Qatar Won’t Look for Alternatives to US Predator Drones Despite ‘Frustrating’ Sale Delays - Source

© REUTERS / Naseem ZeitoonA view shows buildings in Doha, Qatar, June 9, 2017.
A view shows buildings in Doha, Qatar, June 9, 2017.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.11.2021
Qatar has been one of America’s major allies in the Middle East. The country has hosted the US air base Al Udeid for years and since 2003, it has contributed some $8 billion to get that facility running. Doha has played a key role in Washington’s missions in the region, including the recent pullout of US troops from Afghanistan.
Doha has been "extremely frustrated" with the US dragging its feet on the sale of MQ-9B Predator drones to Qatar, a source in the Gulf familiar with the discussions told Sputnik.
Qatar requested that the US provide it with four armed drones a year ago. The Pentagon was reportedly pushing for the deal to go through, and Doha was prepared to fork out half a billion dollars for that delivery. The State Department, however, has been slow-walking the request without providing any details.
The issue is likely to top the agenda of Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, who is expected in Washington as early as next month.
"Qatar wants to have those drones because they make them feel guarded and protected. The US State Department, on the other hand, fears that that technology might end up in the hands of the wrong people."
Throughout the years, Qatar has been accused of supporting rebels and extremists on a number of occasions. It backed the Muslim Brotherhood*, which has been outlawed by many regional and international players. It has been supporting the military group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and it has been maintaining ties with extremists such as the Taliban* in Afghanistan and Daesh*.
Although Doha has repeatedly rejected these accusations, in 2017 the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia severed their diplomatic ties with the gas-rich nation, claiming they couldn't cope with the support it gave to extremists that have destabilised the region.
The ties between the nations have recently been mended, but the US State Department is still "hesitating", as to whether the deal should be actually carried out, says the source.

Eyeing Alternatives?

The US government has allowed only a few nations to purchase their armed drones, including the UK, Australia, France, Germany and Taiwan. More recently, it has also given permission to the UAE, as part of its 2020 normalisation deal with Israel.
Doha has not been given that greenlight yet, and the source says that the move is sending a clear message to Qatar and other countries across the Middle East that they should be "vigilant" and that their own provisions might be under question.
If that is the case, Qatar might want to eye other weapons providers, including China and Russia, with which relations have improved in the past several years.
However, the official is certain that Doha will not dare take such a step, as the move would be viewed as "hostile" by Washington, and as something that might eventually backfire.
This is the reason why Doha might want to opt for a wait-and-see policy and hope that the US will release the drones. The only question is what interests will prevail in Washington: those of the Pentagon or the State Department. The answer might be revealed during Al Thani's official visit later this year.
*A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.
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