Qatar said Wednesday it has signed a $12 billion deal to buy F-15 fighter jets from the United States — just days after President Donald Trump accused the country of being a “high-level” sponsor of terrorism. The announcement came after the country’s defense minister met with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Washington.
News of the sale comes amid a diplomatic crisis. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar last week and accused it of supporting terrorism and regional unrest. Despite these allegations, Qatar is a crucial ally to Washington in the Middle East. It is home to 10,000 American troops and a major American military base that acts as the center of U.S. operations in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The sale appeared to be another example of the confusing series of mixed messages sent by the Trump administration, in which the White House speaks in an entirely different voice from the military and diplomatic wing of the U.S. government. Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have urged a conciliatory approach to the Gulf standoff, but Trump’s comments last week broke with this tone. The president called Qatar a “funder of terrorism at a very high level,” telling a press conference in the White House Rose Garden that the country had to “do more” to combat terrorism. ”
The time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding” of extremist ideology, he said. “Stop teaching people to kill other people, stop filling their heads with hate.”