The Defense Department has signed a deal to sell $12 billion of F-15 fighter jets to Qatar. US Defense Secretary James Mattis reportedly met with representatives of Qatar to sign the deal on June 14. Bloomberg reported the deal was for 32 jets, to be manufactured primarily by Boeing.
This is despite a statement on June 9 from President Donald Trump that Qatar is a “high-level” sponsor of terrorism.
“The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high-level,” Trump said on Friday.
“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 Ministry announced in a statement on Wednesday afternoon about the deal. “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.”
Qatar is currently embroiled in a row with its neighbors over support for terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, the Tripoli Government in Libya, Yemen and the Maldives have all severed relations with the tiny wealthy oil state. Qatar is currently receiving food and diplomatic support from Turkey and Iran. The UAE ambassador to the U.S. recently suggested using the presence of the U.S. air base in Qatar to pressure the country to end support for extremism.
Qatar stands accused of bankrolling terror groups including Hamas and al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria, in addition to allowing Hamas leaders to operate out of Qatar.
Some of these groups are connected to the deaths of Americans. Qatar originally funded Libyan militia group Rafallah al-Sehati, according to the New York Times. A breakaway faction of Rafallah al-Sehati formed Ansar al-Sharia, the group suspected of being responsible for the 2012 murder of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens at the American consulate in Benghazi.
Qatar also allowed the Taliban to set up a political bureau in Doha and allowed fundraisers tied to al-Qaeda affiliates free reign to raise money for jihadi groups in Syria. For example, in December 2013, the U.S. Treasury designated Abdul Rahman al-Nuaimi as a global terrorist and accused him of raising and transferring $2 million per month to “al-Qaeda in Iraq” and $250,000 to al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia.
None of this stopped the deal going through. The full deal, originally agreed in November 2016, is for $21 billion worth of F-15QA fighter jets. The deal was originally authorized by Congress and the president while Barack Obama was in office. However, Trump seemingly took no steps to prevent the deal.
Middle-Eastern dictatorships have been stocking up on arms recently. The region imports more weapons than any other and it’s not just Qatar.
Weapons imports by Saudi Arabia and Qatar rose by 275% from 2011 to 2015, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
“The combined value of Saudi Arabia and the [United Arab Emirates’] defence imports is more than all of Western Europe’s defence imports combined,” Janes senior analyst Ben Moore said in a statement last year. “The global defence trade market has never seen an increase as large as the one we saw between 2014 and 2015.”
Although Washington remains the world’s number one weapons exporter, it is not just the U.S. that is funding and arming sponsors of terrorism in the Middle East.
British arms giant BAE sold sophisticated surveillance systems to a slew of oppressive states including but not limited to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Morocco and Algeria, a new investigation just revealed.
Saudi Arabia also stands accused of exporting extremism worldwide. Nevertheless, the U.S. Senate just approved a sale of $500 million worth of bombs to the Saudi Air Force for use in the war in Yemen.
The systems allow these governments to track and read most communications, the physical whereabouts of their citizens, listen to what they say by hacking into their smartphones and more.
“It used to be that ‘the walls have ears’, but now it’s ‘smartphones have ears,'” Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi women’s rights activist who also now lives abroad since escaping Saudi Arabia, where she was forced to leave one of her two sons behind.
“No country monitors its own people the way they do in the Gulf countries. They have the money, so they can buy advanced surveillance software.”
That equipment is coming from Western countries like the United States, Canada and the UK, which talk a tough game on terrorism and extremism but continue to sell high end weapons systems to the most repressive theocracies in the world.
“We had a decision to make,” Trump said in his statement calling out Qatar for funding terrorism. “Do we take the easy road or do we finally take a hard but necessary action?”
When the question of a deal for $12 billion worth of hardware came up, Trump certainly made his decision.