Home Qatar Qatar climbing new heights: Largest Naval Base in the Arabian Peninsula?

Qatar climbing new heights: Largest Naval Base in the Arabian Peninsula?

Qatar launched the Al-Daayen naval base on its northeast coastline in an attempt to address its regional security and economic challenges. The naval base is said to be the largest coast guard headquarters of the tiny Arabian Peninsula, which is said to be primarily focused on the country's strategic vision of development and security.

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News Desk |

Qatar has launched a new naval base, reportedly the largest coast guard headquarter of the tiny peninsular state, on its Northeastern coastline in the Persian Gulf.

The inauguration ceremony of Al-Daayen naval base was attended by Qatari Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani, along with top military and naval officials of the country on Sunday in Simaisma, 30 kilometers from Doha.

Commander of the US Naval Forces in the Middle East, Vice Admiral Jim Malloy, was also present at the ceremony.

The naval base is being described as part of Qatar’s strategic vision of development and security, particularly due to its sensitive geo-strategic location in the Gulf neighborhood that has been hostile towards the country since 2017.

The inauguration comes days after the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani met with the US President Donald J Trump in a bid to strengthen “strategic and economic relations”. The meeting took place last week in Washington amid tensions between the US and Iran in the Gulf.

Al-Daayen naval base: “Strategic Vision of Development and Security”

General Abdel Aziz Abdullah al Ansari, who was also present at the ceremony, in an interview to Al-Jazeera emphasized on the strategic significance of the Al-Daayen naval base.

As head of the Department of International Cooperation at Qatar’s Interior Ministry, Al Ansari asserted that the base will add up to the fulfillment of security needs for the country and facilitate operations such as maritime patrolling, search and rescue, combating illegal immigration and to protect the offshore oil and gas installations in the region.

Read more: US-Qatar to strengthen their military and economic ties

The naval base is being described as part of Qatar’s strategic vision of development and security, particularly due to its sensitive geo-strategic location in the Gulf neighborhood that has been hostile towards the country since 2017.

Naval Base to Address Regional Security Challenges for Qatar

Qatar’s geographical proximity to both the Persian Gulf and the Arab world makes it the epicenter of the complex political and economic fabric of the region. With Iran present at the eastern side of the Persian Gulf, Qatar shares the world’s largest gas-field with the Persian state, known as the South Pars/North Dome field.

On the other hand, Qatar continues to be under an economic and political boycott by the Saudi-Emirati-dominated bloc over alleged support to Islamist groups; an accusation denied by Qatar. The Saudi-dominated axis also accused Qatar for using Al-Jazeera, a Qatari based news agency, for reporting the kingdom’s human rights abuse record and also had reservations with Qatar for its cordial ties with Iran, a Saudi-arch rival.

The 21 miles wide passage amounts to the trade of 80 per cent of the crude oil to Asia with an estimated 22.5 million barrels of oil passing through the strait on a daily basis since 2018.

The blockade that has persisted to exist for two years now and has since put the country under a severe land, air-space and maritime ban, restricting it from trade, economic and political exchanges with its Gulf neighbors. Qatar reportedly suffered a $30 billion loss when all its neighboring states withdrew their capital investments from Qatari banks in addition to a $9 million loss to Qatar Airways alone due to the sudden airspace ban. Qatar has since rerouted its flight operations over Iran, Turkey and the Oman airspace.

Qatar’s National Development Strategy

The naval base is seen as a significant addition to Qatar’s economic security needs as it continues to rely heavily on maritime trade. Owing to present circumstances, Qatar’s National Development Strategy remains a crucial plan for the diversification of its economy. Being a city-state by magnitude, it relied on its neighbors for 90 percent of its food imports. However, it was quick in establishing domestic farms for the production of meat and dairy products but it also continues to rely on food imports from Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and others to meet its population demand.

In addition to its imports, Qatar is also focusing on its Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) exports as part of its national development strategy. Since its withdrawal from Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in January 2019 the country has pledged to focus on its hydrocarbon exports in attempt to diversify its economy. At present, it has the capacity to produce 77 million tons of LNG each year. However, it aims to boost its LNG production to 110 million tons a year by 2024 through the extraction expansion plans on its North Field.

Read more: Qatar’s friendly suit: Promises to provide the UAE with its share of LNG

Qatar’s hydrocarbon wealth has helped its economy to expand despite the embargo. Its economy grew by 1.6% in 2017, and that rate of expansion is expected to rise to 2.4% in 2018 and 3.1% in 2019, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Strait of Hormuz

Other than Qatar’s domestic economic needs, its alliance with Iran and the US remains a key balancing challenge for the tiny country. Since the beginning of the rift between the US and Iran in May this year, the Gulf has witnessed several vessel-attacks and an increasing fear of military escalation in what is known as the most crucial maritime trade-route.

Connecting the Persian Gulf with the rest of world’s oceans, the Strait of Hormuz provides passage to nearly a third of the world’s oil. The 21 miles wide passage amounts to the trade of 80 per cent of the crude oil to Asia with an estimated 22.5 million barrels of oil passing through the strait on a daily basis since 2018. Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of LNG, sends most of its LNG through the strait as well.

Read more: The Transactional Partnership of the US and Qatar

The inauguration of the new naval base can be seen as an attempt to secure the trade activities of Qatar and its allies in the region amid on-going crisis in the Gulf. When asked if the base will continue to enhance US-Qatar security cooperation in the region, Vice Admiral Malloy stated that it is “all about maritime security, that’s what our focus is.” Qatar, being an ally to both the US and Iran, can particularly challenge its position as a balancer in the region if the newly-opened base is used for US interests in the Gulf. Qatar at present hosts the largest military air-base of the US in the Middle East, the Al Udeid airbase, where 10,000 US troops reside.

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