US, Qatar sign $12-billion deal for F-15QA fighter jets: Washington continues to balance Riyadh and Doha

Qatar signed a deal with the US to buy a reported 36 F-15QA fighter jets for $12 billion on Wednesday, according to the country's Ministry of Defence. It comes at a time when the Gulf nation is mired in one of the worst diplomatic crises in its recent past.

What's interesting is that the deal appears to have gone ahead despite US president Donald's Trump's scathing criticism of Qatar last week. In a statement delivered on Friday, the president accused Qatar of being a "high-level" sponsor of terrorism.

"The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level... nations came together and spoke to me about confronting Qatar over its behaviour... I decided, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, our great generals and military people, the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding — they have to end that funding — and its extremist ideology in terms of funding," Trump had said.

And under a week later, the deal for the fighter jets was signed.

At face value, this could appear to be a case of muddled or mixed foreign policy, but there's more to it than meets the eye.

While the US and Saudi Arabia share warm diplomatic relations, something underscored by Trump in recent visit to West Asia, ties (particularly defence relations) between Doha and Washington have also been strong. First off, the sale of F-15QA jets, according to the Pentagon, will increase security cooperation and interoperability between the US and Qatar.

Additionally, Qatar is home to the Al Udeid Air Base, which is home to around 10,000 US troops. The base is widely referred to as Washington's nerve centre in the battle against the Islamic State.

Saudi Arabia and other partners in the region who have blacklisted Qatar are yet to issue a comment on the fighter jet deal, but it appears as though the Trump administration has so far deftly managed to balance its relations with both Riyadh and Doha.

Whether this balance holds in the weeks to come, however, remains to be seen.

With inputs from Reuters

Updated Date: Jun 15, 2017 15:16 PM

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