Issue Could Strain US Relations with Saudi Arabia and Israel
In a move that could cause the United States some issues with allies on both sides of the delicate Middle East equation, Qatar is said to be close to formalising a request for an unspecified number of F-35s – if, in fact, it has not already submitted one – according to a rapidly-growing volume of social media and press discussions.
Confirmation will be some time coming, since US government policy precludes discussion of potential sales or transfers of defence-related equipment before Congress has been notified. But the US has a vested interest in being as supportive of the Gulf state as possible, despite recent rifts with Saudi Arabia and other neighbouring states, since Qatar hosts the largest American military facility in the region – and at least 8,000 US troops and civil servants. Qatar is seen as a fundamental component of the opposition to Iran by Washington.
Less than two months ago, the US greenlighted a potential sale of the LIGHTNING II to the United Arab Emirates, which sparked an ongoing row with Israel that has overt and below-the-surface components that destabilise the long-standing relations between the nations. This may have been the catalyst for the Qatari decision to seek procurement of the advanced combat jet.