“We are pleased to announce today the signing of the letter of offer and acceptance for the purchase of the F-15QA fighter jets, with an initial cost of $12 billion dollars,” the Qatari Defense Minister said in a statement.
“We believe that this agreement will propel Qatar’s ability to provide for its own security while also reducing the burden placed upon the United States military in conducting operations against violent extremism,” the statement continued.
The deal was signed at a meeting between Qatari Defense Minister Khalid al-Attiyah and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis amid a diplomatic spat between several Gulf states.
Meshal Hamad al-Thani, Qatari ambassador to the U.S., posted a picture of the meeting on Twitter, claiming the deal would create “60,000 new jobs in 42 states across the United States.”
State Department officials say the deal will not interfere in the current dispute among Qatar and other Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia, as the sale will take several years to fulfill.
“We are confident that Qatar can address its remaining issues within this timeframe, prior to delivery,” a State Department official told CBS News.
Last week, six Arab states cut diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Libya—or at least one of the governments claiming legitimacy in the latter country. The diplomatic cold shoulder is ostensibly over Qatar’s involvement with radical groups, however in light of Saudi’s own murky ties to terror, this reason may only be nominal, for public consumption only.
Kuwait and Oman are the only two members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that have maintained ties.
Qatar, for its part, has denied the allegations and a top Qatari diplomat objected that no country has the right to “blockade” Qatar.
The $12 billion deal for 36 F-15 fighters, however, is only the first half of the exchange. The full sale includes 72 of the high-tech warplanes, notified under Obama in November 2016. Trump’s comments about Qatar’s funding of terror groups raised some questions about whether the arms deal would materialize, but after Wednesday those questions are largely answered.
“The nation of Qatar has unfortunately been a funder of terrorism, and at a very high level,” Trump said last Friday, less than a week before Wednesday’s sale, adding “the time has come to call on Qatar to end its funding.”
Over 10,000 American soldiers are stationed at the U.S. Central Command base in Qatar. The commander of the base said there are “no plans to change our posture in Qatar,” despite the diplomatic crisis.
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