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Behind Qatar’s policy of purchasing arms

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

When considering Qatar’s size and population, its clear to see that its recent military deals are enough to protect a state that’s ten times bigger.

Ever since the Gulf rift with Qatar erupted, Doha has bought 24 British Typhoon fighter jets, 15 American F-15 fighter aircraft worth $12 billion, 24 French Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft, seven warships from Italy worth $6 billion, 62 tanks from Germany worth $2 billion and military gear from Turkey worth $2 billion.

Lobbying

Most of these deals aim to serve the political aim of lobbying major governments against the four countries boycotting Qatar: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE. However, these military deals have not put an end to the anti-terror quartet’s measures. They did not politically serve Doha, except for few statements that urge reconciliation and call for lifting the boycott. These calls however fell on the other party’s deaf ears.

Unfortunately for Qatar, these weapons will eventually serve the four countries within the Gulf Cooperation Council. They do not militarily serve Doha a lot except within a collective and defensive framework. Therefore, Qatar’s hasty purchase and accumulation of weapons do not frighten Riyadh and the other boycotting countries. These weapons will actually come in handy for them if the crisis with Qatar ends within the next four years.

Doha made concessions on plenty of matters it had stalled, including allowing the Americans to monitor its financial activity which were suspected and complained about in the past. It also had to provide the Americans with information about people and institutions from other countries and that are linked to it.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

I say four years because this is how long it takes to wrap up the weapons’ production and delivery, and I do not mean that four years is the duration of the dispute which may last for another year. I cannot anticipate if the dispute will end in a friendly or a dramatic way. What’s certain, however, is that Qatar is the party which is harmed by the crisis while the four boycotting countries see it as a “small problem.” The anti-terror quartet does not need Qatar even if the severed ties last for long years. Doha is suffering on all levels as it does not have enough space to train on the fighter aircraft it bought. There are no enough lands for camels to graze so it had to transfer them via ships to Kuwait and other countries.

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If these deals are part of the political solution, then we must ask what has the Qatari government achieved so far? Very little. What Doha invested in Washington was not enough and Qatar had to sign a security memorandum of understanding with the US. By signing the latter MoU, Doha made concessions on plenty of matters it had stalled, including allowing the Americans to monitor its financial activity which were suspected and complained about in the past. It also had to provide the Americans with information about people and institutions from other countries and that are linked to it.

Making concessions

Based on the MoU signed with the US, it imprisoned some wanted men and expelled others from the country. In the past, Doha evaded doing all this but then its crisis with the four countries erupted and the Qataris rushed to the Americans and offered to cooperate as they fear the crisis will escalate. We’ve also noticed how during the first days of the crisis, the four boycotting countries embarrassed Doha when they added the American lists of wanted men in Qatar to their demands.

In conclusion, if the aim of these deals was to mobilize major countries to get them to force Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE to end the rupture of ties then Doha did not achieve anything. Qatari ships are still transporting camels to graze in Kuwait while planes are still transporting cows from Britain and Australia. Meanwhile, borders shared between Qatar and the boycotting countries are still closed. If the aim of the deals is to provide military protection, then this is a simplification of the problem and its possibilities. Even if major countries are involved in these military deals, Qatar’s purchases are no match to the Arab quartet in terms of bidding over interests and benefits. We must keep in mind that major countries may postpone their decisions, hence time is not in Qatar’s favor. The four Arab countries however are not under pressure and actually feel that closing borders with Qatar and cutting ties have deprived it from causing them internal problems.

This article is also available in Arabic.
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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.