Request likely to be opposed by other Gulf countries, Israel, despite close Qatari-U.S. ties.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
The request by the Gulf Arab nation of Qatar to purchase advanced F-35 stealth fighters from the United States would create tensions with other American allies including Israel if the deal goes ahead, an Israeli expert in Arab affairs said Thursday.
Several unnamed sources in Washington told the Reuters news agency that Qatar, an ally of the U.S. but a rival of neighboring Saudi Arabia, made the request recently. However, the request did not include any mention that Qatar would recognize Israel under the recently signed Abraham Accords in which the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain established diplomatic relations with the Jewish State.
As part of the UAE recognizing Israel, the Americans are pushing the sale of F-35s to the UAE. Israel has objected to the deal, which if approved would make the UAE the first Arab nation to receive the advanced jet that can avoid enemy radar.
“If the deal [with Qatar] materializes, it could create tensions in U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia and Israel,” tweeted Yoni Ben Menachem of the Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs.
Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs analyst, said comments this week by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar bin Sultan appeared to be paving the way for future Saudi recognition of Israel by criticizing the Palestinian leadership, but emphasizing that Saudi Arabia still supported the Palestinian cause.
In an extensive interview with Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya television, Bandar slammed Palestinian leadership as “failures,” but also didn’t mince words when talking about Qatar, with which Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have had an ongoing diplomatic dispute.
“Qatar, to be honest, is on the margins,” the prince said. “The Qatari people are our dear and beloved brothers. The state, however, is not worth a mention or a reaction whatsoever. The best thing is to do is to ignore it,” Bandar said, adding that Qatar’s leaders were like “ticks [that] can drive camels mad.”
In 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic relations with Qatar over its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which those countries consider a terrorist organization. Qatar is also home to the Al Jazeera news network that regularly criticizes both Israel and other Arab countries.
Qatar is also known for pumping tens of millions of dollars in American cash into the Gaza Strip every month in order to prop up the Hamas terrorist group that has run Gaza as a military dictatorship since seizing power in a bloody 2007 military coup.
Despite the acrimonious rivalry between Qatar and the other Gulf nations, it also has very close ties with the U.S. and is home to the sprawling Al Udeid Air Base, where the U.S. Air Force has a major presence and from where it conducts operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Qatar currently has one of the smallest air forces in the region. Although the U.S. agreed in 2017 to sell Qatar 36 F-15 fighters, the American planes will only start being delivered in 2021. The Qatari Air Force’s main fleet is currently comprised of just over two dozen Mirage and Rafale French multirole fighter jets.