WASHINGTON, The US has started shifting its air base in Qatar to Saudi Arabia, it was revealed yesterday.

This follows a meeting between Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, currently visiting the US, and President Donald Trump, at the White House on Tuesday, a prominent Israeli intelligence website has reported.

This is an earthshaking event for the Middle East, which far transcends US-Saudi relations, says DEBKAfile, quoting military sources.

The sources also disclose that, despite repeated denials, the Trump administration is in the process of another momentous move, packing up its air force and quitting Incirlik in southern Turkey, the biggest air base in the region.

The two moves are interconnected. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has become an avid supporter of the Amir of Qatar, (Shaikh) Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who is locked in a feud with Saudi rulers, the report said.

Turkey recently established a large military base in the emirate. The Saudi Crown Prince and his ally, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and UAE Armed Forces Deputy Supreme Commander, Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, are close friends and President Trump's leading allies in the Gulf region. The two Gulf leaders view the Turkish president and Qatari Amir as arch-foes.

The relocation of the two US bases stems additionally from the sharp reduction in fighting against the Daesh in both Iraq and Syria, it said. There is, therefore, less need for US air force operations in those parts.

The US facilities and aircraft based in Incirlik are already being shifted to bases in East Europe, the sources said. The Pentagon is also looking at Andravida in southern Greece as a replacement for Incirlik.

US installations are being shipped out of Al Udaid in Qatar to the Prince Sultan Air base in central Saudi Arabia near Al Kharj, which lies 77 km south of Riyadh, DEBKAfile added.

The relocation of the two big US air bases in the Middle East is bound to shake up the region's strategic dynamic. American soldiers are now in place to defend the Saudi kingdom. This will no doubt convey a clear message to Iran that the Trump administration has the back of Riyadh, it said.

The Saudi Crown Prince's continued discussions in the US includes ways of combating terrorism, Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel Al Jubeir said, during a Press conference at the country's embassy in Washington, yesterday.

He added that Saudi Arabia has signed several wide-ranging agreements to increase bilateral co-operation.

Crown Prince Mohammed travels to Boston today as part of his visit.


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