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US approves $260 million missile sale to Qatar

Date of publication: 25 April, 2016

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Qatar’s purchase of 254 surface-to-air missiles from an American weapons manufacturer has secured the approval of the US State Department.
The US has approved Qatar's purchase of hundreds of surface-to-air missiles from an American weapons manufacturer, the State Department has said.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification, notifying Congress of the possible sale on Thursday.

"This proposed sale will provide Qatar with military capabilities to protect its naval forces and nearby oil/gas infrastructure from air and missile threats," the statement said.

Emphasising Qatar's standing as "an important force for political stability and economic progress" in the Gulf, the statement added that the missile sale "will not alter the basic military balance in the region".

The agency also stated that selling the weapons to Qatar would improve the national security of the US "by helping to improve the security of a friendly country".

In addition to RIM-116C and RIM-116C-2 Rolling Airframe Missiles, the $260 million deal also includes support equipment, publications, personnel training, US government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services, live fire test event support, and other related integration elements.

Increasing military expenditure

Qatar has been rapidly building up its weapons arsenal in recent years, stocking up on billions of dollars' worth of tanks, helicopters, warships, artillery, and coastal battery systems.

Last month, the Gulf state purchased 24 new Rafale jets in a deal signed with France during this year's Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition.

A report last year projected Qatar's defence spending would rise by an average of 12 percent annually through to 2020.

This proposed sale will provide Qatar with military capabilities to protect its naval forces and nearby oil/gas infrastructure from air and missile threats.
- US State Department

Earlier this month, the Gulf state joined 20 nations from the Middle East, Africa and Asia in what is thought to be the largest ever peacetime military exercise undertaken in the Arabian desert.

The unprecedented military training exercise, dubbed Northern Thunder and described by authorities as "the most important and largest in the region's history", suggests Saudi Arabia, along with its allies, are making a more assertive show of force against regional rival, Iran, amid escalating tensions.

Since March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition, mainly composed of Gulf forces, has intervened against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen

Other considerations could yet be behind the continuous spending spree on arms and increased Gulf military assertiveness, including the threat from the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda, domestic unrest in light of adverse economic factors, as well as old intra-GCC rivalries.

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