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[*] posted on 5-6-2017 at 03:20 PM
The Gulf States

‘Terrorism, meddling in affairs’: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia & Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar

Published time: 5 Jun, 2017 02:39

Edited time: 5 Jun, 2017 05:01

Ttraditional arab ships with the flag of Qatar © Frank Rumpenhorst / Global Look Press

Key Arab League nations, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, have severed diplomatic ties with Qatar after Bahrain said it was cutting all ties and contacts with Doha. Qatar is accused of backing terrorist groups and meddling in other countries’ affairs.

Bahrain announced early Monday that it is severing diplomatic relations with neighboring Qatar and cutting air and sea connections with Doha, accusing it of meddling in its internal affairs. Bahrain’s state news agency said in a brief statement that Qatari citizens have 14 days to leave the country.

It accused Doha of supporting terrorism and meddling in Manama’s internal affairs.

Citing “protection of national security,” Riyadh then announced it was also severing ties with Doha and closing off all land, sea and air contacts, the Saudi state agency said in a statement, cited by Reuters.

The Saudi state news agency SPA alleged that Qatar “embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and promotes the message and schemes of these groups through their media constantly.”

The Saudi-led coalition has announced that Qatar’s participation in its joint military operation in Yemen has been canceled. The coalition’s statement accused Doha of supporting the Al-Qaeda and Islamic State terrorist groups.

Egypt was next to join the diplomatic war, with Cairo announcing it is cutting relations with Doha, according to Sputnik news agency.

Egypt has closed all its seaports and airspace to Qatari vessels and planes, the country’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt has decided to sever diplomatic relations with Qatar because of the continued hostility of the Qatari authorities towards Egypt,” the Cairo statement read, also accusing Doha of supporting terrorist organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood.
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[*] posted on 5-6-2017 at 04:05 PM

Four countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar as Gulf rift deepens

All the nations also said they planned to cut air traffic to the peninsular country

Our Foreign Staff

5 June 2017 • 6:27am

Four Arab nations cut diplomatic ties to Qatar early Monday morning, further deepening a rift among Gulf Arab nations over that country's support for Islamist groups.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates all announced they would withdraw their diplomatic staff from Qatar, a gas-rich nation that will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Saudi Arabia also said Qatari troops would be pulled from the ongoing war in Yemen.

All the nations also said they planned to cut air and sea traffic to the peninsular country. It wasn't immediately clear how that would affect Qatar Airways, one of the region's major long-haul carriers. The airline and Qatari government officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Abu Dhabi's state-owned Etihad Airways said it would suspend all flights to and from Doha from Tuesday morning until further notice.

Qatar is also home to the sprawling al-Udeid Air Base, which is home to the US military's Central Command and some 10,000 American troops. It wasn't clear if the decision would affect American military operations. Central Command officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dana Shell Smith, the US ambassador to Qatar, retweeted posts that praised the country's efforts in combating terrorism.

Bahrain blamed Qatar's "media incitement, support for armed terrorist activities and funding linked to Iranian groups to carry out sabotage and spreading chaos in Bahrain" for its decision. Other countries issued similar statements.

The decision comes after Qatar alleged in late May that hackers took over the site of its state-run news agency and published what it called fake comments from its ruling emir about Iran and Israel. Its Gulf Arab neighbours responded with anger, blocking Qatari-based media, including the Doha-based satellite news network Al-Jazeera.

Qatar long has faced criticism from its Arab neighbours over its support of Islamists. The chief worry among them is the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist political group outlawed by both Saudi Arabia and the UAE as it challenges the nations' hereditary rule.

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani attends a Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Doha Credit: AP

Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia fell out with Qatar over its backing of then-Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a Brotherhood member. In March 2014, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar over the rift. Eight months later, they returned their ambassadors as Qatar forced some Brotherhood members to leave the country and quieted others. However, the 2014 crisis did not see a land and sea blockade as threatened now.

In the time since, Qatar repeatedly and strongly denied it funds extremist groups. However, it remains a key financial patron of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and has been the home of exiled Hamas official Khaled Mashaal since 2012. Western officials also have accused Qatar of allowing or even encouraging funding of Sunni extremists like al-Qaida's branch in Syria, once known as the Nusra Front.

The crisis also comes after US President Donald Trump's recent visit to Saudi Arabia for a summit with Arab leaders. Since the meeting, unrest in the region has grown.

At that Saudi conference, Mr Trump met with Qatar's ruling emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

"We are friends, we've been friends now for a long time, haven't we?" Trump asked at the meeting. "Our relationship is extremely good."
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[*] posted on 9-6-2017 at 10:07 PM

Thu Jun 8, 2017 | 1:17am IST

Turkey expedites troop deployment to Qatar as Gulf rift escalates

By Gulsen Solaker and Tom Finn | ANKARA/DOHA

Turkey brought forward troop deployment to Qatar on Wednesday and pledged to provide crucial food and water supplies to the Gulf Arab country facing a worsening rift with its powerful Middle Eastern neighbours.

In the deepest split between Arab states for decades, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar on Monday and closed their airspace to commercial flights, saying it was funding militant groups.

Qatar vehemently denies the accusations.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said isolating Qatar would not resolve any problems. Erdogan, who has long tried to play the role of a regional power broker, said Ankara would do everything in its power to help end the regional crisis.

Lawmakers from Erdogan's ruling AK Party and the nationalist opposition MHP were the main backers of the bill that allows troops to be deployed to Turkey's base in Qatar, but the main opposition CHP party said the timing sent the wrong message.

"With these agreements, Turkey is making a choice and by standing by Qatar it is taking on the other countries. This is a wrong policy," CHP deputy head and lawmaker Ozturk Yilmaz said. "How will you be a mediator if you are taking sides?" he said.

Turkey has maintained good relations with Qatar as well as several of its Gulf Arab neighbours. Turkey and Qatar have both provided support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and backed rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Turkish parliament has also endorsed an accord between the two countries on military training cooperation. Both bills were drawn up before the spat erupted. The fast-tracking of the legislation has weighed on the Turkish lira.


Turkey's main exporters' body said it was ready to meet food and water supply demands from Qatar, after a Qatari official said Doha was in talks with Iran and Turkey to ensure trade disruptions did not create shortages.

Grain traders said Qatar appears to have a comfortable immediate supply of wheat.

"Qatar recently purchased about 20,000 tonnes of Russian milling wheat which according to my calculations has just arrived in past days or will arrive in coming days," one European grain trader said.

The president of Qatar's Chamber of Commerce was quoted on Wednesday by local media as saying Qatar had enough food stored in strategic reserves to last for a year.

"There will be no shortage of food and other products as more than 95 percent of imports from Qatar arrive by air and sea," Qatari Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim al-Thani said.

Turkey set up a military base in Qatar, its first such installation in the Middle East, as part of an agreement signed in 2014. In 2016, Ahmet Davutoglu, then Turkish prime minister, visited the base where 150 personnel are already stationed, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported.

In an interview with Reuters in late 2015, Ahmet Demirok, Turkey's ambassador to Qatar at the time, said 3,000 ground troops would eventually be deployed at the base, which was primarily to serve as a venue for joint training exercises.

The text of the draft bill, which includes the agreement between Qatar and Turkey on the base, shows the cooperation will be primarily about the modernisation of Qatar's military, as well as widening cooperation in training and war exercises.

The bill did not specify how many troops would go nor when.

(Additional reporting by Nevzat Devranoglu and Mike Hogan in Hamburg; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by David Dolan and Louise Ireland)
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[*] posted on 27-6-2017 at 01:54 PM

Corker vows to block US arms sales to GCC

By: Joe Gould, June 26, 2017

WASHINGTON — Powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker announced he is blocking U.S. arms sales to Gulf Cooperation Council member states to pressure a resolution to the escalating row over Qatar.

The move threatens to close off a major market for the U.S. defense industry and throw off U.S. President Donald Trump’s marquee accomplishment during his Riyadh trip of a $110 billion U.S.-Saudi arms deal. The deal spurred concern in Israel about protecting its military edge and criticism at home as supportive of the kingdom’s air campaign in Yemen, a mushrooming humanitarian crisis.

In a letter Monday to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Corker said until there is a path for resolving the ongoing dispute, he will block all such sales. Major arms sales are subject to preliminary approval by the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee before the statutory 30-day congressional review process.

Corker's move also comes amid a dramatic shakeup of Saudi leadership. Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud Salman made his 31-year-old son and defense minister next in line to the throne on Wednesday, removing the country's counterterrorism czar and a figure well-known to Washington from the line of succession.

Corker, R-Tenn., said he “could not have been more pleased with” Trump’s recent meeting with the heads of the Gulf Cooperation Council and their commitments to fostering deeper regional ties against the Islamic State group and Iran, calling them “welcome steps forward.” But Corker contrasted the message with the deepening diplomatic crisis. 

“Unfortunately, the GCC did not take advantage of the summit and instead chose to devolve into conflict,” Corker’s letter reads. “All countries in the region need to do more to combat terrorism, but recent disputes among the GCC countries only serve to hurt efforts to fight ISIS and counter Iran.

“For these reasons, before we provide any further clearances during the informal review period on sales of lethal military equipment to the GCC states, we need a better understanding of the path to resolve the current dispute and reunify the GCC," Corker concluded. 

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's ranking member, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said in a statement Monday that he shared Corker's concern, "the current GCC dispute distracts from our shared, most pressing security challenges," and that he would "continue to closely scrutinize all proposed foreign military sales based on a variety of issues and concerns.” 

The council is an alliance of six Middle Eastern countries, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Saudi Arabia, along with the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, cut ties with Qatar over allegations that it funds terrorism — an accusation Doha rejects but that Trump has echoed. The move has left Qatar under a de facto blockade by its neighbors.

Tillerson, in a statement Sunday, said several of the demands placed on Qatar by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE "will be very difficult for Qatar to meet," but he stressed the need for dialogue and a "lowering of the rhetoric." He said the U.S. will continue to support the Kuwaiti emir, who is involved in mediation efforts. 

"We believe our allies and partners are stronger when they are working together towards one goal, which we all agree is stopping terrorism and countering extremism," Tillerson said. "Each country involved has something to contribute to that effort."

Becca Wasser, an analyst with the Rand Corporation, warned that Saudi Arabia and the UAE will "take this as a major affront."

"In the Gulf, all politics is personal. In their view, this is not how you treat close partners and pursue shared interests," she said. "The Gulf states — Saudi Arabia in particular — don't have a strong grasp of how the arms sale process works, including the Congressional piece. This will inevitably add to Riyadh's feeling that Senator Corker's hold is a personal affront and a comment on the broader U.S.-Saudi relationship."

Wasser is also skeptical that Corker's move will have much impact on the regional stalemate.

"While Senator Corker's efforts are admirable, they are unlikely to have the intended effect," she said. "The Gulf states themselves will decide when and how to resolve this dispute. While Washington can urge them to reconcile and support Kuwait's negotiation efforts, the administration cannot force them to table."

Aaron Mehta in Washington and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Twitter:  @reporterjoe   
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[*] posted on 14-7-2017 at 01:13 PM

More Turkish troops arrive in Qatar

Jeremy Binnie and Kerry Herschelman - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

13 July 2017

Turkish soldiers driving ACV-15s at a base to the southwest of central Doha in a photograph released by the Qatari MoD on 18 June. Source: Qatari Ministry of Defence

The slow build-up of Turkish soldiers in Qatar has continued, despite their withdrawal being one of the demands that Saudi Arabia and its allies have insisted Doha complies with before they lift their blockade of the emirate.

The Qatari ministry of defence (MoD) announced on 11 July that a fifth instalment of Turkish soldiers had arrived in Doha to join their comrades at the Tariq bin Zayid Battalion base, under the provisions of the military co-operation agreement signed by the two countries. The ministry released photographs showing Turkish troops disembarking from a Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) C-130J-30 transport aircraft.

The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) did not confirm the statement, but Turkish newspapers reported on the following day that that a 45-strong commando unit affiliated to the Istanbul-based 1st Army Command had arrived in Doha. The Dogan News Agency (DHA) reported that another contingent of about 25 soldiers from an artillery unit would arrive in Qatar between 16 and 19 July with T-155 Fırtına self-propelled howitzers.

Neither country has revealed the total number of Turkish soldiers currently in Qatar. The Qatari MoD reported the arrival of the batches on 18, 22, and 39 June respectively, and released photographs showing Turkish soldiers and ACV-15 armoured personnel carriers being unloaded from QAEF C-17 transports at Al-Udeid Air Base. The TSK said the group that arrived on 22 June consisted of 23 personnel and five armoured vehicles. A senior Turkish defence official told parliament in May that the country had 94 soldiers in Qatar at that time.

(277 of 460 words)
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[*] posted on 3-8-2017 at 05:50 PM

It’s Long Past Time to Rethink US Military Posture in the Gulf

By Mara E. Karlin & Melissa G. Dalton

August 2, 2017

U.S. Air Force / Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb

The rift between Qatar and other Gulf nations should prompt a long-overdue review of what the Pentagon keeps in the region, and where.

A number of U.S. officials, including President Trump and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, have recently suggested that the U.S. military should consider eliminating its military presence in Qatar. Doing so precipitously would be a mistake, and given the strategic, operational, and financial stakes, rather unlikely. But there are other reasons to rethink U.S. military posture in the Middle East for the demands and limitations of the 21st century.

Challenges with Iran, competition with Russia and China, counterterrorism imperatives, and domestic political and budgetary realities make a meaningful review long overdue.

The crisis between Doha and its Gulf partners, fueled by long-simmering tensions over regional competition, is unlikely to abate any time soon. Gulf disunity is unhelpful for several reasons, including impeding efforts to counter ISIS and Iran.

U.S. Central Command has indicated that the political crisis is undermining its ability to conduct long-term planning. At a very practical level, the U.S. military may find its robust presence in Qatar narrowed, which would call into question the parameters of U.S. force posture across the Middle East.

This presence is centered on al Udeid air base, the U.S. military’s largest base in the region. Built in the 1990s with $1 billion from Qatar — and expanded and improved with $450 million in U.S. military construction funds since 2003 — al Udeid is home to nearly 10,000 U.S. military personnel and the longest runway in the Gulf. The base supports U.S. Central Command’s forward headquarters, the Combined Air and Space Operations Center with representatives from 20 or so nations, and the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing. Qatar also hosts Camp As Sayliyah, where the U.S. Army keeps enough armor for a brigade-sized force in the event of contingencies or crises.

Moving the forces at al Udeid to a new regional home or homes would be difficult for political, operational, and financial reasons.

At the political level, limiting the base’s operations or moving it would disrupt relations with the Qataris on other regional security priorities and would send a strong signal to other regional allies. As well, in a political environment where the United States may be asking allies and partners to pay more for a strategic relationship, Qatar appears already to be paying its share.

Operationally, losing access at al Udeid would severely impede the command, control, and coordination of air operations against ISIS, as well as U.S. military assistance to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the Yemen conflict. And at a purely financial level, finding the money to replace this infrastructure would require significant tradeoffs in an already crowded U.S. defense budget.

The benefits of the current distributed military posture are clear. At the political level, it lowers the U.S. dependency on any one country, since political tensions can affect military relationships—as the Qatar row illustrates. (Recall as well why U.S. military shifted its major base of operations to Qatar in the first place: domestic political concerns in Saudi Arabia had made it untenable for the Kingdom to continue hosting U.S. forces.) The U.S. military’s dispersal across at least seven countries in the Middle East and over 10 bases in Asia, for example, show countries like Iran and China that in a conflict, they are severely outnumbered by U.S. allies and partners, enhancing deterrence and reassurance. Disaggregated posture allows for operational resiliency, particularly in theaters where adversaries have plenty of missiles that could impede operations at any particular base.

Yet there are also costs to this posture. To date, even substantial U.S. domestic pressures have had a limited effect in forcing the U.S. military to reconsider its presence in a country.

Bahrain is the latest example, where the government’s virulent crackdown on its Shi’a population prompted real concerns by some members of the State Department and Congress over both the optics of the U.S. base in Manama and the potential risks to it. Nevertheless, these concerns were overridden by security imperatives, maintaining the political relationship with Saudi Arabia (the dominant power in Bahrain), and operational priorities for counterterrorism and Iran deterrence missions.

To be sure, no U.S. base is irreplaceable, as the U.S. military found in 1992 when Subic Bay and Clark Air Field were closed, the latter by a volcano and the former by the Philippine government’s infighting. And at a minimum, paying for most of this posture out of Overseas Contingency Operating funds is problematic—indeed, the latest budget request estimates that it will cost about $30 billion annually to maintain forward presence and readiness in the broader Middle East.  But it is also too easy for dependency on access to become inextricably tied to political expectations and commitments to allies and partners.

Beyond the current political crisis in the Gulf, it’s far past time to acknowledge that U.S. military posture in the Middle East requires a serious and meaningful review. Realistically, this is mostly likely through Congressional legislation requiring the Defense Department to explore different approaches. Pentagon leadership should welcome this, and proceed with careful considerations for current operations, deterrence, and surge capacity. The result should be options for moving beyond today’s ad hoc posture to one that can better secure the interests of the nation.

Mara Karlin is Associate Professor and Associate Director of Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins-SAIS. She has served in several positions in the U.S. Department of Defense, most recently as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development.

Melissa Dalton is senior fellow and deputy director of the CSIS International Security Program. She served in the U.S. Department of Defense for 10 years in several policy and intelligence positions.
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[*] posted on 23-8-2017 at 06:00 PM

Havelsan Signs Contract to Supply Qatar with ‘Joint Warfare Center’

(Source: Quwa Defence News & Analysis Group; issued Aug 31, 2017)

On August 21, Turkish defence electronics vendor Havelsan signed a contract with the Qatar Armed Forces to supply it with a ‘Joint Warfare Center.’

Havelsan is Turkey’s primary supplier of command and control suites, combat management systems (CMS) training centers and training simulators for land, naval and air applications.

Specifics were not provided. However, the description (i.e. Joint Warfare Center) appears to identify with Havelsan’s command, control, communication and intelligence (C4I) products and services. The potential scope of the program may involve each of Qatar’s armed services branches.

Earlier this in the month Havelsan opened an office in Doha to steward its business growth in Qatar.

#HAVELSAN has signed Joint Warfare Center ( JWC ) Project with #Qatar Armed Forces.
— HAVELSAN (@HAVELSANResmi) August 21, 2017

Havelsan has recently supplied Qatar with a Full Mission Simulator for the Leonardo AW139 utility helicopter. Havelsan had delivered the Cabin Team Training Simulator, Tactical Control Center, Flight and Navigation Procedures Trainer and Debriefing System delivered earlier.

Under the $40 million U.S. contract, Havelsan will also provide three years of maintenance support for the system. Although costly, Havelsan’s general manager Ahmet Hamdi Atalay claimed (via Defense News) that the savings Qatar will accrue from deferring AW139 training to the simulator (instead of the aircraft) will recover the acquisition cost “within three years.”

Havelsan has been a successful exporter. In 2016, it was contracted to supply a Naval Integrated Command Control System for the Pakistan Navy’s Agosta 90B submarine upgrade program. Since 2009, Havelsan has delivered to Pakistan an Electronic Warfare Test and Training Range (EWTTR), GENESIS CMS (for the PNS Alamgir), Artillery Forward Observer Simulator and Military Enterprise Information System (MEIS).

Saudi Arabia had also acquired Havelsan’s EWTTR. Havelsan has also partnered with Saudi Arabia’s Elm to collaborate on a wide range of information technology (IT) ventures, possibly including cyber-security.

Besides offering stand-alone products and services, Havelsan has also integrated itself into the products of its fellow Turkish defence industry vendors, such as Savunma Teknolojileri Mühendislik ve Ticaret A.Ş. (STM) and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). Should Pakistan firmly sign onto the MILGEM Ada corvette and T129 ATAK, respectively, Havelsan will be poised to secure CMS and simulator system contracts.

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[*] posted on 25-8-2017 at 12:45 PM

Heads of Military Departments of Russia and Qatar Discussed Issues of Military Technical Cooperation

(Source: Russian Ministry of Defense; issued Aug. 23, 2017)

In course of the Army 2017 International Military Technical Forum, demonstration of capabilities of air defence systems will be organized specially for the delegation of Qatar, stated the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation General of the Army Sergei Shoigu at the meeting with the Minister of State for Defence of Qatar Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah.

According to General of the Army Sergei Shoigu, capabilities of S-400 Triumph and Pantsyr-S will be demonstrated to the delegation of Qatar.

In course of negotiations, the Russian Defence Minister General of the Army Sergei Shoigu expressed his hope that the demonstration, which had been prepared by Russian specialists of different design bureaus, would be useful for the Qatari delegation.

According to the Russian Defence Minister, participation of the Qatari party in the Army Forum will be useful for development new contacts between the Armed Forces as well as promote establishing of closer relations between Russia and Qatar in the field of fighting against terrorism as Qatar plays an important role in the Arab world.

In his turn, Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah stated that Qatar was intended to acquire technologies of producing Russian air defence systems.

“As far as our mutual cooperation is concerned, this is not just the purchase of air defense systems but also technologies. We would like to develop this industry and bring this technology to Doha,” said Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah.

Turning to the issue of Syria, the Minister of State for Defence of Qatar stressed that Qatar was not intended in troops ‘on the ground’ in Syria. At the same time, Qatar supports initiative of Russia, the United States, and Turkey to bring peace and safety to Syria, said Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah.

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[*] posted on 13-11-2017 at 03:35 PM

Emerati minister: Iran is a greater threat than al-Qaeda, ISIS

By: Barbara Opall-Rome   7 hours ago

DUBAI – A top UAE official warned a high-powered gathering of U.S. government, military and business leaders on Sunday that Iranian-sponsored terror, while “similar” to al-Qaeda and ISIS, “has greater potential” for impacting negatively on the region and the world.

At a dinner event here in support of ever-strengthening ties between Washington and Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Ahmad Al Bawardi, UAE minister of state for defense affairs, said his country was proud of the “joint accomplishments” in combating terror and extremism of the two Sunni groups, yet urged closer collaboration in confronting Shiite Iran and its proxies in Lebanon and Yemen.

“Over the years, we have collaborated jointly in the war on terror against al-Qaeda and ISIS, yet more collaborative work remains to be accomplished in the future to abolish all forms of terror and extremism. I must stress that much work must be done to confront extremist Iranian threats to world peace and security with their surrogates in the region Hizbollah and the Houthis in Yemen,” Al Bawardi said.

Addressing a combined event of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council and the Aerospace Industries Association, al Bawardi assailed Tehran for “transporting the Islamic revolution” and engaging in “a serious form of nation-sponsored terror… which is similar to al-Qaeda and ISIS, but with greater potential for impacting the region.”

“Iran has exceeded all limits… and this has serious repercussions on world peace,” said the senior defense official and member of the UAE Cabinet. He noted that the UAE “is establishing relations with all countries in the world, and in particular with all who share common values and aspirations.”

As for bilateral cooperation, the Emirati official said U.S.-UAE ties “are deeper than ever” and “represent an ideal model of a comprehensive strategic partnership through joint military operations, acquisition of sophisticate weaponry, U.S. logistical support and interoperability among forces.

In her address to the same gathering, Ellen Lord, U.S. undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, did not address specific geo-political challenges or common threats, focusing instead on the “robust and diverse” bilateral relationship that extends far beyond the defense sector. The UAE, she noted, is America’s largest export market in the region and the seventh fastest growing source of investment in the U.S.

“The UAE is one of the most innovative and open economies in the world. The U.S. has substantial trade and commercial interests in the UAE, which provides employment for more than 12,000 American workers in defense, real estate, transportation, communications and the financial services sectors.

“While the UAE is one of most exciting and fast growing partnerships in region, it is not a new partnership. For decades, we’ve been working and fighting side by side with our Emirati partners in Afghanitsan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere.”
As for strategic cooperation, Lord cited a May 2017 defense cooperation agreement between the two countries which will allow for much closer ties between the two defense establishments. “Currently, we’re seeing an acceleration in our ties,” she said.

Just three months into her Pentagon position, the former president and CEO of Textron said DoD’s goal is to “train and equip the UAE Armed Forces in a manner that reflects their increasing role as a provider for regional security and their status as an accomplished armed forces in the region.”

Specifically, said the two countries are working to build “technology security protocols and a more robust export control infrastructure” that will allow Washington to sell increasingly sensitive front-line weaponry to Abu Dhabi. “This institutional development is critical not just for ensuring that advanced US technology we release to our partners remain secure, but it will also benefit the Emiratis as the UAE’s domestic defense industry takes off and becomes a force in the global marketplace,” she said.
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[*] posted on 18-12-2017 at 11:32 PM

Qatar Acquires Ballistic Missiles from China

By Tamir Eshel - Dec 18, 2017

Two SY-400 missile carriers and two loaders were on display.

Two SY-400 missile loaders were also displayed.

Qatar is fielding a short-range ballistic missile with a range of 480 km, an act that further expands the country’s reach and deterrence amidst raw with neighboring UAE and Saudi Arabia. The first units of SY-400 missile, to be displayed on the national parade, was seen publicly for the first time during the rehearsals yesterday.

The SY-400 is a short-range, precision-attack ballistic missile introduced in China in 2008, as an export-oriented alternative to the Russian Iskander-E. The SY-400 system has eight containers carrying ballistic missiles propelled by solid fuel. The missiles have a maximum range of 400 km. They are preloaded with a number of warheads and are launched vertically from their sealed containers.

The SY-400 system seen in Qatar is configured with two pods containing the heavier DF-12A missiles (formerly known as M20), a downgraded export version of the DF-12 ballistic missile, used by the Chinese military. The exportable missile carries a warhead weighing 480 kg to a distance of 280 km to meet the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) rules. The missile carrier can be configured flexibly to carry four SY-400 missiles in one pod, and a single BP-12A on the other. The SY-400 is mounted on a Wanshan 8×8 carrier-launcher vehicle, supported by a reloading vehicle of a similar type, fitted with a crane and missile containers.

The German Leopard 2A7 tank was also on display at Qatar’s National Day. Photo via Twitter, Abdulmois

Other equipment displayed in the rolling parade was the German-made Leopard 2 A7 main battle tanks and SPH2000 self-propelled guns. (In the past tanks paraded on their transporters, but this year 14 were rolling on tracks along the Corniche. Qatar bought 62 Leopards and 24 Self-Propelled Guns from Germany. The Emiri has also ordered 490 VBCI 8×8 armored vehicles from France.

Another Qatari acquisition is hundreds of armored vehicles from Turkey. The Turkish-made Edjer Yalcin armored vehicles will take part in the parade for the first time. The acquisition of hundreds of armored vehicles from Turkey is part of a larger defense export package signed between the two countries.

Within the scope of the contract, approximately 400 Ejder Yalçın 4×4 armored combat vehicles produced by Nurol Makina Sanayi (NMS), and are equipped with Aselsan’s SARP-DUAL remotely controlled weapon stations. The deal with Turkey also includes the delivery of more than a hundred NMS 4×4 light armored vehicles that carry guided missiles or man-portable short-range air defense missiles.

Ejder Yalçin vehicles (leading) are armed with the Stabilised Advanced Remote Weapon Platform (SARP) Dual, sourced from Turkish company Aselsan. This comprises a .50 cal machine gun, a second 7.62mm machine gun and advanced optics. The NMS 4×4 vehicles (on the left side) on display were spotted with the IGLA launching system for short-range air defense, and an anti-tank launching system, both also supplied by Aselsan. Photo: Twitter, Grant Turnbull, Shephard
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[*] posted on 19-12-2017 at 03:24 PM

A huge military buildup is underway in Qatar. But who will man the systems?

By: Chirine Mouchantaf   3 days ago

BEIRUT – Qatar’s launch of a huge air power buildup has raised a series of questions about the country’s ability to incorporate systems into its military amid a crisis faced with the Gulf nations.

On Sunday, Britain signed a deal with the small Gulf country to supply 24 Typhoon fighters after two consecutive agreements with the U.S. to purchase 36 Boeing F-15QA and France to receive 12 additional Dassault Rafale fighters.

One industrial source with knowledge of the matter stressed expanded capabilities provided by the three new jets, noting that “the air force will now have a total of 96 new aircraft, compared to its current Mirage-2000 fleet of a dozen.

“The problem faced here is the lack of Qatari armed forces personnel to operate three top-line fighter types,” he added. “In order to compensate for staffing shortage, Qatar will inevitably have to recruit foreign forces.”

The Gulf country maintains a military force of approximately 27,500 men, including 2,500 from the air force.

“For decades, GCC states have concluded massive arms deals with the U.S. and other leading western countries as a form of premium insurance: the GCC helps keep western defense industry jobs, and in return the West protects the GCC states from external threats,” said Yezid Sayegh, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center think tank.

“Recent Qatari arms deals are a classic demonstration of this.

Especially by winning U.S approval to sell the Gulf country major weapon systems at the very start of the dispute with its neighbors, Qatar undermined Saudi/UAE claims that it was a hostile power and underlined U.S support, despite Trump’s public statements against it”, he added.

A BAE Systems official who spoke on condition of anonymity, said winning the export contract for the Typhoon “is important for the long-term sustainability of high value manufacturing and engineering jobs in the U.K.”

“Securing this contract enables us to safeguard Typhoon production well into the next decade,” the officiall added.

Last October, BAE Systems announced it was shedding nearly 2,000 jobs across several of its U.K. operations, with the brunt of the cuts coming at Warton where the company makes and assembles Typhoon fighters and Hawk jet trainers.

Pieter Wezeman, a Senior Researcher on the arms and military expenditure program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), described Qatar’s military power buildup as a “complete transformation from a very small armed forces — as expected from a small country — to armed forces which will be in size and technology amongst the largest and most capable per capita of any country in the world.”

“In terms of deliveries, Qatar has gone from a minor arms importer before 2014 to a significant one in the years since, and based on a series of major contracts signed over the past two years, it is expected that its arms imports will be even higher in the coming years,” Wezeman added.

SIPRI estimates that Qatari arms imports rose by 245 percent between 2007 and 2011; furthermore, 2012–2016 as part of a program that will multiply its military assets several times. However, Qatar is a small country and its arms imports remain substantially lower than those of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to the institute.

On the potential difficulties that Qatar may face, the senior researcher said “the balance between official Qatari citizens and expatriates, and the very high speed with which the country is ordering highly advanced weapons, it remains to be seen how it will be able to absorb these weapons into an effective force and how much they will be dependent on foreign support, including mercenaries.”
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[*] posted on 19-12-2017 at 10:05 PM

Like the Saudi's, you can bet the Qatar air force will include a lot of pilots named Hank and Chuck, Philip and Roger.

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[*] posted on 19-12-2017 at 10:19 PM

The Pakistani's are tied very closely to the Saud's and have been for the last 30-40 years, so that's not an option, BUT the Qatari's have a very close relationship to the Turks, so expect more than one or two Turkish mercs to be flying out of there in a few years as well..............
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[*] posted on 1-2-2018 at 12:46 PM

Seeking closer ties, Qatar to expand base used by US troops

By: Josh Lederman, The Associated Press   3 hours ago

A group of C-17 Globemaster IIIs reside on an active flightline at al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Nov. 11, 2017. Senior Airman Nathaniel Stout/Air Force)

WASHINGTON — Qatar’s defense minister says his country is expanding the major military base used by the U.S. military to make it more comfortable for Americans.

Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah says Qatar has a plan to build family compounds, entertainment centers and other facilities at al-Udeid Air Base. The base hosts some 10,000 American troops and acts as U.S. Central Command’s forward operating base.

Attiyah says the expansion will also increase dormitory capacity for Americans on the base.

The move comes as Qatar seeks to cement even closer security ties to the United States, in part as a hedge against Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries. Those nations have been feuding with Qatar and encouraging the U.S. to limit ties to the tiny gas-rich nation.
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[*] posted on 15-2-2018 at 01:20 PM

Corker lifts hold on arms sales to Gulf nations in Qatar row

By: Joe Gould   11 hours ago

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is reopening U.S. arms sales to Gulf Cooperation Council member states, which he levied to pressure a resolution with Qatar. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman is lifting his eight-month hold on U.S. arms sales to Gulf Cooperation Council member states, which he levied to pressure a resolution with Qatar.

Sen. Bob Corker notified Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a Feb. 8 letter obtained by Defense News that he was lifting his hold in the name of cooperation against terrorism, while acknowledging the crisis between the Saudi-led bloc and Qatar is no closer to a resolution.

“Unfortunately, there still isn’t a clear path to resolving the GCC rift,” said Corker, R-Tenn. “Given that weapons sales are part of our security cooperation with these states, I am lifting my blanket hold on sales of lethal military equipment to the GCC and will resume informally clearing those sales if the administration can make the case that that [sic] the purchasing state is taking effective steps to combat support for terrorism.”

“It is important to underscore that U.S. weapons sales are intended to strengthen cooperation with U.S. partners and advance U.S. national security interests, and we will continue to evaluate weapons sales on those bases,” Corker said.

The move will likely be welcome news to the U.S. defense industry and Mideast allies. The hold had impeded a major market to the U.S. and cast a cloud over billions of dollars in sales already in the pipeline, before Corker later clarified that he was holding new sales only. Russia, meanwhile, stepped up its interest in the Gulf market.

His reversal comes comes amid a flurry of high-level engagement, including visits, between U.S. and Gulf officials. At the U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue last month, Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reaffirmed the importance of U.S.-Qatar relations, and President Donald Trump thanked the Qatari emir for taking steps against terrorism.

Qatar is home to the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East, Al-Udeid, which houses some 10,000 American troops and has been key in the war against the Islamic State group.

In a diplomatic visit to Kuwait this week, Tillerson called for an end to the more than seven-month GCC-Qatar dispute, warning that it harms regional security. He also touted Kuwait’s upgrading its Air Force with the purchase of American F/A-18 fighter jets.

“I think there will be other discussions of future economic opportunities as well,” Kuwait Times quoted him saying.

Though major combat operations against ISIS have ceased since the group lost much of the territory it held in 2014, Tillerson said the militant group is still a threat to the region, the U.S. and other nations.

“The timing of this release is unsurprising,” said Becca Wasser, and analyst at the think tank Rand, noting the recent talks. “It is likely that over time, the hold increasingly became a liability, another issue for the Gulf states to point as a sign of shaky U.S. support, particularly when juxtaposed with the Trump administration’s push to sell arms.”

”The Qataris are currently riding a wave of positive momentum after a warm welcome in Washington for the Dialogue, and any arms sales or deliveries would be captured in this momentum,” Wasser said. “For Abu Dhabi, Manama and Riyadh, the release sets the precedent that there will be no lasting repercussions for any actions they (or other Gulf partners, for that matter) take that work against U.S. interests.”

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt broke off ties with Qatar in June last year, imposing a land, sea and air campaign and accusing it of supporting extremists and being too close to Iran. Qatar denies the allegations and accuses the bloc of aiming to undermine its sovereignty.

At the time, Trump seemed to side against the U.S. military partner, deriding what he called its “extremist ideology in terms of funding” terrorist groups. At the time, Tillerson had issued a very different message, calling on the Arab nations to immediately ease their blockade on Qatar.

Corker then announced that until there was a path to ending the row, he would block new arms sales to the GCC. Major arms sales are subject to preliminary approval by the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee before the statutory 30-day congressional review process.

In a letter replying to Corker’s lifting of the hold, Tillerson said the U.S. had seen “some operational improvements over the past year, but regrettably, the parties themselves have yet to lay out a clear way forward.”

He stressed that “it is essential that the United States remain a reliable defense partner to the region.”

“As you know, our fight against terrorism continues in cooperation with our Gulf partners,” Tillerson said in the letter, obtained by Defense News. “We will ensure that proposed sales and transfers to GCC countries advance the security needs of our partners, promote interoperability with U.S. and allied forces, and enhance U.S. national security interests in the region.”
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[*] posted on 6-3-2018 at 04:14 PM

Multibillion-Dollar Arms Bonanza Beckons In Saudi Defense Revamp (excerpt)

(Source: Bloomberg News; published March 4, 2018)

By Glen Carey

An army band with bagpipes marched past displays of machine guns and laser-guided missiles in Riyadh last week as international defense companies showed off their hardware.

Hours later, the Saudi government announced that several top commanders had been removed, including the chief of staff and the heads of ground and air forces.

If recent months have all been about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's crackdown on business elites, now he's turned to the military as he extends his authority over the kingdom. The purge of top brass comes as Saudi Arabia is struggling to get a grip on the proxy war with Iran in neighboring Yemen.

But, like everything in Saudi Arabia at the moment, it comes back to the country's finances and the prince's much-vaunted revamp of an economy too dependent on oil.

Executives from Raytheon, Boeing, Rheinmetall and other international companies were at the exhibition to talk about how they fit into his "Vision 2030." The new era for defense includes developing a domestic industry so that the world's biggest importer of U.S. weapons can make hardware itself in conjunction with foreign manufacturers.

For companies specializing in military equipment, it could mean billions of dollars in contracts as the kingdom spends decades building an industry from scratch. At the exhibition in Riyadh, dozens of companies marketed their cyber weaponry, combat vehicles and communications systems.

"There is a lot a business potential over the next five, 10 years, 15 years," John Bottimore, vice president of international business development at the U.S. unit of British company BAE Systems, said in an interview at the exhibition. "We won't have a position in Saudi Arabia long term if we don't work with partners and transfer capability."

The announcement on Feb. 26 of the change in military personnel came the same day as King Salman approved a plan setting out a "vision and strategy" for the Defense Ministry. In another major shift, the government also said military jobs at the rank of soldier would be open to women for the first time. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the SFGate website.

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[*] posted on 9-3-2018 at 09:16 AM

Apparent increase in Iranian material support for Bahraini militants likely intended as deterrence against Saudi escalation

Nazanin Soroush - IHS Jane's Intelligence Weekly

08 March 2018

Key Points

- IHS Markit cannot independently verify Bahraini claims, nor the scale and nature of Iranian support for Bahraini militants. However, the suspected militants’ possession of such an arsenal, if confirmed, would indicate an improvement in capability to inflict greater casualties and property damage.
- Iran’s increasing public association with Shia militants diminishes its plausible deniability for future attacks claimed by affiliated groups, such as the Bahrain-based al-Ashtar Brigades. Coupled with Iranian recognition that sophisticated attacks on strategic assets would risk Saudi/US military retaliation, this suggests Bahrain would be used as a front against Saudi Arabia in the event of a broader Iran-Saudi/US regional escalation, rather than an indication of impending escalation in the currently low-level insurgency inside Bahrain.
- Such improvements in militant capability, if confirmed, would increase risk of more sophisticated attacks on state security forces, particularly those deployed near Shia villages, and less-secure state-owned commercial buildings, or government offices. Any attacks on well-secured energy assets or US military assets, if forthcoming, would likely require insider help to be successful.


On 3 March, Bahrain’s state news agency reported that security authorities had arrested 116 suspected members of an unidentified terrorist cell “formed and supported by” Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, seizing small-arms, materials for improvised explosive devices, as well as anti-personnel explosives, fragmentation bombs, and devices capable of damaging armoured vehicles.

The Bahrain News Agency report stated that 48 (of the 116 arrested) had received military training from the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in Iran and its proxies Hizbullah in Lebanon and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in Iraq.

The cell was said to have been planning to attack security forces and energy assets inside the kingdom, according to the report. Bahraini authorities regularly accuse Iran of supporting Shia militants conducting attacks in inside Bahrain, while Iranian officials regularly deny such allegations.

(326 of 990 words)
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[*] posted on 13-3-2018 at 09:07 AM

DIMDEX 2018: Qatar’s new naval base still on track

Mohammed Najib, Doha - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

12 March 2018

The Qatari Emiri Naval Forces’ (QENF’s) new base will be fully operational in early 2022, despite the blockade imposed on the country by other Gulf states, a senior Qatari naval source told Jane’s during the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (DIMDEX) held on 12-14 March.

“We have completed 60% of the new naval base infrastructure works and tendered the naval base building contracts,” Brigadier General Abdul-Aziz Almeer told Jane’s .

The competition to win the construction contracts for the base’s buildings involves 24 international and local companies, he added. A decision will be taken in mid-April and work will start in July.

(104 of 330 words)
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[*] posted on 20-3-2018 at 06:17 PM

Turkish forces to replace US in Qatar military base

Posted On Monday, 19 March 2018 14:36

Qatar recently signed an agreement with Turkey to set up a naval base, a plan that will include a training center for maritime patrols and monitoring. Actually, two bases are concerned by the 2022 military plan elaborated by the Turkish ministry of Defense.

Turkey's Defence minister Nurettin Canikli visits Turkish military base in Doha as part of official visit to Qatar (Picture source: Twitter)

Beside those two bases in Qatar, 60,000 Turkish soldiers will be deployed across four military bases abroad, a part of which on the two above mentioned bases. The wider and more ambitious security vision shaped by Turkey explains the extension of the country’s foreign policy in the Middle East, with obvious economical aspects.

So far, Qatar is facing a new situation: Washington started to abandon Doha after the June 2017 political rift. Observers figured out that the Americans would move their al-Udaid Base in Doha to another country. This major move has been regarded as an opportunity for Turkey to restore its military presence in the region at the expense of others. The real justification is to secure economic and investment interests for Turkish companies.

The significance of the Turkish bases in Qatar depends on the developments in the region. When Qatar announced that it has intentions to host World Cup 2022, Turkey announced its military and security presence in Qatar accordingly since 2015. Military, regional security and football: interesting connection, isn’t it?

American military experts believe that the US could have already begun to abandon Qatar, close its Air Force base, and started thinking of moving to other countries in the Middle East region: Jordan, Oman or the UAE, at first glance.

The reinforcement of the Turkish army in Qatar is regarded as a means to fill the vacuum created by the U.S. army when Washington takes the decision to leave the base. That is why the U.S. Army built a military base in the Negev desert last year.

As Turkey had helped the US to expand and strengthen the al-Udaid base, this would facilitate the Turkish mission to replace the Americans when they leave. Turkey is readying to take over and take the lead in Qatar.

The main reason behind Turkish military deployment in Qatar is to undertake future projects, as there are thirty Turkish companies carrying out projects in Doha in the construction sector. Because both Ankara and Doha have been mutually isolated, they are speeding up their bilateral relations, mainly in economic fields. Qatar already announced that Turkish commercial corporations will be given priority for businesses during the World Cup. Hence the firm intention of Turkey to protect these future massive investments.

Never has the Turkish influence in the region been so important since its defeat in World War 1 and the dismantling of the Ottoman empire.
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[*] posted on 23-3-2018 at 01:10 PM

State Department approves arms sales to Saudi Arabia

By: Jeff Martin   56 minutes ago

President Donald Trump, right, holds up a chart of military hardware sales as he meets with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018, in Washington. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images)

A day after a White House visit from Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the State Department has approved a three arms sales, worth more than $1 billion dollars. The deals include 6,000 Raytheon TOW-2 anti-tank missiles worth $670 million, $106 million in helicopter support and $300 million worth of vehicle parts.

The sale is not yet final, and the price will likely change before it is finalized. It also must be approved by Congress.

Under President Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia has bought billions in American weapons systems, including the THAAD missile defense system, C-130 airlifters, modified littoral combat ships, CH-47 helicopters and more.

Revealed: Trump's $110 billion weapons list for the Saudis

In an Oval Office photo op this week, Trump touted the deals already announced with Saudi Arabia, even holding up a large sign.

According to the notices posted, the sales include 6,600 Raytheon TOW-2B missiles, 96 validation variants, spares, training, U.S. government support, and technical manuals. They also include technical support for Saudi Arabian AH-64 Apaches, UH-60 Blackhawks, Schweizer 333s and Bell 406CSs. In addition, the State Department approved spare parts for Saudi M1A2 Abrams tanks, M2 Bradleys, Humvees, and M198 howitzers. There were no offsets listed in the notices.

Saudi Arabia has faced pressure in recent weeks, as a Senate bill to extract the U.S. military from providing support in the ongoing Saudi-Yemen war.

In addition, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Thursday that Saudi Arabia was “part of the solution” in Yemen during a Pentagon photo op with the crown prince.

Again, all three deals must still be approved by Congress, and the dollar amounts will likely change before becoming final.
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[*] posted on 24-3-2018 at 04:56 PM

Saudi Arms Buyers Won a $3.5 Billion Discount From the Pentagon

By Anthony Capaccio

‎21‎ ‎March‎ ‎2018‎ ‎4‎:‎00‎ ‎PM‎ ‎AWST Updated on ‎21‎ ‎March‎ ‎2018‎ ‎8‎:‎11‎ ‎PM‎ ‎AWST

- Pentagon waived $3.5 billion to sell $15 billion Thaad system
- Other U.S. allies also win waivers from paying for development
- Trump Says Saudi Investment Will Add Over 40K U.S. Jobs

Trump Says Saudi Investment Will Add Over 40K U.S. Jobs
President Donald Trump says the Saudis are a “big purchaser” of American arms. A $3.5 billion discount they won from the Pentagon last year in buying an anti-missile system for $15 billion shows they’re also adept at tapping into the Pentagon’s generosity.

Welcoming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to the White House on Tuesday, Trump said the kingdom has completed $12.5 billion in purchases of planes, missiles and frigates from U.S. companies since his visit to Saudi Arabia last year.

He didn’t mention the discount granted last April on the Thaad system from Lockheed Martin Corp. The price break, which hasn’t previously been reported, was approved after the Saudis claimed the sale could be lost without it. It came in the form of two waivers from a U.S. law requiring foreign purchasers of American weapons to pay part of the Defense Department’s costs in developing them.

The sale, announced in October, was only the second time the U.S. has allowed the Army’s Thaad anti-missile system to be sold for export, after a sale to the United Arab Emirates. The Thaad batteries deployed in South Korea are owned by the U.S.

A month after the sale was announced, Russia disclosed that it was selling Saudi Arabia its S-400 air defense system, which it asserts is equal in capabilities to Thaad.

Largest Yet

The Saudi waivers were the largest yet approved for any nation, based on a Government Accountability Office review published in January of the discounts from 2012 through 2017. Over those years, the Pentagon approved $9.2 billion in waivers to allies, mostly from the Middle East, on the rationale of preventing lost sales. That includes about $4.5 billion last year, including the Saudi waivers, the first year of the Trump administration, up from about $500 million in 2016.

The GAO highlighted the $3.5 billion in waivers without naming Saudi Arabia. A U.S. official familiar with the data, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the Saudis were the beneficiaries.

Not all of the waivers approved necessarily ended up at the initial amounts cited in the review, according to the GAO.

While the discounted arms sale reflects Trump’s priority on building alliances with Saudi Arabia -- and in countering the regional influence of its arch rival Iran -- it raises questions about the policy of giving wealthy nations a break from contributions toward weapons development costs that otherwise would go to the U.S. Treasury.

Taxpayers’ Burden

“American taxpayers are footing the bill for billions of dollars for researching and developing the weapons we sell to foreign governments.” Representative Jackie Speier of California, a Democrat who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

“The Gulf Arab nations are among the richest in the world” so “they can certainly afford it,” said Speier, who joined a colleague in requesting the GAO report. Yet the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, or DSCA, “repeatedly and without examination bought the absurd claim that paying those reimbursements would cause Gulf nations to call off” deals, said Speier, who added that she’s exploring options to tighten oversight of the DSCA.

‘Carefully Evaluate’

Senator Robert Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement to Bloomberg News that he’ll pursue an explanation for the Saudi waivers.

“We need to carefully evaluate all our military assistance and arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as we do with any country,” the New Jersey senator said. “I plan to ask the Administration why it granted Saudi Arabia a waiver exempting it from reimbursing the United States” for “an expensive missile system, and how this contributes to our national security. I would seriously question this waiver for such a wealthy country,” even though “Saudi Arabia remains an important security ally.”

A law requires foreign buyers of American military systems to reimburse a share of the one-time or “nonrecurring” research and development costs borne by taxpayers. In addition to the risk of lost sales, a waiver can be granted if a potential customer makes a case that the sale will improve “commonality” with the U.S. military through the use of standard weapons.

These types of waivers are available for sales to NATO allies, Australia, South Korea and Jordan, the GAO found.

99% Approval Rate

The defense agency approved $16 billion, or 99 percent of waiver claims, for various reasons from 2012 through 2017. A waiver is issued almost routinely when a customer claims the sale will be lost without it, according to the GAO.

A congressional aide official familiar with the data the defense agency gave to the GAO said it showed Saudi Arabia had won 57 waivers totaling $4.82 billion, including the Thaad sale. Other waivers totaled $2.6 billion to Qatar, $767 million to the United Arab Emirates and $328 million to Kuwait.

DSCA spokesman Tom Crosson said in an email that “we’ll be able provide you with additional details” about the report “after we provide our inputs to Congress.” Foreign military sales support “various foreign, national security, and economic policies,” he said.

“Losing sales can significantly impact these key objectives, and nonrecurring cost waivers are one way we ensure we are a competitive option for our allies and partners,” he said.

Vice Admiral Joseph Rixey, who was director of the DSCA at the time, told Speier at a June 2016 hearing that he waives costs “in accordance with the Arms Export Control Act. That authority has been delegated from the president down to the secretary of defense and down to me.”

Rixey was still agency director last year, when the Saudi waivers were approved. He joined Lockheed in November as vice president of international program support. Lockheed spokesman Maureen Schumann said the company declined to comment on the report of Thaad waivers.
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[*] posted on 8-5-2018 at 09:13 AM

What if the US stopped sending aircraft carriers to the Arabian Gulf?

By: David B. Larter   5 days ago

U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman receives cargo during a vertical replenishment March 16, 2010. The Truman Carrier Strike Group was deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and missions in the 5th Fleet area of operations. (MC3 Jacob Richardson/U.S. Navy)

Gaps in carrier presence have been increasingly frequent in recent years. Both 2015 and 2017 saw monthlong gaps in U.S. Navy carrier presence with little evidence of a major shift in power dynamics there. Indeed, the Navy is currently without an aircraft carrier in the Gulf, with the Theodore Roosevelt leaving the region in March without a replacement.

With a new National Defense Strategy from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that deemphasizes the war on terrorism and places emphasis on competition with China and Russia, the U.S. is rethinking how it uses its most recognizable and fearsome force-projection instrument: the aircraft carrier.

The issue, of course, is oil and maintaining the free-flow tankers through the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial choke point that serves as a gateway to more than half the world’s known petroleum reserves.

Withholding carriers from the Arabian Gulf, also known as the Persian Gulf, upends nearly 30 years of Navy policy that created a standing requirement to have at least one carrier there, as well as a carrier in the western Pacific. That requirement dates back to 1990’s Operation Desert Shield that evolved into Operation Desert Storm in 1991, which saw five aircraft carriers deployed to the region.

Since then, various commitments have kept carriers in the region: Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch, which created protected airspace over northern and southern Iraq; 1998’s bombing campaign against Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities, Operation Desert Fox; 2003’s Iraq invasion and subsequent occupation; in 2011 when Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz and then-U.S. Central Command head Gen. Jim Mattis ordered a standing two-carrier presence requirement in the Gulf; in 2014 when the Obama administration, in the middle of punishing budget cuts, ordered strikes on the Islamic State group in Iraq and then Syria after the public execution of journalist James Foley ― the high watermark for the militant organization that overran much of northeastern Syria and northwestern Iraq.

Now that the campaign against ISIS has rolled back the group’s presence to just another warring faction in Syria’s ongoing bloodbath of a civil war, leaving little for the Navy’s F/A-18s to strike, the military thinks the carriers might be more useful elsewhere. But what will happen to the balance of power if U.S. carrier patrols become the exception rather than the rule?

Experts who spoke to Defense News say that even if the U.S. significantly reduces its aircraft carrier presence in the Gulf, it would have little overall impact to the strategic balance of power there. They also cast doubt on whether Iran would even want to attempt to shut down traffic through Hormuz, given the overwhelming international response that would be likely to come down on its head.

There are even indications that keeping a carrier in the Gulf might even play into Iran’s hands, said Bryan Clark, a retired submarine officer and former senior aide to then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert.

During his tenure with the former CNO, Clark, now an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said a study on the effectiveness of carrier presence in the region conducted by CNA with the Navy showed that Iran favored keeping U.S. carriers in the Gulf.

“The Iranians we had come talk to us, mostly defectors, all said, uniformly, that the Iranians consider the carriers in the Arabian Gulf a hostage that they can choose to attack at any point,” Clark said. “And they don’t even need to have any real success beyond that they can claim it in their media or show something hitting the carrier.”

For all its strategic importance, the Gulf is a relatively small body of water that never exceeds a width of 210 miles and drops to 35 miles across at the Strait of Hormuz. The Gulf is shallow, cramped and incredibly busy with commercial shipping, and overall just about the worst environment imaginable for picking a fight with an adversary more capable than a defanged Iraq.

On a clear day, a pilot taking off in a helicopter from the flight deck of a destroyer at any number of points in the Gulf can see shores on either side of the aircraft once airborne. Such a body could, in the event a regional war broke out, rapidly turn into a hellish shooting gallery with a large aircraft carrier being the prime target for Iranian shore batteries.

Counterintuitively, the patrol craft and mine countermeasure ships the Navy has deployed in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, serve as a better deterrent, Clark said, because those capabilities start to cast doubt on whether Iran could be successful in closing down the Strait of Hormuz with mines. And the other destabilizing activities that has angered successive U.S. administrations are not deterred at all by aircraft carriers.

“The carrier is mostly now about deterring Iranian efforts to close the Strait of Hormuz, it’s not going to stop Iran from sending Quds force to Syria or Iraq to interfere with our policy,” Clark said, referring to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard known for high-risk interventions designed to spread the country’s influence in the region.

Overall, less carrier presence in the Gulf does make strategic sense, Clark said.

“Going away from the 1.0 presence requirement in the Gulf is a useful way to free up carriers to do things that are more dynamic, to use the Pentagon’s word, and meet the challenges from Russia in the eastern Mediterranean or even in the north Atlantic.”

‘Wildly inflated fear’

Analysts also questioned whether there was a causal link between U.S. force posture in the Gulf and the free flow of oil through Hormuz.

John Glaser, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, agreed with Clark that keeping a carrier in the Gulf to protect the Strait of Hormuz from possible Iranian closure is strategically dubious. He went on to argue that Iran would be one of the hardest hit by a strait closure.

“First, this is just a wildly inflated fear,” Glaser said. “Beyond exaggerating Iran’s capabilities (it’s actually difficult to close the Strait), this scenario ignores Iran’s interests. After all, they export most of their oil through the strait, so they would be damaging their own economic interests by doing this.

“Moreover, any sustained attempt to close the strait would likely mobilize an overwhelming international military coalition against Iran, likely worse than the one that was generated in response to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, a prospect that would itself threaten the survival of the regime. It’s not a scenario Iran wants to invite upon itself.”

Furthermore, its unclear that U.S. Navy presence makes much of a difference in the oil trade, Glaser continued.

“If we pan out to a long timescale, it’s rather difficult to draw a causal link between oil supply stability and U.S. military presence,” he said. “For much of the 1970s, there was no external power occupying the region and protecting the free flow of oil, yet this was a time of considerable expansion of output.

“In the 1980s, the U.S. got more involved in the region but remained largely offshore. And since 1991, the U.S. has had a large presence in the region. So we have these three different eras with very different postures, but no identifiable difference in supply.”

Balance of power

Outside of questions of the military utility of keeping a carrier in the Gulf, regional experts also cast serious doubt on whether reducing carrier presence there would upset a delicate balance of power among U.S. Gulf region partners and an Iran constantly angling for influence there.

Launching airstrikes from carriers frees the U.S. from having to work around host nations’ political concerns about targets when those aircraft are land-based. But the fact remains that the U.S. has a deep presence in the region and has made increasing the capabilities of its Gulf partners a priority, said Nicholas Heras, a Middle East security programs expert at the Center for a New American Security.

“This move really is not a game-changer because the United States still has a strong forward-deployed presence at air bases in the Gulf such as Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates and Al Udeid in Qatar,” Heras said. “Those bases add a lot of muscle to the advanced weapons systems, particularly in warplanes and missile defense systems that Gulf Arab partners have purchased from the United States. Gulf Arab partner air forces train with American pilots, and are prepared to be the bulk of the force that would hit Iran in the event of a war.”

If the U.S. was to scale back its presence in the Gulf, it would be done in consultation with regional partners, Heras said.

Glaser also pointed to the air assets already in the region as a mitigating factor, asserting that if the U.S. still plans to send carriers to the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, “the impact of Mattis’ plan will be close to zero.”

Mattis, in testimony April 12 before the House Armed Services Committee, hinted that his department was looking to shake up how it employed its carrier strike groups.

“When we send them out, it may be for a shorter deployment. There will be three carriers in the South China Sea today, and then, two weeks from now, there’s only one there, and two of them are in the Indian Ocean,” Mattis said.

“They’ll be home at the end of a 90-day deployment. They will not have spent eight months at sea, and we are going to have a force more ready to surge and deal with the high-end warfare as a result, without breaking the families, the maintenance cycles ― we’ll actually enhance the training time.”

Experts who were skeptical of a move to reduce U.S. aircraft carrier presence in the Gulf even conceded that offsetting reduced presence with plus-ups there would likely assure allies of America’s commitment to the region.

“It’s possible that reducing carrier presence could reduce the perceived deterrent value of U.S. presence to Iran,” said Jim Phillips, senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at the Heritage Foundation. “It could be offset by increased ground or air power to the region. It wouldn’t necessarily fatally undermine U.S. deterrence efforts.”

Still, Phillips argued, the Gulf states want the U.S. to stay engaged in the region, even with the rise of Russia and China posing a threat.

“There is no doubt that Russia and China pose greater military threats than Iran,” Phillips said. “But the Persian Gulf remains the storehouse for something like 55 percent of the world’s oil. It’s going to figure large into the U.S. strategic calculations well into the future.”
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[*] posted on 13-6-2018 at 09:10 AM

Gulf countries to use aid to leverage Jordan’s support for a US-proposed Israel-Palestine peace deal, increasing protest risks

Rebecka Lind - IHS Jane's Intelligence Weekly

12 June 2018

Key Points

- Saudi Arabia is likely to push for Jordanian support for its foreign policy objectives, specifically countering Iranian influence in the region by increasing co-operation with Israel and accepting any US issued Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative approved by Saudi Arabia.
- Designated Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz’s new government is likely to proceed with IMF-mandated economic reforms, albeit at a slow pace, reducing the likelihood of Jordan reducing its debt-to-GDP ratio to 77% by 2021.
- This probable linkage established by Saudi Arabia between aid for Jordan’s economy and foreign policy issues risks deepening resentment and raising unrest risks. Protests that combine demands for less austerity and foreign policy changes would indicate an increase in political instability risks.


Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait offered USD2.5 billion in financial support to Jordan at a conference in Mecca on 10 June.

Jordan has accepted the Gulf Arab financial package on offer, which includes a cash infusion to the Central Bank, guarantees to the World Bank, five-year budgetary support, and financing for development projects through a development fund. The official statement from the conference did not include itemisation.

The measure followed protests across Jordan between 30 May and 7 June, which werecalled against a draft income tax law. Separately, the 2018 budget attempted to increase self-sufficiency by reducing subsidies and increasing taxes. This led to a middle-class protest movement against austerity, which was joined by the Islamic Action Front (the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing) and Hirak, a movement from among Jordan’s tribes opposed to corruption and alleged abuses of royal power.

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[*] posted on 29-8-2018 at 02:36 PM

Qatar to Expand Air Base Hosting Major US Military Facility

(Source: Voice of America News; issued Aug 27, 2018)

DOHA --- Qatar will expand two air bases including Udeid, which hosts the largest U.S. military facility in the Middle East, a senior military official said on Monday amid a year-long dispute between the tiny Gulf Arab state and its neighbors.

The development will help accommodate new aircrafts and systems introduced to the air force service including French Rafale fighter jets, American F-15 fighter jets and Eurofighter Typhoon jets, Deputy Commander of the Amiri Air Force Major-General (Pilot) Ahmed Ibrahim Al Malki said in comments published by the official state news agency QNA.

The other development will take place at Doha Air Base. Malki did not provide details about the projects' expected cost or timeframe.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic, trade and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Doha denies that charge and says the boycott is an attempt to impinge on its sovereignty.

Doha has used the wealth it has accumulated as the world's biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas to defy some of the largest and wealthiest Arab countries. It has repeatedly called for dialogue with its neighbors, although it has strengthened its military as relations with them have deteriorated.

Last December, Qatar entered into a 5 billion pound ($6.38 billion) contract with British defence group BAE Systems for the purchase of 24 Typhoon combat aircraft and a $6.2 billion deal with Boeing Co for 36 F-15 aircraft. It also agreed to buy 12 additional Dassault Aviation-made Rafale fighters with an option for 36 more.

The Gulf dispute has eluded mediation efforts by the United States, which has military bases in both Qatar and some of the countries lined up against it — including Udeid, from which U.S.-led coalition aircraft stage sorties against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Nonetheless, Qatari forces participated in joint military exercises in Saudi Arabia in April in an apparent sign of some compromise between the adversaries.

U.S. President Donald Trump publicly sided with the Saudis and Emiratis early in the crisis but then began pushing for a resolution to restore Gulf unity and maintain a united front against Iran.

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[*] posted on 12-10-2018 at 11:20 AM

Trump doubles down: He’s not stopping Saudi arms sales

By: Joe Gould   3 hours ago

President Donald Trump talks with reporters during a signing ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump signaled for the second time in 24 hours he would oppose stopping arms sales to Saudi Arabia even if its government was found to have murdered a Saudi journalist.

Trump said Thursday morning he wants answers amid reports the Saudi government is to blame in the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the Saudi government and its de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. But Trump said he wants to avoid a move that would send Riyadh to the U.S. defense industry’s competitors overseas.

“We don’t like it, not even a little bit. But whether or not we should stop $110 billion in this country knowing [Saudi Arabia has] four or five alternatives — two good alternatives? That would not be acceptable to me,” Trump said.

Thursday on Capitol Hill, lawmakers were discussing various tracks to punish Saudi Arabia if the allegations were founded ― by suspending arms sales, by cutting U.S. military aid to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen or by imposing sanctions — though some lawmakers expressed doubts Trump would follow through.

“Congress will not let this idly go by,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told reporters. “This is something that enrages people, as it should.”

Wary of disrupting ties with a longtime ally, or perhaps hemming in the president, Republicans mostly urged restraint.

The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he would reserve judgement until the facts emerge. “This is obviously a very serious matter, and our relationship with Saudi Arabia is important," he said.

During an impromptu Oval Office press conference, Trump panned the idea of curbing arms sales. Doing that would derail the $110 billion package of proposed weapons sales to Riyadh that Trump announced on his first trip abroad as president.

“I would not be in favor stopping of a country spending $110 billion [in the U.S.], which is an all-time record, and letting Russia have that money, and letting China have that money,” Trump said.

“Because all [Riyadh’s] going to do is say, that’s OK, we don’t have to buy it from Boeing, we don’t have to buy it from Lockheed, we don’t have to buy it from Raytheon and all these great companies. We can buy it from Russia and China."

“So what good does that do us? There are other things we can do,” Trump said.

Trump said the U.S. is looking into Khashoggi’s disappearance, but seemed to downplay its significance.

“Again, this took place in Turkey. And to the best of our knowledge, Khashoggi is not a United States citizen,” he said.

To some degree, the arms sales issue is already moot because the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking member, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., has been holding up U.S. sales to Saudi Arabia for months under the Senate’s informal review process over questions about civilian casualties caused by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

Corker and Menendez acknowledged Thursday that arms sales to Saudi Arabia were already effectively frozen and will not advance while the Khashoggi matter is unresolved.

“My only involvement with this is with one of the defense contractors, and I shared with him before this happened: ‘Please do not push to have any arms sales brought up right now because they will not pass [Congress], OK?'” Corker told reporters. “With this, I can assure you it will not happen for a while.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has called for an end to U.S. military aid to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, which includes aerial refueling of Saudi aircraft — and has vowed to force a vote on any Saudi arms sale the administration advances.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., plans to introduce a measure to cut all funding, training, advising, and any other coordination with the Saudi military until Khashoggi is returned alive.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and a potential 2020 presidential candidate, said he plans to reintroduce a resolution invoking Congress’ war powers to end U.S. involvement in the Yemen civil war.

Sen. Lindsey Graham — a confidante of the president’s and chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on state, foreign operations, and related programs — said he favors sanctioning Saudi government officials if they’re involved, but not ending military cooperation in Yemen.

“I would release the sanctions from hell,” Graham, R-S.C., told reporters. “These people lead opulent lifestyles, they care about their wallet.”

Sanctions seemed to have the most momentum as a next step.

Corker and Menendez on Wednesday led 18 other senators (including Graham) to ask Trump to impose sanctions against anyone found responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance, even if that includes the leaders of Saudi Arabia.

They triggered the Global Magnitsky Act, which gives the president 120 days to decide whether to impose sanctions on any foreign person he determines sponsored or was involved with the journalist’s disappearance.

“If it turns out to be today what we think it is today, but don’t know, there will have to be significant sanctions placed at the highest levels,” Corker said.

Corker said that while there is a tight relationship between Trump and bin Salman, and Corker views bin Salman as an intellect and a visionary, the U.S. must seize the opportunity to send bin Salman a sharp message and do it now.

“He’s going to be around for 40 or 50 years,” Corker said of the 33-year-old crown prince. “If you let him get away with killing journalists in his thirties, it’s only going to get worse. It’s got to be nipped in the bud. It’s got to be severe, if they’ve done this.”

Menendez said similarly the sanctions must go as high as the evidence shows and that the U.S. must not sell out its values to maintain the status quo, even if it benefits the U.S. in other ways.

“It’s important to send a global message that this is not permitted,” Menendez said, adding: “Unless [Saudi Arabia] understands that you can’t have carte blanche and you have to be held to international standards, it may continue down that path."
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