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Thursday, March 24, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Qatar sends jets to Libya as first Gulf state to join NATO combat mission

ABU DHABI — Qatar has begun flying combat missions around Libya.


Qatar's Emir Air Force has contributed four aircraft to the NATO mission to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. The Gulf Cooperation Council emirate began flying combat and other missions around Libya on March 22 in cooperation with France.

"The Qatari contribution has been huge for a country of its size," an official said.

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Officials said Qatar has deployed two French-origin Mirage 2000-5 fighters and two U.S.-origin C-17 Globemasters for the NATO mission. They said the C-17s, based out of the Greek island of Crete, were being used for air refueling by U.S. and other NATO fighter-jets.

This marked the first time a Gulf Cooperation Council state has joined a NATO combat mission. Qatar, based on French equipment, has one of the smallest militaries in the GCC.

Jordan and the United Arab Emirates had been expected to join the NATO mission. But officials said the UAE, with plans to deploy up to 24 Mirage and F-16 fighters, suspended participation in the operation.

Former UAE Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Khalid Al Bu Einan said Abu Dhabi withdrew from NATO in protest of Western criticism of Bahrain's crackdown on the Shi'ite opposition. Al Bu Einan said neither the European Union nor the United States has acknowledged the Iranian threat to Bahrain and other GCC states.

"The European and U.S. positions are unable to imagine the extent of Iranian intervention in Bahrain," Al Bu Einan said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Jordan and Kuwait would join the NATO mission. Cameron said the two Arab League states, however, would not participate in combat operations against Libya.

"We will be getting logistic contributions from countries like Kuwait and also Jordan," Cameron told the British parliament on March 23. "I hope further support will be forthcoming."

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