an introduction

The small country may be beautiful, but it is certainly insecure, as there is no doubt that small states face a different number of security difficulties if they are close to major countries, and are often threatened by the risks of subjugation or occupation. But if it is located between two great neighboring countries, it may become either theaters for adult conflicts or pawns that do not have their fate. Greater countries, bordering their small counterparts, often expect the smaller neighbor to have its policy dependent and consistent with the policies of the larger country in accordance with the requirements of common interests or common security even if the smaller state protests that situation (1). Of course, the larger countries usually tend to wear the dress of leadership (by means of a unilateral decision) and establish themselves as the leader and protector of regional security, and then impose the duty of obedience and loyalty to their followers from the smaller neighboring countries.

Such problems are not born today, nor are they unique. However, many of these problems apply to the State of Qatar, especially in the wake of the announcement by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain to cut ties with Qatar.

In this paper, we will try quickly to analyze the military challenges faced by small countries, and then take a look at the path Qatar has taken in order to enhance its military strength.

Geography Challenge: Neighborhood of a Big Country

The first challenge for a small country is the desire of a large country to get its smaller neighbor to recognize its leadership and follow its agenda on security-related issues. The major Powers, especially those that have invested generously in the security field, often seek to build alliances with their neighbors, setting themselves up as a leader. The United States of America, after proclaiming the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 (2), was the first contemporary country to proclaim itself the leader of regional security (considering European powers as undesirable forces within western geographical space).

Hence, over the greater part of the past two centuries, it has made a series of interventions in the affairs of other weaker states, which are mostly failed states, within the geographical space of the Western Hemisphere. The most prominent of these interventions was the occupation of Haiti for decades (3), forcing Panama to secede from Colombia (4) and the ensuing prolongation of the occupation of the Panama part of the Canal (5), in addition to repeated and abrupt penetrations inside Nicaragua and the Dominican State (6).

In the post-World War II era, the United States of America managed to develop a major regional organization (the Organization of American States) that brought together a number of countries of the Americas in order to assert its regional leadership, requesting small neighboring countries to participate in security operations. The Washington-based Organization of American States provided the legal cover and equipped the military forces in the 1960s to occupy Haiti and the Dominican Republic (7).

Without a doubt, there are small countries that believe that the best policies they can take are their dependence on a foreign power that provides them with support and empowerment to assume the role of that major country. In the western part of the world, the state of Cuba played this role, and it has for decades been a virtual country of the Soviet Union, and has taken anti-Americanism as a determinant of both its national identity and foreign policy (8).

If we apply this example to Qatar, then we can see the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (and later the United Arab Emirates, which is a smaller country but plays an external role that exceeds its size in security issues) presents itself as a leader of the Arab Gulf states, and seeks to impose the unification of policies and visions with Qatar and other Small Gulf states. The Gulf Cooperation Council is the framework and logical tool for policy and security coordination between these countries. Likewise, just as the headquarters of the Organization of American States are located in Washington, the main Gulf Cooperation Council is based in Riyadh.

Qatar has publicly expressed, and not long ago, its negligence and violation of its imitation of the line of behavior required of Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Bahrain by pursuing a different policy towards the Muslim Brotherhood, and the conclusion of a partnership with Iran (which is at the minimum was imposed by virtue of geographical data and shared with Iran a number From oil fields), Qatar’s acceptance of receiving opponents of other GCC states ’regimes on its soil, and financing critical media platforms for the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council states, steps that neighboring Greater Qatar have considered unforgivable provocations. For its part, Qatar has worked to ensure its continued existence by following two main approaches: the first was its alliance with the United States, and the second was the purchase of massive amounts of military hardware. We will discuss the results of these two approaches in the next paragraphs of this paper.

Small State Strategies for Survival: Alliance with a Great Power

The dependence of all the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council - in varying proportions - on the United States of America as the last guarantor of its survival and continued existence, is one of the complex realities of the current Qatari crisis. In this context, we can consider Carter's theory - a unilateral declaration in which America pledges to support the Gulf Cooperation Council states without any preconditions (9) - a more solid commitment than America's commitment to NATO. Contrary to the American commitment to intervene in European conflicts, according to Article V, the Carter principle (theory) was tested when US forces led the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 (10). The rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries have not forgotten the content of this message: The United States maintains a strong presence in the region and considers it the final arbiter of the region's security issues.

In such a case, it might have been unavoidable that the complaints submitted by Saudi Arabia and the UAE from Qatar policy were formulated, mainly, in phrases carefully chosen to persuade the United States. When Qatar was declared besieged, the main complaint was: Qatar's financing of terrorism (11). Although this is a legitimate concern of course, it does not mean the State of Qatar alone, as most Americans have always viewed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the primary financier of Al Qaeda, and they do not have good feelings for the Kingdom (12) despite Saudi Arabia's leadership in the campaign to combat the financing of terrorism. Currently, the language and accusations that were chosen did not find resonance with the Qataris and other citizens of the Arab Gulf countries; they were chosen in a way that resonates with the United States, and the accusations submitted by Saudi Arabia and the UAE against Qatar have received actual acceptance in principle in principle, and later appeared As if it supports AD And stop them.

As the Gulf Cooperation Council crisis continues, it appears that the two parties have shifted their focus from their arguments made towards seeking influence within American circles. Since the outbreak of the crisis, the two sides have spent millions of dollars to mobilize the support of the largest number of countries. Qatar has worked to send a new, more dynamic breath to stimulate its modest presence In Washington, it sought to counter the active and dynamic presence of the UAE's very influential ambassador in decision-making circles in Washington (13). These country efforts have had some success, as an increasing number of officials and observers see the Gulf conflict as a local conflict that requires a local solution. This is considered, by various measures, a victory for Qatar.

There is a previous case for this resort to an external force, which is the case of the Greek-Turkish conflict. During the Cold War era, specifically in the aftermath of the 1974 invasion of Cyprus, the two sides: Greek and Turkish, were on the verge of entering a war between them. The two parties are members of NATO and both depend on the United States as a final guarantor of their security (14).

The two sides decided to present their issues and promote their views in Washington; in rhetoric in the ears of the Americans, the Greeks tried to draw attention to their commitment to the values ​​of democracy, while Turkey went on to recall its location on the Soviet borders and its military commitment to NATO.

The large presence of the Greek community in America, as opposed to the absence of an important Turkish community in it, played one of the factors that complicated the situation (15). Turkey was the least influential party in all US political platforms and forums. This factor had little role in the interest of any of the Gulf states; they are not all sufficiently represented in the American social fabric.

In light of this, intensive and ongoing country efforts in Washington can be evaluated as the most successful. In the past, the Qatari presence in Washington was poor compared to the more active and bold attendance and efforts of Saudi and Emirati lobbyists to win loyalties in Washington. In the wake of the DP World scandal in 2006, the UAE, in particular, worked to make its embassy the most influential embassy in Washington, at a time when Qatar had no such issue at that time. However, since then, Qatar has been able to repel most hostile or potentially hostile legislation in Washington, and has been able to corner its neighbors in a closed corner. This should be counted as a victory for Qatar.

Qatar has done more than push for pressure groups, as it has been able to engage Washington in a whole new way. Qatari officials, like the Foreign Minister, have intensified their visits to the United States and interviewed reporters, academics, and analysts at research centers in a manner that is less than that of their counterparts in the Arab world (16). Qatar has announced projects to expand the military base hosting American forces, an initiative that has been widely welcomed in America, which is in a state of financial austerity. Qatar also cooperated on the issue of open skies, which was the issue that operated American air transport companies and harassed relations between the two countries (17). Finally, Qatar purchased large quantities of American weapons - which are far more than what their local population can actually use - (18). All these steps have made Qatar in the spotlight of positive lights, and gradually undermined the image depicted by Saudi Arabia and the UAE as a rogue state hostile to the interests of Americans.

Militarily, Qatar's primary move was to play the Al-Aqeed Air Force Base joint card, one of the largest US bases in the world, and is the only US base in the Gulf capable of accommodating B-52 operations (19).

Many base hosts the advanced headquarters of the US Central Command, the Joint Air Operations Center, and the headquarters of the Special Operations Unit of the US Central Command. The base also has a long main runway, a fortified runway, a number of mounds, and a spacious residential area equipped with amenities for American soldiers, in addition to the American forces enjoying a great degree of freedom of movement.

Qataris recognized the importance of this rule. Indeed, since the beginning of the crisis of the Gulf Cooperation Council, one of the most important goals of the coalition against Qatar has been to move the headquarters of the US Central Command from Al-Adeed to Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi (20). While the position of the Ministry of Defense has been consistent in opposing the move (often for cost reasons and there is no military need to do so), the issue of moving the base has been a constant demand throughout the crisis.

Qataris realized the value of the base of many, and sought to increase its value: In his address to the Legacy Committee, in January 2018, the Qatari Minister of Defense announced the increase of a number of barracks and the opening of an American school at the base, in addition to the project to establish a US naval facility in Qatar (21) ).

And while these measures were welcomed in Washington, they were not decisive. In the past, the United States had left military bases when it estimated that it was either limited to support the achievement of American goals or to high operating costs (22). And if Qatar imposes restrictions on the movement of US forces operating on its soil, the value of the bases will decrease regardless of the infrastructure it contains. This does not seem to be the case. The rules in Qatar are active, appreciated and expanding.

There is a common misconception about the extent to which these bases can be used to repel any military attack against Qatar. The truth is that the two large American bases in Qatar are concerned with command and control, air power and logistical operations, and American bases in Qatar do not have ground combat forces. In the event that the neighbors of the Gulf Cooperation Council take military steps against Qatar, the American response will be political, not military. The forces present in those bases are not qualified to defend against any possible ground invasion. Therefore, the initial American response will be political and any military response or action will not in any way be from the US facilities.

The American-Qatari alliance is more than just military bases, but the bases are the apparent expression of that relationship. However, its importance must not be exaggerated. If serious security issues evolve between the United States and Qatar, the rules will have no role in covering up other issues. Although hosting American military facilities is appreciated, it does not give a white instrument to ignore other US security issues. Recent American history has witnessed the opening and closing of a number of military bases in response to changing conditions. The Qatari position, in this context, is strong but does not enjoy absolute immunity, and what may serve the interests of the Qatari side, in this context, is to follow the same steps along the lines of those taken by its Minister of Defense by announcing the expansion of the American barracks project at the base of many.

Possible military disaster: Qatar's alliance with a hostile foreign power

Faced with unfair demands from larger neighbors, some small states may choose to ally with a foreign power hostile to the larger neighbor. That was the strategy that Cuba pursued to preserve its independence from the United States (and perhaps its prosperity as well). While the result of Cuba's alliance with the Soviet Union was a catastrophe at the level of economic and political progress, on the other hand, it was a key factor in preserving its independence and enabled it, for 30 years, to pursue policies contrary to Washington's desires (23). Cuba has gone from being a semi-independent voice to a fully independent voice in foreign affairs, and has even become a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement. While Cuba remains one of the most repressive countries in the world and one of the worst performing economies in the western hemisphere, it has a successful independence.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba allied itself with a similarly thoughtful (as well as oil-rich) leader in Venezuela (24). As for how long can this anti-American approach persist? So it remains an open question. But in the short term, at least, Cuban politics can be evaluated as a success, as Cuba remains a sovereign country that cannot find it within the American sphere of influence.

It can be argued here that the growing Qatari-Turkish military, political, and economic ties (which the blockade countries view as a somewhat hostile force) play this role. While the Turkish military capabilities are often exaggerated, it has managed to establish a limited military presence in Qatar, a presence that the press often portrays (inaccurately) as a potential guarantor of Qatar's independence.

Qatar also recorded an openness to Russia (25). Although this openness in relations with Russia does not match the depth or importance of the openness toward Turkey, the purchase of Russian combat aircraft has no military justification at all, but it acquires a very logical political meaning; it reminds America and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries as well, That Qatar has other options that you may have if you put more pressure on it.

Another step not taken, is the alliance with Iran. It is very helpful to Qatar that its leaders have not established a security relationship with Iran. There is no doubt that strengthening ties with Iran, as a force parallel to the powers of the blockading countries that are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, would have detrimental consequences for Qatar's security. And while Iran certainly seeks to present itself as an alternative option in exchange for Saudi Arabia and the UAE, any strengthening of the Iranian presence in Qatar will carry the risk of alienation from the United States and other Western powers from Qatar. Indeed, incorrect reports were published stating that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were in Doha with the aim of discrediting Qatar.

Small State Strategies in Defense of Survival: Becoming a Military Force

Some small countries have managed to change their security periphery by becoming a much larger military force than their geographical size requires. Since the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has become the largest military power in the Central African region, and it has intervened in the Congo by imposing an influence that exceeds its normal size. Singapore, also a small country by all accounts, plays a major security role in its region and is being treated in a way that makes it a country far more important than its size assumes (26).

The United Arab Emirates, a country located in the vicinity of Qatar, is the most striking example of a small country that, with amazing speed, has already developed its impressive military capabilities. In just over 30 years, the UAE armed forces have transformed from a group of unorganized police forces into the most sophisticated force in the Arab world; their forces have carried out amphibious landings and the establishment of military bases in Africa and Yemen. Thus the pride of the Emiratis to obtain the honor of the title "Little Sparta" or "Sparta Minor" is justified (27).

The question that arises in this context is: Can Qatar simulate its neighbor and then turn into a formidable military force? Qatari arms purchase deals recently indicate that they are trying to follow this trend, as Qataris have already obtained various equipment of advanced weaponry from France, the United Kingdom, America and Russia.

Since the start of the Gulf Cooperation Council crisis, Qatar has purchased or announced its intention to purchase a variety of combat aircraft. In December 2017, Doha signed a $ 6 billion contract to purchase 36 F-15 combat aircraft (28). And Qatar had announced, earlier in the same month, the purchase of more than 12 French "Rafale" fighters (this is in addition to 36 aircraft already in possession) with the possibility of purchasing 24 additional fighters (29). Doha also announced, earlier in the fall of 2017, its plans to purchase 24 European Typhoon aircraft from Britain (31).

In total, with these purchases Qatar will raise its air force arsenal from 12 fighters to 72, and possibly more. As for the arsenals of other sectors of the army, they also witnessed a similar rise. Qatar made the purchase of naval boats, air defense systems and combat vehicles for the infantry, as it is tempting to see Qatar as an emerging superpower, but nonetheless, this is a deceptive fact. While military equipment is an essential component in capacity building, it is not certain that Qatar possesses the human capacity or expertise required to transform that raw equipment from marine boats, fighter planes and armored vehicles into real military capabilities. Qatar has a population of no less than 330,000 Qatari citizens (which is approximately the size of the population of the London suburb, Ealing, and less than the population of “Anaheim” in California); These are modern military equipment.

The diversity of military equipment also poses another challenge. If we take into account only combat aircraft, Qatar will have to maintain three separate supply lines, three training centers for pilot officers and fighters, as well as three separate types of weapons. Moreover, some Air Force officers will have to learn French, while others will learn English. Given the limited pool of manpower that can be rehabilitated, this diversity of military equipment will be a potential disruption factor. Finally, none of this military equipment will be delivered for years.

Qatar can indeed become a "little spartan", but that will be years after strenuous efforts, but at the present moment, the procurement of many military weapons only indicates military ambition rather than evidence of the availability of actual military capabilities.

Quite simply, Qatar does not have that luxury in time to build its military capabilities. In spite of what the observer observes in the Gulf, possessing military capabilities does not lie in the process of purchasing equipment only; this requires an entire generation in order to acquire, educate, train and qualify military leaders, and then work to integrate them into the actual combat forces. The deficit that Qatar's defensive capabilities suffer today is a reflection of the investment decisions made by the Qatari leadership since the 1990s, so he spent efforts in focusing on building the country's infrastructure and participating in international events, rather than working patiently on building military forces, could not Immediately treat in a short time (30).


The field of security is not a branch of systematic scientific studies or classified in certain axes. Downloading theories and strategies in the field of security on the ground is always more inclined to exceed what people are planning or waiting for it to happen. It will be most helpful to Qatar's goals to pursue multiple tactics at the same time that suit the small country's eagerness to survive, which Qatar seems to be already doing.

Qatar will be in a better position if it is committed to developing and expanding American military installations located on its soil; it must continue to shed light on these facilities and develop them, as it must, at the same time, acknowledge that these bases are tactical and not strategic, meaning that they are only one component of Components of the relationship with America. Renewing Qatar’s commitment to hosting free American forces will result in institutional recognition of the inter-relationship - and such measures as easing customs procedures for US soldiers entering and leaving the military base - would create a supportive consensus for Qatar within the ranks of the various US commanders and sectors.

Qatar's efforts to accelerate the development of its ambitious and welcome military capabilities, and Qatar will face many challenges on the way to convert these modern military equipment into actual military capabilities; Qatar's position regarding the manpower involved in the army remains a major cause for concern. In all cases, the development of military capabilities can never be achieved in a jiffy; the results of the decisions taken today will not appear until at least a decade later. But the most important thing is that Qatar has committed itself to moving in the right direction.

Ultimately, very few countries have been able to secure themselves through military means. The borders between the United States and Canada are completely defenseless; however, the friendship cultivated by the two nations was protected through trade and cultural partnership, not by military means.

For Qatar, to truly solve the current crisis, and restore its prosperity that it was before the outbreak of the crisis, it is necessary to push towards settling the current crisis.


This report is taken from: Al-Jazirah Center for Studies.