Qatar inaugurated a new naval base in the strategic and increasingly highly-contested waters of the Gulf. At 640,000 m2, the base can accommodate operational and training facilities for 1,600 personnel and 150 officers. The announcement is significant given the heightening tensions between Iran, on the one hand, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the United States and the United Kingdom on the other. The Al-Daayen base highlights Qatar’s sense of insecurity and the urgent need to protect its maritime boundaries.
Although Qatar is a member of the GCC, its foreign policy and closer relations with Iran in recent times precipitated the diplomatic rift with Saudi Arabia and its close allies, such as Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
The Qatari coastguard can only build and maintain relatively small patrol vessels and fast attack craft because of the shallow depth of the Gulf, at an average of 90 to 93 metres.
Qatar has suffered a financial setback from the fallout with Saudi Arabia in 2017. The Qatari economy is still vulnerable to volatility in energy markets. Any significant disruptions due to the ongoing diplomatic and security crisis between Tehran, Riyadh, London and Washington, would significantly hamper Doha’s ambitions.
The Al-Daayen base confirms the sheer insecurity that Doha faces. The Saudi Government’s threat to turn Qatar into an island is a symbolic warning to Doha that Riyadh has the economic, political and military leverage to completely threaten its financial and maritime security.