U.S. inks billion-dollar arms deal with Qatar despite Trump terror claims

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis welcomed his Qatari counterpart Khalid al-Attiyah to Washington on Wednesday for the F-15 sale. So far, the dispute between Doha and nations led by Saudi Arabia has yet to shake that partnership, though cracks are showing in responses from President Donald Trump and his administration.

The Pentagon did not provide additional details on the sale but Bloomberg reported it could include as many as 36 warplanes.

"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.

This last November, the U.S. had approved to possibly sell up $21.1bn worth of F-15QA aircrafts to Qatar- around 72 of them.

Boeing which is the maker of these fighter planes did not comment on the controversial sale.

"Qatar and the United States have solidified their military co-operation by having fought together side by side for many years now in an effort to eradicate terrorism and promote a future of dignity and prosperity", al-Attiyah said in a statement. He stated that recognizing US military presence and US-Qatar military and defense ties were important.

"The nation of Qatar has unfortunately been a funder of terrorism, and at a very high level", Trump also declared later in a rose garden press conference.

The Turkish chief diplomat also held discussions with Qatar's emir and foreign minister on Wednesday and plans to visit Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain and a number of other countries severed relations with Qatar earlier this month, accusing it of supporting armed groups and Iran - allegations Qatar has repeatedly rejected.

Trump has echoed the accusations against Qatar, even as his defence and state departments have tried to remain neutral in the dispute among key allies.

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

As the rift between Qatar and the Saudi-led bloc enters its second week, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, has said that Qatari authorities does not want the diplomatic crisis to continue.

Defense analyst Nicholas A. Heras of the Center for a New American Security said the agreement falls under the category of "long-running deals that need to be cleared after review by different elements of the USA government".

Turkey and Qatar have both provided support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt - a broad movement whose Islamist goals are anathema to Egypt's ex-military president, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and to numerous Gulf's dynastic rulers.

  • Leroy Wright