Qatar signs $12 billion arms deal with Defense Department after being labeled a state sponsor of terror by Donald Trump

The Trump administration has sent multiple mixed messages amid a potential diplomatic crisis in the Gulf

Published June 15, 2017 4:40PM (EDT)


After President Donald Trump claimed that Qatar has been a primary sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East, the U.S. inked a weapons deal with the country that's worth $12 billion, according to Bloomberg.

The deal, which includes 36 F-15 jets, was completed on Wednesday by Qatari Defense Minister Khalid Al-Attiyah and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. In a statement, the U.S. Defense Department said the deal "will give Qatar a state of the art capability and increase security cooperation and interoperability between the United States and Qatar."

After Saudi Arabia led the charge to sever all diplomatic relations with Qatar, the Trump administration delivered mixed responses. The president jumped on his Twitter account to stand with the Saudis.

Then his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, delivered a more measured statement attempting to de-escalate a potential major conflict.

"In the last few days, I have spoken to many leaders in the region. And as I said to all of them, we know you are stronger together. It is clear to me, based on these conversations, that the elements of a solution are available," Tillerson said in a June 9 press release.

Then Trump doubled down on his assessment that the wealthy Persian Gulf state is indeed a major funder of terrorism.

"The nation of Qatar has unfortunately been a funder of terrorism and at a very high level," Trump said last week at the White House, according to CBS. "The time has come to call on Qatar to end its funding."

What Trump didn't realize when he applauded the Saudis and subsequent Gulf Arab states that followed suit in isolating the nation of Qatar, according to reports, is that the U.S. has a crucial military base used for the fight against the Islamic State inside Qatar.

The U.S. Central Command in Qatar is home to more than 10,000 service members.

"It is confusing, and the worst thing you want to do in a heated, delicate situation like this is to give mixed messages," Paul Sullivan, a Middle East specialist at Georgetown University in Washington, said about the Pentagon announcement, according to Bloomberg. But the U.S. commander in Qatar has said that there are "no plans to change our posture" in the country, CBS reported, and the Qatari ambassador reiterated the country's longstanding relationship with the U.S.

"When no one wanted to host your troops after 9/11, we did," said Meshal bin Jamad al Thani, the Qatari ambassador to the U.S., according to CBS. "We protected them. Saudi Arabia asked you to leave."

Earlier this week the U.S. ambassador to Qatar announced that she was stepping down from her post; this came after earlier this month she had criticized Trump's outspoken attacks on that country.

By Charlie May

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Arms Deal Defense Department President Trump Qatar Rex Tillerson Saudi Arabia