The United States approved the potential sale of air defence systems worth $197 million to Qatar yesterday, a statement by the Defence Security Cooperation Agency confirmed.
“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress” in the Gulf region, the Defence Security Cooperation Agency said.
“The upgrade of the [Air Operations Centre] AOC will support the defensive capability of Qatar. The proposed sale will help strengthen Qatar’s capability to counter current and future threats in the region and reduce dependence on US forces. Qatar will have no difficulty absorbing the required equipment and capability into its armed forces,” the statement continued.
Qatar’s beefed-up military upgrade will also provide the capability to defend against cyber threats. The sale comes a couple of days after the state of Qatar and NATO signed an agreement on military and security cooperation. Qatar previously worked with NATO in an alliance in Libya, and tackling piracy threats off the coast of Somalia.
In addition to this development, the Defence Security Cooperation Agency also announced the sale of $270.4 million worth of weapons to the United Arab Emirates. The sale includes 300 Sidewinder missiles, training missiles, tactical guidance units and other weaponry spares.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed all diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism in June last year. The four states threatened Qatar with sanctions if it failed to meet a list of demands, including one to close its world-renowned international broadcaster Al Jazeera. Qatar refused to comply, denying the accusations as baseless.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) this week claimed that Qatar’s economic performance “remains resilient”, despite the ongoing air, land and sea blockade. Qatar’s economy is expected to grow 2.6 per cent in 2018, as it appears its banking system has recovered from the blockade impact. Qatar’s fiscal deficit is estimated to have narrowed to about six per cent of gross domestic product in 2017 from 9.2 per cent in 2016, according to the IMF.
US forces have some 10,000 military soldiers and personnel based in Qatar, where it operates Air Force’s Central Command for US activity across the Middle East.
US Congress will now review and decide whether to approve the deals with both Qatar and the UAE.