security", Lieutenant Colonel Damien Pickart, a spokesman for US Air Forces Central Command, said in a statement when the crisis began.

The crisis has seen Saudi Arabia cut off its land border with Qatar, the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

"America's relationship with Qatar is built on the foundation of bilateral security agreements and Qatar's strong role in facilitating United States military forward deployment in the Middle East".

The announcement comes amid conflicting reactions from the Trump administration in the wake of the rift between Qatar and several Gulf nations.

Also on Wednesday, two US naval warships sailed into Doha to take part in joint military exercises with the Qatari navy.

Typically, Qatar Airways flights West flew over Saudi Arabia.

At least one unnamed White House source told MSNBC two days later that Trump "may not have known" that Qatar is home to the militarily crucial Al Udeid Air Base. "We pay a great attention to our relations with them", he said.

  • Zachary Reyes