Trump suggests Qatar restrictions are ‘beginning of the end’ of terrorism

US President Donald Trump
Updated 07 June 2017
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Trump suggests Qatar restrictions are ‘beginning of the end’ of terrorism

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump’s stance on the Gulf diplomatic crisis “slams the door” on Qatar’s ambitions, an analyst noted, after the US President said the move to cut ties with Doha could “be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism.”
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and several other states earlier this week moved to sever diplomatic ties with Doha over its alleged support for extremist groups.
Trump took credit for the ongoing debate in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) over funding of extremism, tweeting Tuesday morning that “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar — look!”
Ninety minutes later in another tweet, Trump praised the Saudi push to squeeze its neighbor: “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar.”
Trump added: “Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”
In typical Trump fashion, the tweets generated fervent social-media debate about the US role in the standoff. Geopolitically, the tweets only add pressure on Qatar, according to regional experts.
“Trump’s tweets slam the door shut on the Qatar’s final hope: That American mediation would give it a face-saving way out without having to make too many compromises,” said Hussein Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
Ibish told Arab News that Trump’s position puts the Arab states behind the steering wheel. “They are telling Qatar that it must choose, while being backed up by the American president,” the analyst said. As for Doha it “can now either back down or decide to become a full-blown client of Iran and hope for the best,” Ibish added.
Trump entering the fray “may force Qatar to recalibrate its stance,” a former Gulf official told Arab News. “Ever since the beginning of the crisis, the Qataris have been trumpeting American (statements) seemingly praising Qatar’s assistance in the fight against terror and military cooperation between the two countries,” the former official, who is following the crisis closely, said.
“American support was a key factor in (Doha’s) initial defiance. The president’s tweets are clearly leaning in the direction of the Saudi-led bloc, which is very concerning for Qatar,” he added.
Ibish said the US position makes “Doha completely trapped and even its impressive media and soft-power arsenal cannot do much to relieve it.” If the standoff is not resolved, Ibish pointed to further escalatory options for the Saudi-led bloc, “such as expulsion from the GCC and even an effort at regime change.” The expert concluded that “Doha will soon have no choice but to concede and shift policies, though how much and for how long remains to be seen.”
A senior GCC official told Arab News that “the only way this ends is if Qatar demonstrably changes course.” The official stressed that Saudi Arabia and the UAE “have been trying for years and only gotten token moves and denials from Qatar.” He added: “Every time Qatar sensed the pressure was off it went back to old habits.”
The US Defense Department reiterated, however, that “there has been no impact on our operations either in Qatar or with regards to airspace permission around it and we don’t anticipate there will be,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said in a briefing.
The former Gulf official did not anticipate a blowback on US-Qatari defense relations. “I don’t think the Qataris want to risk their defense ties with the Americans, especially now... the Pentagon and the State Department may step in to diffuse any tension with the Qataris.”
The timing with start of the Raqqa operation in Syria “raises concern among US military commanders about the impact of this crisis and the president’s tweet on their ability to fly sorties from Al Udeid” Air Base.


EXCLUSIVE: US offers India armed version of Guardian drone - sources

Updated 11 min 1 sec ago
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EXCLUSIVE: US offers India armed version of Guardian drone - sources

  • An Indian defense source said the military wanted a drone not just for surveillance but also to be able to hunt down targets at land and sea
  • The plan included a new drone export policy that allowed lethal drones that can fire missiles

FARNBOUROUGH, England: The United States has offered India the armed version of Guardian drones that were originally authorized for sale as unarmed for surveillance purposes, a senior U.S. official and an industry source told Reuters.
If the deal comes to fruition, it would be the first time Washington has sold a large armed drone to a country outside the NATO alliance.
It would also be the first high-tech unmanned aircraft in the region, where tensions between India and Pakistan run high.
In April, President Donald Trump's administration rolled out a long-awaited overhaul of U.S. arms export policy aimed at expanding sales to allies, saying it would bolster the American defense industry and create jobs at home.
The plan included a new drone export policy that allowed lethal drones that can fire missiles, and surveillance drones of all sizes, to be more widely available to allies.
One administrative hurdle to the deal is that Washington is requiring India to sign up to a communications framework that some in New Delhi worry might be too intrusive, the U.S. official said.
The drones were on the agenda at a canceled meeting between Indian and the U.S. ministers of state and defense that was set for July, the sources said. The top level meeting is now expected to take place in September.
Last June, General Atomics said the U.S. government had approved the sale of a naval variant of the drone. India has been in talks to buy 22 of the unarmed surveillance aircraft, MQ-9B Guardian, worth more than $2 billion to keep watch over the Indian Ocean.
Besides potentially including the armed version of the drone, the sources said the number of aircraft had also changed.
An Indian defense source said the military wanted a drone not just for surveillance but also to be able to hunt down targets at land and sea. The military had argued the costs of acquisition did not justify buying an unarmed drone.
The cost and integration of the weapons system are still issues, as well as Indian assent to the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) which Washington insists on as a condition for operating advanced defense systems.
India, the defense source said, has shed its opposition to the agreement after an assurance from the United States it would apply largely to U.S-procured weapons systems such as fighter planes and drones and not to the large Russian-origin equipment with the Indian military.
U.S. drone manufacturers, facing growing competition overseas, especially from Chinese and Israeli rivals which often sell under lighter restrictions, have lobbied hard for the changes in U.S export rules.
Among the changes will be a more lenient application by the U.S. government of an arms export principle known as "presumption of denial." This has impeded many drone deals by automatically denying approval unless a compelling security reason is given together with strict buyer agreements to use the weapons in accordance with international law.
A second U.S. official said the new policy would "change our calculus" by easing those restrictions on whether to allow any given sale.
The MTCR – a 1987 missile-control pact signed by the United States and 34 other countries – will still require strict export controls on Predator-type drones, which it classifies as Category 1, those with a payload of over 1,100 pounds (500 kg).
However, the Trump administration is seeking to renegotiate the MTCR accord to eventually make it easier to export the larger armed drones.
The head of Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) told Reuters at the Farnborough Airshow that he was unable to comment on any pending deals that had not been notified to Congress.