State Department approves export of anti-drone defence systems to Qatar

Qatar moves one step further away from Iran with new US military contract

AP/ALEX BRANDON - - President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, in Washington

Qatar and the United States have moved a step closer in their relations with the State Department's approval of a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Qatar. The purchase has not yet been finalised, but as the US Department of Defence's Agency for Security Cooperation (ACS) announced this week, the notification has been submitted to Congress, the last necessary step. 

The notified transaction has a ceiling of up to $1 billion to acquire an FS-LIDS System, a system to counter the use of small and medium-sized drones. This is the Coyote Block II system from the US company Raytheon. It consists of a vehicle-mounted or stationary tubular launcher with a radar system that launches an unmanned aerial device that will explode when it comes within range of the device. According to the manufacturer, Raytheon, the system can also be fired from the air. It can also be given surveillance and electronic warfare missions. 

Along with the Coyote systems, the purchase is also expected to be for CUAEWS electronic warfare systems, Ku Band multi-function radar systems, advanced air defence controls, plus more services to accompany the delivery of these materials. According to ACS, the Qatari armed forces are capable of integrating these systems into their operational structure.

The ACS press release emphasises that this FMS is part of the US effort to enhance regional security and stability for its allies in the Middle East. In March 2022, Qatar was recognised by President Joe Biden as a "major non-NATO ally", i.e. a priority military partner outside the North Atlantic Alliance. Countries such as Morocco also enjoy this designation. By moving into this category, Qatar gained access to a new world of possibilities in the field of military cooperation with the American giant. 

AFP PHOTO / HO / IRANIAN PRESIDENCY - En una foto de archivo de la página web oficial de la Presidencia iraní del 12 de enero de 2020 el presidente iraní Hassan Rouhani estrecha la mano del Emir de Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani tras una conferencia de prensa conjunta en Teherán

Qatar is taking a balanced step, maintaining an equidistant position between the United States and the main regional rival, Iran. Qatar may distrust Tehran in the long term, but it chooses to maintain an ambiguous position, different from that of the Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Interest in understanding is largely underpinned by the joint exploitation and management agreement linking the two countries in South Par/North Dome, the world's largest offshore gas field discovered to date. 

When the 2017 crisis between Qatar and the Gulf Cooperation Council took place, leading to the blockade on Qatar by its Arab neighbours, Iran positioned itself as the biggest supporter of Doha, providing logistical assistance.

AP/OLIVIER DOULIERY - El Secretario de Estado Antony Blinken estrecha la mano del Ministro de Asuntos Exteriores de Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, durante una conferencia de prensa tras una ceremonia de firma en el Departamento de Estado en Washington, el viernes 12 de noviembre de 2021

Maintaining its ambiguous stance may prove beneficial for the region, if Qatar manages to position itself as a negotiating bridge between Arab countries and Iran. Emirati leader Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has repeatedly called on his neighbours to open more avenues of dialogue with Tehran. Qatar is actively engaged in promoting a nuclear deal with Iran, a task for which it has positioned itself as a good ally for the West. 

Local media believe that Qatar is seeking to equip itself with anti-drone systems out of sheer fear of Iran. The Coyote Block II system specialises in small drones, including the Shaheed-136, which has gained prominence in recent months due to its use in the war in Ukraine and its possible future export to Algeria.

Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.