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If you are in Doha, Katara is the place to be in. The National Day festivities have begun and the cultural village is awash with not just local, but foreign visitors, too. The 8-day event, from December 12 to 19, is meant to stimulate a feeling of nationalism and brotherhood. But there appears to be nervous energy beneath the celebration.

Performances by paratroopers from Joint Special Forces and military parades, a first-of-its kind event, reflects Qatar’s changing mindset. Historically considered to be unassuming as far as its armed forces is concerned, it is now trying to beef it up with hi-tech weaponry. It is the effect of the continuing Arab blockade, which has gone on for over six months now. But it’s only doing what the rest of its neighbours are doing – Stockpiling for any eventuality. Every country in the Gulf is arming itself to the teeth. It’s an unprecedented phenomenon.

The arms rat race

Qatar has made two deals, with France and UK. Both came after the blockade took effect. It has signed a deal to buy 24 Typhoon fighter jets worth $8bn from the United Kingdom, the biggest order for the formidable Typhoon fighters in more than a decade. Qatar is also purchasing 12 Dassault Rafale fighter jets from the French in a contract worth $1bn.

The others have been scampering, too.

Saudi Arabia, in late November, agreed to buy approximately $7 billion worth of precision guided munitions from U.S. defense contractors. It was a transaction that many lawmakers were skeptical about, though. They feared American weapons could further contribute to civilian casualties in the Saudi campaign in Yemen. In October, the Kingdom signed a memorandum of understanding on the purchase of S-400 air defense systems from Russia. In late May, just before the blockade began, the Saudis sealed a deal worth $350 billion over 10 years. It’s buying almost on a monthly basis. It imported 144 per cent more arms from the EU since 2012 than it did in the five years preceding that.
The United Arab Emirates is not too far behind.

In very early August, the UAE condemned North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile launch into Japan’s special economic zone. It described the rogue nation’s actions as posing a real threat to international security. Despite this harsh rhetoric against Pyongyang, a leaked U.S. State Department memo revealed that Abu Dhabi purchased $100 million worth of weapons from North Korea in June 2015 to support the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen. In May this year, the US approved a $2 billion arms sale to the United Arab Emirates.

Egypt spent the most on arms. The Arab republic, which spans North Africa and Asia, spent a grand total of £971.6m. Remarkably, it’s a 118 per cent increase from the 2007-2011 period.

According to data, the Middle-East kingdom splashed £790.4 million on EU arms in 2016, making it the world’s second-largest arms importer in the past five years.

Atmosphere of unease

While Qatar’s need for weapons may be a reaction to its GCC colleagues’ drive to weaponise, the fact remains that the Middle-East is heading for a paradigm shift, in which there can be no winners.

The Gulf has started looking at security in technological terms, wanting advanced surveillance, mechanized firepower, missiles, jets, drones and more. There is very little dialogue and mutual understanding. There is no meaning and hope.

An ancient lesson teaches that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. That remains true in a world of guns, bombs and fighter jets. An armed Middle-East is bound to escalate insecurity, anxiety and fear in the peoples of its region.

It’s important to look for options to violence and the arms race. Security and peace entail more than military power.

US Air Force/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In a rebuke to the countries boycotting Qatar, the US has suspended military exercises with its Gulf allies.

According to the Associated Press, US Central Command said the aim is to show that the military wants its allies in the region to work together.

“We are opting out of some military exercises out of respect for the concept of inclusiveness and shared regional interests,” the newswire cited Col. John Thomas, a Centcom spokesman, as saying.

Qatar is home to the largest US air base in the Middle East. President Donald Trump initially supported the blockade against Qatar in June.

But US officials are now working to end the months-long dispute.

Will it work?

GCC nations have not commented on the decision.

But analysts said it could be perceived as a “slap in the face” to the boycotting nations, which include Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

The Qatar Insider

For illustrative purposes only.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Andreas Krieg, assistant professor at King’s College in London for defense studies and a former adviser to Qatar’s military said:

“Joint military exercises are essential for the Gulf militaries to build capability.

All Gulf states want to appeal to the U.S. as viable partners in achieving joint strategic interests, so this announcement is really a slap in the face,” he said.

Another analyst told the AP that the US appears to be running out of patience because the dispute is distracting from its war on terrorism.

One theory is that the Pentagon could step up pressure for reconciliation by freezing weapon sales to Gulf nations, as an American lawmaker suggested months ago.

Thoughts?

Mandalay Bay Resort

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatari officials have denounced this week’s shooting in Las Vegas, saying they stand with the US in its efforts to “maintain security and stability.”

The attack killed at least 59 people and injured 500 others, and is being called the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.

Police said the gunman was Stephen Craig Paddock, a 64-year-old white Nevada resident who killed himself when officers stormed his hotel room.

Islamic State has claimed credit for the attack, but offered no evidence. American authorities say it appears Paddock acted alone.

Condolences

In a statement, Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also expressed condolences to the families of the victims, Gulf Times reports.

The Emir and several other senior officials also sent their sympathies to US President Donald Trump and those affected.

Qatar’s national carrier is expected to begin flying directly to Las Vegas next year.

Thoughts?