Gulf states baf­fled by hold up of US arms deals

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

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

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