[<< wikinews] Qatar becomes first Arab country to fly fighter jets over Libya
Saturday, March 26, 2011 

Qatar participated in a combat mission  to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya on Friday, one day after NATO agreed to take command. Qatar is  the first Arab country to take part in the  operation against Moammar Gadhafi's regime. The French Defence Ministry said two Qatai Mirage 2000 interceptor fighters flew Qatar's first sortie over Libya  accompanied by a French jet.
Besides Qatar, the United Arab Emirates has agreed to  send 12 warplanes to support the international no-fly alliance.  No other countries from the Arab League have agreed to join so far. Qatar's combat deployment as the first by an Arab or Muslim-majority country  thus is of  critical impact.

Qatar's participation has great  diplomatic importance. Major General Margaret Woodward, Commander of U.S. Air Forces Africa, stated: "Having our first Arab nation join and start flying with us emphasizes that the world wants the innocent Libyan people protected from the atrocities perpetrated by pro-regime forces".
The emir of Qatar has typically preferred subtle diplomacy  rather than confrontation, as Qatar is vulnerable because of its tiny size and its position on the tip of the Arabian peninsula.  Qatar's decision to send planes is  related to its need to  maintain  its independence from its bigger  neighbors like  Iran and Saudi Arabia, according to  The Guardian.
France, the United Kingdom and the United States are among thirteen states which have so far joined the no-fly mission over Libya. The no-fly zone over Libya was established by the UN Security Council on March 17.

== Sources ==

Reuters. "Qatar fighters patrol Libyan air space" — RIA Novosti, March 25, 2011
Hadeed Al-Shalchi (Associated Press). "Qatar becomes 1st Arab country to fly over Libya" — Statesman.com, March 25, 2011
Jason Burke. "Qatar's decision to send planes to Libya is part of a high-stakes game" — guardian.co.uk, March 24, 2011