Qatar’s Minister of State for Defence, Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, said that Qatar is preparing to conduct military exercises with the United States and Turkey.
“US – Qatari relations are old and we are allies. The states who are blockading Qatar forgot that President Trump’s tweets are not always official,” the Qatari minister said in a televised interview with Russia Today.
Al-Attiyah confirmed that Washington will not find a substitute for the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, and that the arms trade between Doha and the United States have been significant since 2014 and were recently reapproved by Congress.
Al-Attiyah explained that the four countries blockading his country were surprised with the number of their expatriates inside Qatar:
We clarified to our friendly and sisterly countries the allegations of the neighbouring countries. We did not have any information about the decision to cut relations and that was surprising to us.
He went on to describe the blockade as a stab in the back, after the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was warmly welcomed in the Riyadh summits with Trump.
The minister denied any contradiction between Qatar’s hosting of the American base and the presence of Turkish troops, declaring in this context joint military exercises between the Qatari, American and Turkish forces will be conducted soon.
Exercises already underway
US – Qatari military exercises are currently underway in the Gulf territorial waters, directly south of Doha, with the participation of more than nine US and Qatari military units.
The exercises are the first of their kind since the Gulf crisis began on 5 June. Two US naval vessels and a number of naval detachments from the Qatari Emiri forces are participating in these exercises.
The two US warships arrived last Wednesday in the port of Hamad, southeast of Doha, to participate in the joint exercises, in the framework of defence cooperation between the USA and Qatar.
The exercises include drills for marine artillery and naval missile operations, in addition to joint naval exercises with US and Qatari aircraft and they come shortly after Qatar announced the signing of an agreement to buy F-15 fighter jets from the US at an initial cost of $12 billion.
During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
The recent Gulf crisis highlighted deep divisions of opinions inside the US and it witnessed a sharp contrast in positions between US President Donald Trump, Foreign Secretary Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary James Mattis. This has puzzled observers of the US strategy in addressing one of the most serious crises among US allies in the Middle East.