Doha and its arms purchase policy
Since the dispute started, Qatar has purchased many weapons, including 24 British Typhoon fighter jets, US F-15 fighter jets worth $12 billion, 24 French Rafale fighter jets, seven navy ships from Italy worth $6 billion, 62 German tanks worth €2 billion ($2.35 billion), and other military equipment from Turkey worth $2 billion.
Most of these deals were made with the political goal of winning the support of major states against the four Arab states that have severed ties with Qatar — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain.
However, all the deals proved futile in ending the quadripartite measures and, at a political level, they only won Qatar a few statements urging reconciliation and ending the rift, which fell on deaf ears.
For Qatar’s misfortune, the weapons it bought will eventually serve the four boycotting states in the Gulf Cooperation Council; they won’t serve Doha much at a military level except in the event of a collective defensive action.
Therefore, Qatar’s hasty purchases and its further accumulation of weapons do not pose a threat to Riyadh and its three partners. On the contrary, Riyadh will find these weapons useful once the Qatari crisis ends during the next four years. Four years is the period for completing weapon production and delivery, and not the remaining years of dispute, which may last another year.
I cannot speculate whether the dispute will end in a friendly or a dramatic manner, but it’s a sure thing that Qatar is the only party affected by the crisis, which is considered a “small problem” for the four states — they won’t be needing Qatar even if the dispute lasted for many years.
Qatar is suffering at all levels. It doesn’t even have enough space to try the fighter jets it purchased, just as its camels do not have enough land to graze, forcing the state to ship them to Kuwait and elsewhere.
Since these arms deals were part of the political solutions, we are tempted to ask: What has the Qatari government achieved so far? Nothing.
Qatar’s investment in Washington was not enough, and it was compelled to sign a security memorandum of understanding with the US, under which it had to give up much of what it used to stall on in the past, including giving the US the right to monitor all of Qatar’s financial activities, which were previously the subject of suspicion and complaint.
Qatar was also obliged to provide the US with information about individuals and organizations from different countries affiliated with Qatar. A number of wanted people were confined while others were exiled on the basis of the US-Qatari MoU.
Qatar’s hasty purchases and its further accumulation of weapons do not pose a threat to Saudi Arabia and its three partners — on the contrary, Riyadh will find these weapons useful once the crisis ends.
Doha had been avoiding all of this in the past, until its crisis with the four Arab states erupted and Qatar had to quickly seek cooperation with the US out of fear that the crisis would expand. In the early days of the crisis, we noticed how the four states embarrassed the Qatari government when they added the US wanted lists in Qatar to their demands.
In the end, Doha’s military deals did not do it much good if they were intending on winning the support of major states to force Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain to end the rift.Qatar’s ships continue to carry its camels to graze in Kuwait, and jets continue to bring cows from the UK and Australia — land borders remain sealed in the face of Qatar.
However, if the purpose of all the military deals were to protect Qatar, the problem and its expectations would be simple. Even if the major states were involved, Qatar’s arms purchases cannot outweigh the capacities of the four Arab states if they, too, decided to bid for interests and benefits.
We also must not forget that major states may postpone implementing decisions, which means time is not in Qatar’s favor. The four states are not suffering any pressure, but rather believe closing the borders and cutting ties with Qatar has stopped Qatar from stirring up troubles inside any of them.
• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.
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