Qatar has agreed to buy some $11 billion worth of defense equipment from the United States, in what could be the western nation’s largest arms deal of 2014.
According to AFP, this is the first time Qatar is buying US Patriot missiles, which several of its Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, already own.
Citing anonymous US officials, the newswire said the deal entailed the purchase of about 10 batteries for Patriot systems to sink incoming missiles, 24 Apache helicopters and 500 Javelin anti-tank missiles.
The deal was reached during a meeting on Monday between Qatar’s Minister of State for Defense Affairs, Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah, and US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
In a statement, Hagel’s press secretary said:
“Today’s signing ceremony underscores the strong partnership between the United States and Qatar in the area of security and defense and will help improve our bilateral cooperation across a range of military operations.”
Economic and political ties between Qatar and the US have been growing.
In December of last year, the two countries signed a 10-year Defense Cooperation Agreement that means the US will continue to operate and maintain troops at Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base through at least 2024.
Qatar has been taking steps to improve its security in recent months, both through expensive weapons purchases and a new law that mandates military conscription for young Qatari men.
In March, Qatar announced that it had signed agreements with nearly two dozen contractors for $24 billion in arms, including new tanks, helicopters, warships, missiles and artillery.
The country is also mulling the purchase of 72 new fighter jets – a deal that the US, UK and France have been jockeying for – and is constructing a new high-tech naval base as part of the new port project.
Qatar has long been thought to be building up its defense capabilities in part to ward off potential threats from Iran.
However, the nation’s ambassador to the US, Mohammed Jaham Al-Kuwari, told AFP that the latest purchase was not because of any specific country.
“As you know our region is going through a lot of instability. What we bought are weapons to defend Qatar,” he said.
Under Qatar’s new conscription law, Qatari men between the ages of 18 and 35 years old are required to train in the military for at least three months if they are college graduates, and four months if they have high school diplomas or have dropped out of school.
Once the training period is finished, nationals would be subject to two phases of reserves. The first would continue for around five to 10 years, with the recall period being no longer than 14 days.
The second reserve phase would last until the recruit becomes 40 years old, with the length of service depending on demand.