On Monday, 1 February, President Biden announced that he seeks to designate Qatar as a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA). “I am notifying Congress that I will designate Qatar as a major non-NATO ally to reflect the importance of our relationship. I think it’s long overdue,” the President said. Biden met with Qatari leadership later that day.
Qatar is joining a list of 17 countries with this designation which currently includes countries like Argentina, Japan, Egypt and New Zealand. Taiwan is also treated as an MNNA but is not formally recognized as one due to the US’s adherence to the One China Policy. Such designation gives a number of benefits under US law such as eligibility to be considered as a buyer for depleted uranium ammunition, eligibility to sign formal research agreements with the US Department of Defense (DoD), and eligibility for local firms to bid on DoD contracts for “maintenance, repair or overhaul” of US military equipment. The designation also has important symbolic value.
During a meeting with Qatari Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stated that:
“This cooperation will allow our defense relationships with partners like Qatar to continue to grow stronger, and I know that Qatar and the United States stand together in ensuring security and stability in the region. We share the same objectives. We want to resolve conflicts and provide humanitarian aid to civilians in need, and to de-escalate tensions.”
Qatar has long enjoyed good relations with the United States, with the US embassy in Doha being established in 1973. Qatar hosts two American military bases: Al Udeid Air Base and As Sayliyah Army Base. Most recently, these bases played an integral part in the US evacuation from Afghanistan. The bases also play a key role in maintaining American presence in the region to counter Iran. Qatar is also valued for its ability to exert soft power in the region as the Al Jazeera news agency is based in Doha.