BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:00 A.M.) – Qatar has submitted a formal request to the United States to purchase F-35 stealth fighters in a deal that, if concluded, could lead to strained U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia and Israel, according to the Reuters News Agency.
Reuters quoted three people familiar with the matter on Wednesday, as saying that the Qatari request for aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin was submitted in recent weeks, adding that it may cause tension in relations between Washington, Riyadh and Tel Aviv.
A U.S. State Department spokesman said: “As a general policy, the United States does not confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until Congress is formally notified of them.”
In Washington, a fourth person familiar with the matter said that concern about Qatar’s links to Hamas appeared repeatedly when discussing arms sales to the Gulf state, but in the case of an advanced warplane such as the F-35, it could be a threatening point of the deal.
While one of the sources said that Qatar’s request for aircraft, which is the first official step in the legal process for the sale of foreign military weapons, was not directly linked to the Abraham Accord agreement.
Qatar has shown no indication that it will normalize relations with Israel.
In September, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani met in Washington, where the United States hopes to move forward with naming Qatar as a major non-NATO ally.
The request comes after the August agreement between the United States and the UAE, in which Washington agreed to consider granting the Gulf state’s approval to purchase fighters, in a side deal to an agreement brokered by the United States.
On the other hand, the American Democratic and Republican parties submitted a new bill to Congress aimed at preserving the qualitative edge of Israel in the Middle East, and the purpose of which is to grant Israel the right to veto U.S. arms deals to countries in the Middle East.