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Qatar tactics questioned after ‘soft power’ deals with France

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani (R) watch as their foreign ministers sign bilateral agreements in the Qatari capital Doha on Thursday, December 7, 2017. (AFP)
LONDON: Qatar signed $14.15 billion in deals with France on Thursday, including the purchase of 12 fighter jets, in what has been described as a “soft power” play. 
The deal was signed during President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Qatar with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who in 2015 as defense minister helped negotiate a deal with Qatar to buy 24 Rafale fighter jets.
Qatar exercised its existing right to purchase 12 more, bringing the total number of Rafales the Gulf Arab country will have to 36.
Middle East expert Zaid Belbagi referred to the move as a reflection of “soft power.”
“There is a more tactical way to do this,” Belbagi told Arab News. He explained that in this deal, the “real winner” is France, which has become $14.15 billion richer. According to the French government, Qatar has agreed an option for another 36 planes. In addition to the fighter jets Qatar also committed to buying 490 armored vehicles from defense firm Nexter.
Professor Anoush Ehteshami, director of the Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Durham University, said that the deal was partly for show.
“This is not a military response,” Ehteshami explained, saying it marks Doha’s aim to “show they have strategic partners.”
He added, “it’s one thing to buy them and its another thing to use them — I don’t think they will buy any more anytime soon.”
Macron’s one-day trip to Doha comes a week after the Gulf Cooperation Council met in Kuwait to discuss the ongoing dispute. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut relations with Qatar over its alleged support of extremists and funding of terrorist groups. Doha denies the claims.

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