Qatar's Rearmament Efforts as Leverage against the Boycott

Qatar has recently presented Chinese-made ballistic missile launchers during a military parade. Col. (res.) Dr. Shaul Shay discusses Doha's military aspirations against the background of the Gulf crisis

Qatari armed forces in a military parade (Photo: AP)

Qatar has showcased during its national day parade on December 15, 2017, Chinese-made SY400 BP-12A short-range guided ballistic missile launchers.

Doha-Beijing ties have strengthened considerably in recent years. Last year, Qatar supplied 19 per cent of China’s imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), making Qatar China’s second-largest supplier of gas after Australia. As China is a major importer of Qatari LNG, Beijing is keen to improve its balance of trade with Doha through military technology and arms sales. 

The SY-400 system has eight containers with solid fuel ballistic missiles. Missiles are factory-fitted into these containers and can be stored for years without additional maintenance. Missiles are launched vertically and have a range of about 400 km. The SY-400 can use different types of warheads. Furthermore, the SY-400 system can be configured to carry two pods with heavier DF-12A missiles (formerly known as M20). The DF-12A missile has a range of 280 km and can carry a 480 kg warhead. It is a downgraded export version of the DF-12 ballistic missile, used by the Chinese military. The DF-12A was specially designed to be just short of the 300 km range and 500 kg payload in order to overcome export restrictions set by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

The launcher can be configured to carry one pod with four SY-400 missiles and one pod with BP-12A missile. The missiles are fitted with GPS/INS guidance system. This weapon system is mounted on Wanshan 8x8 high-mobility wheeled launcher. The launcher vehicle has good cross-country mobility and can go over all kinds of rough terrain. The SY-400 is supported by a reloading vehicle, fitted with a crane, which carries a full set of reload containers.

On June 5, 2017, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar. They also launched an economic boycott, preventing Qatar Airways flights from using their airspace, closing off the land border with Saudi Arabia and blocking its ships from using their ports. They say the crisis stems from Qatar's support for terror groups in the region and Doha's close relationship with Tehran.

Qatar refused to comply with a list of 13 demands, saying it would not agree to any measures that threatened its sovereignty or violated international law. The emirate has now been told by its neighbors that they want it to accept six broad principles on combating extremism and terrorism.

On the background of the Gulf crisis, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani concluded that Qatar's past strategy of emphasizing soft power is insufficient to guarantee security. As a result, Qatar has radically increased its arms purchases and became the world's third-biggest military spender following Saudi Arabia and India.

Since June 2017, Qatar signed multi-billion arms deals with the US, France, the UK, Italy, Russia, and China. As part of these agreements, Qatar will receive 96 new aircraft and missiles. However, the Qatari Armed Forces suffer from a shortage of personnel to operate the new fighter jets. It remains to be seen how the Armed Forces will be able to absorb these weapons into an effective force and how much they will be dependent on foreign support, including mercenaries.

Most of the arms deals aim to serve the political aim of lobbying major governments against the four countries boycotting Qatar. However, these military deals had not put an end to the boycott and did not serve Doha politically, except for few statements that urge reconciliation and call for the lifting of the boycott.


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