Qatar and France signed a historic military agreement yesterday in order to ensure further security in the Gulf region, amid rising concerns over Iran and its actions.
Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs Dr Khalid Bin Mohammed Al-Attiyeh met yesterday with French Minister of the Armies Florence Parly to discuss a number of issues such as developing bi-lateral ties between the two nations and the recent increasing tensions in the region of the Middle East and the Gulf in particular.
The meeting resulted in signed an agreement between both Qatar and France regarding the legal status of deploying and stationing French military forces within Qatar.
Bi-lateral relations between the two countries have been steadily increasing over the past few years, with a particular boost having been seen following Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani's visit to Paris in September 2017 – the first such trip taken by the Emir since the beginning of the blockade on Qatar imposed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.
In December that same year, the signing of several military and armament deals between the two countries which were worth €12 billion was announced, and was followed up by a series of joint military drills last year. These increased bi-lateral ties have resulted in Paris becoming Doha's seventh largest economic partner and with the latter becoming one of the former's leading trading partners in the Gulf region, as well as a hub for French companies in the Middle East.
The military agreement signed yesterday, is expected to enable Qatar to allow French troops to be stationed in the country, adding onto the list of foreign forces who already have a presence in the small Gulf country, namely US and Turkish troops.
France's military outreach is not only limited to Qatar, however, but the Gulf region as a whole, with it joining the US in efforts to step up security in the region against the perceived Iranian threat. Tensions in the Gulf have risen this year following Iran's seizing of European ships and oil tankers in the summer and its shooting down of a US drone in the area. More recently, Iran has been thought by many to be behind the recent attack on a Saudi Aramco oil facility in the kingdom's south-west in September, which hit global oil supplies.
Much of the tension stems from the US' withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and the re-imposition of sanctions on the country, which has resulted in a spiral of increasingly tense relations between the Islamic Republic and the US and EU. In response, the US has deployed a further 3,000 troops in Saudi Arabia to monitor the perceived Iranian threat.
It is this situation which has prompted France to involve itself in the struggle against Iran's actions, with Parly also announcing last week that France was sending Saudi Arabia "a robust package of advanced warning" consisting of radars to confront low-altitude attacks. "It will be in Saudi Arabia in the coming days so it will be operational very, very rapidly. But there is an analysis to be done in order to better identify how to fill the gap," Parly told reporters.
She also stated that France was getting involved due to the decreasing role of the US in the region, claiming "We have seen a deliberate, gradual U.S. disengagement," citing the US's lack of action over a chemical attack in Syria in 2013, as well as Iran's aforementioned downing of the US drone.