Gulf states baffled by hold up of US arms deals
WASHINGTON—While the Obama administration has promised new arms sales to bolster Gulf states against Iran, the White House has yet to seek congressional approval for fighter jets requested by Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain as long ago as 2013.
The stalled aircraft sales could be valued at as much as $12 billion - and $20 billion if spare parts, logistical support and munitions are included, according to Richard Abu Al Afia, an aerospace analyst for the Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia.
“We ask our partners to play an increased role in the fight against Daesh and then we sit on their request for US weapons, sometimes for years,” Republican Representative Kay Granger, vice chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee and chairman of the State appropriations panel, said in an e-mail, report Gulf News.
It’s not unusual under requirements of the Arms Export Control Act and US policy on the transfer of conventional arms for sale to require extensive interagency consideration, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door process.
The administration is required by law to determine that sales to Middle East nations other than Israel won’t adversely affect that nation’s qualitative military edge - a primary US policy goal, the official said. The State and Defense departments are responsible for making this determination, the official said.
Qatar submitted a letter of request in July 2013 for as many as 36 F-15s made by Boeing Co. Kuwait submitted a letter in April 2015 for 28 of the company’s F/ A-18s.
Bahrain submitted a more recent request for 17 F-16s built by Lockheed Martin Corp. President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter have promised to strengthen the defenses of Gulf allies unhappy that he forged the nuclear deal that eased sanctions against Iran. But the administration also has its differences with the Sunni-ruled nations. appreciative” of the strong congressional support for the F-15 sale and “we believe that it will be completed this year. The F15s will improve and expand our capabilities to support US-led efforts to defeat terrorism and extremism.”
The delay in approving jet sales has drawn ire from US lawmakers who see it as a symbol of a broken foreign military sales system that fails to respond to the needs of close allies such as Qatar. The country not only hosts the US’s top command centre for planning and executing air strikes against Daesh but is also providing a base for US warplanes such as the B-52 bomber. It “drives countries to purchase weapons from Russia and China and risks US jobs,” said Granger, whose Texas district includes Fort Worth, where Lockheed builds the F-16. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jack Reed, the panel’s top Democrat, and Claire McCaskill from Missouri, where Boeing builds F/A-18s and F-15s, wrote Obama in April to urge action on the fighter sales. The lawmakers, who haven’t received a response, according to aides, were jointed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker. Since the US-Gulf Cooperation Council Summit at Camp David, Maryland, in May 2015, the Obama administration has notified Congress of more than $20 billion in defense sales to Gulf nations, said the administration official. In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel completed an $11 billion arms agreement with Qatar for AH-64 Apache helicopters, Patriot missile defense systems and Javelin antitank weapons.—Bloomberg