A NASA T-38 Trainer aircraft takes off from Edwards Air Force Base on August 19, 2005 in California - Reuters / Tom Rogers
CAIRO – 30 November 2017: US Congress has agreed to add $143 million to the Pentagon budget to upgrade the strategic base close to Jordan’s borders with Syria and Iraq.
The move comes as a part of the US plan to gradually replace the military bases in Qatar with Jordanian military bases, according to the American Jewish Press.
When the Arab Quartet cut off ties with Qatar in June, the United States, Saudi’s biggest ally, faced a complicated situation as its center of air operations against IS in the region, the Al-Udeid Air Base, is based on Qatari soil.
Consequently, the US has been gradually phasing out Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, and focusing on expanding and rehabilitating the Muwaffaq Salti Air Base in Jordan.
When the June strife of 2017 was heating up, the base hosted more than 11,000 US and US-led coalition forces and more than 100 operational aircrafts.
At that time, U.S. President Donald Trump reassured Americans and Saudis that “if we ever have to leave [Al-Udeid], we would have 10 countries willing to build us another base, believe me, and they will pay for it.”
Muwaffaq Salti Air Base played a key role in the US military war against IS. Consequently, it requires an urgent change to be able to increase its capacity for operations.
However, the US Air Force revealed that the Muwaffaq Salti has a long way to go even if it replaces the Qatari facility only partially.
Members of Congress have criticized the recent announcement made by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in which he states that the US and Qatar have reached an understanding regarding attempts to curb the illicit financing of terrorism, according to CNN.
The members of Congress are calling on Trump’s administration to take a tougher stance against Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting the Palestinian militant group Hamas. They sent an official letter to Mnuchin on Monday criticizing the US policy toward Qatar.
Another group of representatives sent a letter to US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, criticizing her for saying Qatar does not support Hamas.
Despite senior Hamas leaders’ residence in Doha and the financial support Qatar provided to the Gaza Strip where Hamas is active, Qatar denies its support to Hamas, which the US considers as a terrorist group.
Speaking in an interview with US TV network MSNBC, Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani stated that the propaganda war that accuses Qatar of financing terrorism is baseless.
In addition, during an interview with a Washington, D.C. think tank on Monday, Thani emphasized that Qatar's stance is transparent and its support is only for the people of Gaza.