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WASHINGTON: The sale of 36 US F-15 jets to Qatar is โ€œmore of a proceduralโ€ move than a โ€œpoliticalโ€ one, a US defense analyst told Arab News, adding that defense and security ties between Doha and Washington remain integral to American interests.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his Qatari counterpart Khalid Al-Attiyah finalized the $12 billion agreement at the Pentagon on Wednesday, following almost a year of negotiations and deliberations that involved the US Congress.
The Pentagon said in a statement that the deal โ€œwill give Qatar a state-of-the-art capability and increase security cooperation and interoperability between the United States and Qatar.โ€
Defense analyst Nicholas A. Heras of the Center for a New American Security said the agreement falls under the category of โ€œlong-running deals that need to be cleared after review by different elements of the US government.โ€
But coming on the heels of the unprecedented spat between Doha and its neighbors, the deal almost compartmentalizes US-Qatari defense relations, he added.
โ€œIt indicates that the US Department of Defense under Mattis is performing the grunt work of keeping the US-Qatari security relationship moving forward,โ€ Heras said.
โ€œAmericaโ€™s relationship with Qatar is built on the foundation of bilateral security agreements and Qatarโ€™s strong role in facilitating US military forward deployment in the Middle East.โ€
Regionally, it emphasizes Mattisโ€™ vision โ€œto have a balanced relationship with all of Americaโ€™s Gulf Arab partner states, and this move shows that the White House is coming around to the need to strike the appropriate balance between pressuring Qatar and continuing to work closely with it,โ€ Heras said.
In a sense, US President Donald Trump โ€œwants to be able to have honest discussions with Qatar as a friendly nation, not as an adversary,โ€ the analyst added.

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