Two US navy vessels have arrived in Doha to take part in joint military drills with the Qatari navy amid escalating tensions between Arab Persian Gulf states.
The US ships arrived at Hamad Port south of Doha “to participate in a joint exercise with the Qatari Emiri Navy,” announced the Qatari News Agency (QNA) on Wednesday.
The news agency noted that the crews of the two ships were received by Qatari navy officers.
In early June, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) broke off relations with Doha and suspended all land, air and sea traffic with the monarchy. In their apparent bid to secure US support and that of Israel, the four countries cited Qatar’s links with the Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas and accused it of supporting terrorism. Qatar has denied the allegations, calling them unfounded.
It is not clear if the deployment was planned before the recent heightened tensions in the region, or whether it is a sign of support for Qatar from the US.
The US’ largest military base in the Middle East is located in Qatar with 11,000 troops assigned to the al-Udeid airbase which is the forward headquarters for the US military’s Central Command for airstrikes in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Tuesday, The Emirati ambassador to the US called on Washington to consider the relocation of its airbase in Qatar and to pressure Doha over its alleged support for terrorism.
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Qatar buys 36 F-15s from the US
Also on Wednesday, Qatar’s Ministry of Defense announced that the country had signed a deal to purchase 36 F-15 fighter jets from the US for $12 billion.
According to a source informed about the deal, US Defense Secretary James Mattis and several Qatar representatives were scheduled to meet on Wednesday for signing the deal for the warplanes.
The agreement was signed despite recent criticism by US President Donald Trump, who claimed Qatar supported terrorism.