The US government will work to speed up certain arms sales to the Gulf region to help bolster security following last month’s new nuclear deal with Iran, the American secretary of state has said.
John Kerry was in Doha yesterday to meet with GCC leaders concerned about the agreement, which involves lifting sanctions on Iran after the country agreed to scale back its uranium enrichment program.
In a press conference that focused largely on stability in the Middle East, both Kerry and Qatar’s foreign minister, who acted as the Gulf spokesman, were asked about the GCC’s support of the deal.
Dr. Khalid Al Attiyah said the agreement was “the best option” available to facilitate security and stability in the region.
“We hope that we (are) going to have a kind of a ban of nuclear weapons not only to Iran, but to all the Middle East. This is our position in the GCC countries when it comes to the nuclear deal.”
For his part, Kerry said the US reassured Gulf leaders by promising to help increase their security options.
He stressed that diplomacy would always be pursued when available, but that the country would also work to “prevent any kind of external or illegal and inappropriate engagement within a country from destabilizing our friends and allies in the region.”
“Today, we talked very specifically about the ways in which countries can build their own capacity to push back against that kind of activity. We talked about and will engage in greater intelligence sharing. We will engage in special forces training, in exercises. We will engage in maritime interdiction and security. We will engage in other activities with respect to the flow of fighters and financing mechanisms.”
In 2014, Qatar and its regional neighbors spent nearly $100 billions on arms purchases from weapon makers in the US and other countries, according to a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Just last year, Qatar’s Armed Forces went on a multibillion-dollar shopping spree, announcing that it was purchasing new tanks, helicopters, warships, missiles and artillery following a major military trade show in Doha.
At the time, Qatar inked some $24 billion in deals with Boeing, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, among others.
Analysts have said the weapons purchases are to defend the region against any threats from Iran, though Qatari officials have dismissed this idea in the past, saying the government isn’t concerned about one specific country.