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Sun 16 Mar 2014 09:56 AM

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Saudi could block Qatar Airways from air space: military analyst

Kingdom may restrict access to its air space, airports for Qatar aircraft if diplomatic dispute escalates, veteran military analyst warns

Saudi could block Qatar Airways from air space: military analyst
Saudi Arabia could reduce landing rights at its five international airports for Qatar Airways and force the airline to avoid Saudi air space during flights west.

Saudi Arabia may block or restrict access to its air space for Qatari flag carrying aircraft if the countries’ diplomatic dispute escalates, a veteran military analyst has told Arabian Business.

The kingdom could reduce landing rights at its five international airports for Qatar Airways and force the airline to avoid Saudi air space during flights west, which would significantly affect the airline’s travel time, costing the publicly-owned carrier more in fuel and potential customers due to the inconvenience, director of research and consultancy at the Institute of Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA), Dr Theodore Karasik, said.

“It’s about the number of flights that Qatar Airways has at particular airports [and blocking it from] flying over [Saudi Arabia] means that they have to go around, which will cost them more in fuel and the level of convenience to go between the two countries drops,” Karasik said.

The Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation also could revoke a newly approved license for Qatar Airways to launch a new domestic airline, Al Maha, in the kingdom.

“It could very well happen,” Karasik said.

However, the kingdom would “pick and choose” its tactics.

Aviation analysts declined to comment on the speculation.

Saudi Arabia already has reportedly threatened to block Qatar’s land and sea borders, which would have a devastating impact on the Gulf state’s ability to import goods, particularly food.

Karasik said the kingdom may also target Qatar via media campaigns, specifically targeting the country’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

The tactics are being considered following an unprecedented breakdown in relations between Qatar and fellow Gulf Cooperation Council members the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia over allegations Qatar is interfering in their internal affairs and its support of the conservative Islamic group, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Earlier this month, the trio recalled their ambassadors from Doha and Saudi Arabia threatened additional action that would hit the Qatari economy unless it cut ties with the Brotherhood, closed down broadcaster Al Jazeera and suspended two US think tanks’ offices in Doha.

Karasik said the neighbours also were angry over Qatar’s growing closeness to traditional foe Iran, as well as Turkey, which also supports the Brotherhood.

“We’ve already seen Iran and Qatar become even closer in terms of a free zone and other types of economic agreements and also Qatar getting closer to Turkey, which supports the Brotherhood, so there’s a geo-political security shift ongoing within what was the GCC up until [recently],” Karasik said.

“They will take additional actions if Qatar’s behaviour does not change and Qatar is so far saying ‘we’re not going to play this game, we’re going to do what we intend to do because we have our view of the world and how we want to conduct our business and we’ll conduct our business the way we want to.”

Leaders of the four states are expected to meet and discuss the disagreement ahead of next week’s Arab League Summit in Kuwait.

The rift also is expected to be discussed during US president Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia later this month.

Neither Kuwait, which also hosts a significant Brotherhood presence, or Oman, which has preferred to sit on the sidelines of the GCC for some time, have publicly commented on the issue.

John 5 years ago

Are you kidding me? It has been covered in my articles recently about Saudi Arabia's support of the rebels (who are linked to terrorists groups) in ousting the President of Syria. How many Saudi's are fighting in Syria? And interestesting, Kuwait is silent; I'd ask the same to them? Qatar has been the most vocal in their support for the muslim brotherhood and it is a terrorist organization, but can't Saudi Arabia speak to Qatar rather than go to these kinds of extremes against a neighboring GCC nation? This is absurd and irrational behaviour by Saudi Arabia.

Prefer to remain anonymous 5 years ago

Is there a website or source which has the official statement from the Qatar government so it can be confirmed or are we discussing only what others think is the stance ?

Silver 5 years ago

Dear John..We don't know the whole story so don't try to just throw judgment.

Telcoguy 5 years ago

No it is not. It is perfectly rational, delayed, but rational. I realize that Salafists, Wahabis, Muslim Brotherhood, Al Quaeda and many others may look the same to you but they have some serious differences. Serious enough to be at each other throats at least

Not sure we can go into details, but if you dig into MB history and tenets you will realize the actions of the House of Saud are absolutely rational. You may disagree with them, but that is a different issue, certainly that is a difference that is lost for many readers of AB

The only question is why now and not much, much earlier. Grabbing my popcorn, this may be entertaining

RaOne 5 years ago

So these are sanctions.

This is just some analyst commenting, not necessarily that it will happen, one probability... Qatar to has options too.

If pressed very hard, it can effectively come out of GCC and form an alliance with Iran who would be so happy. Oman too will follow the same path as they are fed up with KSA bullying.

So all these strong arm tactics of KSA will only affect it the most.

And it is not 80s any more. With Iraq also aligned with Iran, and KSA strategy of throwing out pro-Iran Assad from Syria failed, it would become a lone and cornered player. KSA think Egypt military will provide support...they are too smart and in worst case scenario keep away from taking sides.

On wonders just who is managing KSA. They have to learn to mend ties with all its neighbours...Iran is only a threat in some over-imaginative minds.

Also one more reason to think before making real estate investments in this region.

Telcoguy 5 years ago

Great summary
A couple of comments, I doubt Qatar can realistically move closer to Iran, their troops invaded Bahrain, remember? That would be kind of messy
Qatar was also partnering with KSA in supporting the Syrian rebels. I do not think this made lot of friends in Tehran

Of course all can be forgiven and I think that Assad surviving and eventually getting the upper hand is triggering some changes, and I may be accused of cynicism but I think the USA is playing the old British trick of supporting both sides to make sure none can win the struggle and all their energies get wasted

On the real estate, the real reasons to be cautious are much more mundane and have little to do with a regional cold war methinks (contract enforcement, property rights, you know the usual suspects)

Do you have any suggestion about why the Saudis chose to react now?

RAH 5 years ago

Dear John.. It is not just KSA that has taken an irrational stance against Qatar. Dare you muster up the courage to write your judgement whilst encompassing all three countries that took a stance? Or are you happy singling out KSA and throwing judgement at it alone and consider your write-up worth a penny of reading?
Secondly, you branded the brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Although I am NOT a brotherhood supporter nor sympathizer, I do not have hard and visible FACTS to go ahead and brand a group as such. Do you?
Thirdly, with Kuwait being silent, you jump to a conclusion where you would like to ask them how many Kuwaitis are fighting in Syria? How about the British found fighting there? Or would you rather just ask Kuwait and leave the West out of it for the sake of denial on just how widepsread this conflict is?

Dear John, things are not black and white. It’s a rainbow plus 1,000 colors added in for the fun of confusing us - the non politicians part of society.