Defense Secretary James Mattis and his Qatari counterpart, Defense Minister Khalid al-Attiyah have signed a $12 billion arms deal today in Washington, a move made particularly high-profile because of the ongoing blockade imposed on Qatar by its Gulf Arab neighbors.
The agreement is for the purchase of a number of F-15 fighter jets, a sale which the Pentagon says will ensure that Qatar has “state-of-the-art” defensive capabilities. Qatar is the richest nation on the planet in per-capital GDP, but a very small nation to be spending $12 billion on warplanes.
Over the past couple of decades, oil-rich Gulf Arab states have used some of their massive oil revenue to buy US warplanes as sort of prestige pieces to trot out during parades and the like. That tensions are rising between Qatar and the other nations, who have their own large fleets of US warplanes, but this purchase in a totally different context.
The Pentagon has retained close ties with Qatar throughout the regional dispute, reflecting the fact that Qatar hosts the largest US base in the region. In addition to the arms deal, the US Navy has sent two boats into Qatari waters today to join the nation’s fleet for military exercises.
All of this comes just a day after the Ambassador from the United Arab Emirates suggested the US should move their base out of Qatar to “pressure” them. That, it seems, is not under serious consideration from the Pentagon.