As of September 28, after over a two-year delay, the United States government has officially started proceedings to approve the sales of Boeing fighter jets to Qatar and Kuwait.
Both the Pentagon and the U.S. State Department have signed off on the deals and have begun to notify lawmakers of the upcoming sales. One is the sale of 36 F-15 fighter jets to Qatar, and the other is the sale of 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to Kuwait, worth about $3 billion and $4 billion respectively.
Sales to Qatar and Kuwait were stalled by Israel, the U.S. closest Middle Eastern ally, after concerns the jets and other equipment sent to the Gulf states could be potentially used against Israel. Israel has continued to object to the sales to Qatar based on its belief that Qatar supports extreme Sunni Islamic groups.
The delay has caused frustration among U.S. defense officials and industry leaders alike as both fear any further time lost could cost them billions of dollars; but by law, U.S. foreign sales of military equipment many not “upset” the “qualitative military edge” (QME) Israel has been guaranteed. It seems, as of September 2016, Israel’s concern over this issue has been assuaged.
Since the White House has given approval, the deals will now proceed through the formal process to Congress. Lawmakers will have 30 days to block the sales.
Officials in the U.S. State Department will not comment on the details of any specific ongoing government-to-government arms sales requests from Gulf states, but have stated the U.S. remains committed to the security and stability of the Gulf region.
A senior Obama administration official reinforced that partnership, saying, “For decades, we have demonstrated this commitment [to the Gulf region] 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.”
Both Qatar and Kuwait are part of a 34-nation, Saudi-led alliance whose efforts are aimed at countering the Islamic State and al Qaeda in Middle Eastern nations including Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, and Afghanistan.
This work to approve Boeing fighter jet sales to Qatar and Kuwait comes only four months after U.S. President Barack Obama made his fourth visit to the Gulf region, signing a series of multibillion dollar deals in mid-April 2016.