The United States hopes to designate Qatar as a major, non-NATO ally, a status that provides foreign nations with increased access to US weapons and security cooperation programs.
Speaking with journalists on Thursday following meetings between senior US and Qatari officials in Washington DC, a US official said that the US would like to formalize and deepen military relations between the two countries. Qatar already hosts the largest US military facility in the Middle East.
“We’re going to move ahead, we hope, with designating Qatar a major non-NATO ally,” Timothy Lenderking, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for Gulf affairs, told reporters.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, earlier this week to discuss relations between the two countries and ongoing developments in the Middle East.
Major non-NATO ally (or MNNA) status would give Qatar preferential access to US military equipment and technology, including the possibility of transfers of surplus US war materials, fast-tracked export processing procedures and priority for military training programs.
Currently, 17 countries have MNNA status, including Gulf Arab states Kuwait and Bahrain, the latter of which hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
Qatar has been involved in a dispute with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt since 2017. The four countries severed diplomatic, economic and transport ties with Qatar and attempted to impose a full economic and physical blockade against Qatar, accusing the country’s leadership of supporting terrorism. Qatar has vehemently denied the allegations.
Washington has strong ties with all the states involved in the dispute, and the unresolved dispute between the near neighbours remains a major obstacle to the Trump administration’s efforts to contain Iran and push for a united front based on normalization of relations with Israel and confrontation with Iran.
The announcement that the US is favourably considering granting MNNA status to Qatar follows the normalization agreements signed by two Gulf states – Bahrain and the UAE – with Israel. Both agreements were brokered and enthusiastically supported and promoted by the Trump administration.
The deals with Israel have been universally condemned by Palestinians as a betrayal.
US officials have recently expressed that they are considering selling the F-35 stealth fighter jet to the UAE in the aftermath of the normalisation agreement. Israeli officials have objected to the idea, citing long standing US policy to ensure Israel maintains a ‘qualitative advantage’ militarily in the region.
Nonetheless, an Israeli analyst subsequently confided to an Israeli news outlet that even if the UAE were to acquire some of the extremely expensive aircraft, it is extremely unlikely that the US would incorporate all of the most advanced technology and weapons systems with the exported aircraft.
Qatar’s leadership has stated that it still ruling out normalizing ties with Israel, saying the premises underlying the two normalization agreements that have been signed “can’t be the answer” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It remains to be seen if the Qatari leadership will be able to withstand the enormous pressure being exerted by the US to change its decision. LINK
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