WASHINGTON --- President Trump sided with Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries Tuesday in a deepening diplomatic crisis with Qatar, casting a cloud over a $21.1 billion sale Boeing is counting on to keep open its F-15 production line.
Trump’s sharp criticism for Qatar comes at a delicate time for the sale, which includes as many as 72 F-15QA multirole fighter aircraft. President Obama approved the long-delayed sale in November in a bid to bolster Sunni allies against Shiite rival Iran, but the U.S. and Qatar have not yet finalized it.
It’s also unclear how Trump’s broadside would affect the U.S. military presence in Qatar. Al Udeid Air Base, outside Doha, is the nerve center of the U.S. fight against the Islamic State and home to 10,000 U.S. personnel. On Tuesday, U.S. officials continued to insist the clash would not force the U.S. to scale back its operations.
Several U.S. senators downplayed the risk to the F-15 sale, and it may be too soon to tell. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, whose home state Missouri produces the F-15 and F-18, said she hoped the crisis would not derail it. The sale, years in the making, has been billed as extending Boeing’s struggling F-15 production line into the 2020s.
“I can’t imagine that the president would want to have that kind of impact on American jobs,” McCaskill said. “I know that what [arms sales] he announced in Saudi Arabia, a lot of those are going to be built not in America, but over there.”
The U.S. forwarded Qatar a letter of offer and acceptance for the fighter jets, related spare parts, logistical support and munitions. But Qatar has not signed the letter — which is the government-to-government agreement formalizing the sale — according sources with knowledge of the deal.
Boeing spokeswoman Caroline Hutcheson said in a statement: "We have been working closely with the U.S. and Qatari governments on this proposed sale. We continue to expect that an agreement will be signed.” (end of excerpt)
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