Last week, President Donald Trump called Qatar “a funder of terrorism at a very high level” and said it was time for the Gulf state to end that funding. Trump claimed he decided this along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his “great generals and military people,” which did not seem at all likely, given that Tillerson was still trying to work damage control from Trump’s tweets earlier that week, which appeared to have him siding with the Saudi-led coalition in the blockade of a country that hosts the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command, a base that makes possible U.S. regional operations in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
So it’s eyebrow-raising that the Trump administration is now suddenly selling this “funder of terror at a very high level” many billions of dollars’ worth of arms. According to CBS News, Qatari Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah and Secretary of Defense James Mattis met Wednesday in Washington, D.C., to sign a letter of authorization to let the Qataris purchase $12 billion worth of F-15 fighter jets. This deal is part of larger — more than $21 billion — agreement reached between the U.S. and the Qataris in November 2016 at the end of Obama’s term.
The Qatari defense minister’s trip had reportedly been in the works before the escalation of tensions between the Saudi-led coalition and Qatar, but the timing of the signing is definitely a nice score of U.S. support for Qatar and its emir in their current standoff with Saudi Arabia — especially since Trump trumpeted his alleged $110 billion arms deal with Riyadh during his trip abroad. On Twitter, the Qatari ambassador to the United States touted the job creation brought on by the bill, or what Trump would call, “JOBS, JOBS, JOBS.”
In a statement announcing the deal, Attiyah said the “agreement will propel Qatar’s ability to provide for its own security,” and rather pointedly added that it would also reduce “the burden placed upon the United States military in conducting operations against violent extremism.” The State Department and the Pentagon confirmed the deal, which a Defense Department spokesman said would “increase security cooperation and interoperability between the United States and Qatar.”