The United States may start notifying U.S. lawmakers as early as next as it is poised to sell $7 billion worth of Boeing Co fighter jets to Qatar and Kuwait after years of delays. The Reuters reported this citing information gathered from four U.S.- and Gulf-based sources familiar with the matter.
Amidst concerns raised by Israel that equipment sent to Gulf Arab states would be used against it, the sales had stalled. Israel is Washington’s closest Middle East ally.
For alleged ties to armed Islamist groups, U.S. officials have criticized Qatar.
Boeing said it hoped to see movement on the two big arms sales soon and was encouraged by continued progress. It could not comment on any ongoing government-to-government arms sales requests, the State Department said.
While Washington remained committed to the security and stability of the Gulf region, it was U.S. policy not to comment on proposed U.S. defense sales until they had been formally notified to Congress, a senior U.S. administration official said.
“For decades, we have demonstrated this commitment through continual efforts to enhance our diplomatic relationships and build defense capacity across the region, particularly through promotion of security agreements, foreign military sales, exercises, training, and exchanges,” the official said, reported Reuters.
If buyers grow impatient and seek other suppliers due to Washington’s foot-dragging which could cost them billions of dollars of business due to delays in the process which have caused frustration among U.S. defense officials and industry executives.
The White House is seeking to shore up relations with Gulf Arab allies who want to increase their military capabilities and the expected approval of the fighter jet sales comes amidst such efforts by the White House. The Gulf Arab allies say that after its nuclear deal with world powers earlier this year, Washington is drawing closer to Iran, their arch-rival.
“It is imminent. We expect a decision next week,” said an official from Qatar’s defense ministry, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak publicly.
An adviser to Qatar’s military also said the deal was moving ahead.
The sale of 36 Boeing F-15 fighter jets to Qatar valued at around $4 billion has been considered by the Pentagon and the State Department. In a deal valued at around $3 billion the sale of 28 F/A- 18E/F Super Hornets, plus options for 12 more, to Kuwait is also being considered.
Sources said officials at both agencies had been awaiting final approval from the White House, which is now on board and had largely agreed to the deals some time ago.
“A decision by the administration is very close,” said one of the sources, who was not authorized to speak publicly, says Reuters.
Before sending a formal notification to Congress 40 days later, at which point the deals will be publicly announced, U.S. officials will start to informally notify U.S. lawmakers once the White House gives its formal approval.
After uprisings across the Arab World and amid rising tensions between Gulf Arab states and Iran, military spending has been ramped up by Qatar – home to the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East – and Kuwait.
(Adapted from Reuters)