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U-turn to reassure Qatar

China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-19 07:02

FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter jet does a low-level flyby over Forward Operating Base Bostick in eastern Afghanistan January 1, 2009. [Photo/Agencies]

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and his Qatari counterpart Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah recently signed an initial agreement for a $12-billion sale of US-manufactured F-15 fighters to Qatar.

The sale came amid the simmering crisis in the Persian Gulf after Saudi Arabia and its regional allies accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and cut diplomatic ties with Doha following US President Donald Trump's tour of the Middle East during which he alleged the emirate's involvement in "high-level funding" of terrorism. On the same day as the deal, two US warships arrived at Qatar's Hamad Port for a joint military drill in the Gulf.

In a statement after the agreement, Qatar's defense ministry said the deal highlighted the joint efforts of Qatar and the United States to fulfill their commitments to bilateral military cooperation. Coming a few days after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates launched a diplomatic embargo against Qatar, the move by the US reflects the Trump administration's diplomatic ambivalence toward the Middle East region.

During his first overseas trip to Saudi Arabia as US president, Trump struck arms deals with Saudi Arabia worth $110 billion and a contract worth $350 billion over the next 10 years.

As a reward for Riyadh, Trump made critical remarks against Qatar along with Iran during his Middle East trip, emboldening Riyadh's diplomatic boycotting of Doha.

However, the diplomatic crisis around Qatar may have gone beyond the Trump administration's imagining. Despite being a small nation, Qatar is of strategic significance to the US given that it is home to the US' largest airbase in the Middle East and the command headquarters for US military operations in the region. The diplomatic rift following Trump's accusations against Qatar has brought such trouble to the US that US departments of state and defense had to reassure Doha.

The US' U-turn toward Qatar is once again proof of the US' "money-first" foreign policy.

-Beijing Youth Daily


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