We need to be following this development closely…
I quote Jennifer from a private email:
In fact, it would be very much in character for the region, where the history of warfare, from Darius and Cyrus up through the late Ottoman Empire’s adventures in the Balkans and North Africa in the 19th century, has invariably entailed great powers driving multinational armies around the same old geography century after century. Western power has kept a lid on that for the last 100 years, but the old pattern is incipient again.
With tank buy from Turkey, Qatar continues quest to stockpile a whole lot of main battle tanks
Multiple regional sources reported on Tuesday that Qatar and Turkey have inked an agreement for Doha to purchase 100 new Altay main battle tanks (MBTs) from Turkey, which produces the tank indigenously.
Commentary from Western observers has so far been spotty, curious, and even skeptical. Qatar is a very small country, subsisting in the Persian Gulf on a promontory off the Arabian Peninsula. Main battle tanks, are, well, main battle tanks. They’re used for lethal, terrain-chewing armor warfare on a landscape Qatar doesn’t even have. For the applications you might expect Qatar to plan for, something smaller and more suitable for things like local, mixed-platform defense (e.g., of the emir’s palace and government facilities) and population control would make better sense.
But Qatar has actually been investing in MBTs for some time. In 2013, Qatar signed a purchase agreement with Germany for 180 German-made Leopard MBTs. (Of those, 32 had been delivered by 2016, with 62 more in an active order-delivery process.)
I wrote about that purchase at the time, pointing out the same things observers are looking at now. What the heck does Qatar need all those tanks for?
In 2013, I suggested a connection between the Qatar tank buy and Saudi Arabia’s $60-plus billion deal to buy major weapons platforms from the U.S. (a deal made in 2010; see Qatar link for a link to an earlier article on that).
If you surveyed what a group of the Arab nations were buying, no single nation would have a comprehensive fighting force for power projection in the Middle East. But if you put their forces together, you’d have most of what you needed for such a juggernaut. (They would have been short on maritime area access/denial assets.)
The threat they would have had in view would be Iran. If they had a target in view, it would have been Israel – in an ultimate sense, although part of having Israel as a target would have been closing in on an Israel-involved battlespace through dealing with the consequences of the Arab Spring of 2011. In either case, it would have been something bigger than local border defense that prompted strategic planning on the scale implied by the huge arms purchases that were cropping up. For such purchases, the Arab nations were envisioning massed, large-battlespace operations.