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WASHINGTON — While President Trump berates Qatar for sponsoring terrorism at the highest levels, he is simultaneously authorizing the country to purchase over $21 billion of U.S. weapons.  One portion of that deal — $12 billion for 36 F-15QA fighter jets — was inked on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., when Qatar’s Defense Minister met with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis

 

“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,” read the Qatari Defense Minister’s statement on Wednesday afternoon. “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 State Department describes this sale as fermenting U.S. efforts to “strengthen the security and defense architecture of the region.” They point out that it does not directly conflict with the current regional dispute as it will take years to complete and fill the sale in full.  “We are confident that Qatar can address its remaining issues within this timeframe, prior to delivery,” explains a State Department official.

 

Qataris had scheduled Wednesday’s trip to formalize portions of this arms deal with the U.S. government about two months ago, according to Qatari and State Department officials.  They want these weapons. So, despite growing tensions and Mr. Trump’s repeated hardline stance against their support of Iran and regional terrorist groups, the Qataris came because they want the weapons.  “We are working on the process related to the signing,” said one Qatari official on Wednesday morning. “It is normal. We are in the stage where we want to finalize this deal.”

 

Qataris say the deal demonstrates the “long standing commitment” Qatar has to working with the U.S. The full arms sale, of over $20 billion for 72 F-15QA fighter jets, was notified in November 2016. This means it had already been authorized by congress and the executive branch, when President Obama was in office, before the Trump administration came into office. During Mr. Trump’s recent visit to Riyadh, he made a point of telling reporters during a photo spray with the Qatari emir that he was going to sell Qatar “big beautiful weapons.” In the wake of the diplomatic crisis — and Mr. Trump’s public statements raising concern about alleged Qatari funding of terrorism — there were questions about whether the arms deal would go through. However, on Wednesday, in Washington, Defense Secretary James Mattis formally signed the letter of offer and acceptance for the purchase.

Read more… Qataris say the deal demonstrates the “long standing commitment” Qatar has to working with the U.S. 

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