Browsing 'us' News

Qatar Airways/Flickr

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker

The recent ban on most electronic items onboard planes going from Doha to the US is simply a “security measure,” the CEO of Qatar Airways has said.

According to Reuters, Akbar Al Baker said this week that he did not feel the policy singled out GCC carriers.

“I don’t think it is fair for me to say it is targeting Gulf airlines,” he told reporters at a Qatar investment forum in London.

Colin Harris/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Since Saturday, electronic items larger than cell phones have not been permitted inside the cabin of aircraft flying to the US from 10 Middle Eastern cities, including Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Instead, passengers must check their laptops, iPads and e-readers, among other devices. Nine airlines are affected by the ban, including Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad.

No US carriers were on the list.

Kevin Morris/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Al Baker added that it was “too early” to say whether the policy would affect his airline’s profits.

However, Emirates’ CEO has been more vocal about the ban, calling it “disruptive and operationally challenging.”

Industry analysts have also suggested that business class passengers in particular may choose to book with carriers unaffected by the ban.

Questions about ban

American officials said that the new policy is temporary, and in response to concerns about terrorist attacks.

The UK has also implemented similar new rules, but excluded Doha and Dubai from its list of restricted routes.

Andrew Cupitt / Flickr

British Airways A320, for illustrative purposes only.

This has prompted questions about whether the US regulations are partly designed to put pressure on the big three Gulf airlines.

For years, they have been the target of criticism from major US airlines.

Many claim that Gulf carriers are receiving unfair government subsidies and therefore damaging American businesses.

New Indian airline

Also this week, Al Baker offered more details to reporters about plans to establish a new, Qatar-owned domestic airline in India.

“It could be this year,” the CEO told Bloomberg in London. “It depends (on) how fast we can arrange our application.”

Chantelle D'mello

For illustrative purposes only

The carrier is expected to be funded by the Qatar Investment Authority and run by Qatar Airways.

The move was made possible by a rule change in India last June that allows 100 percent foreign ownership of Indian airlines for the first time.

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways announced last month that it had decided to drop plans to launch a domestic airline in Saudi Arabia following licensing delays.

Thoughts?

Raytheon

Raytheon early warning radar system.

US-based defense firm Raytheon has been awarded a $1.1 billion contract to build an early warning radar system for Qatar, the Pentagon has announced.

In a statement, the firm said the system will be integrated into Qatar’s current air and missile defense capabilities once it is completed by mid-2021.

The deal has been in the works for almost four years.

Qatar first put in a request to purchase the radar system in 2013. The contract has since been awaiting lawmaker approval.

Regional stability

At the time, the order package included an A/N FPS-132 Block 5 Early Warning Radar. Additional parts and equipment, training and technical support were also part of the deal.

The system is capable of detecting “sea-launched or intercontinental ballistic missiles” at a range of up to 3,000 miles (4,828 km) and is capable of tracking them in real time, US Defense documents show.

When notifying Congress about the contract, the United States Defense Security Cooperation Agency said that the sale would “promote regional stability by enhancing regional defense to a key U.S. ally.”

It continued:

“The acquisition of this air defense system would provide a permanent defensive capability to the Qatar Peninsula as well as protection of the economic infrastructure and well-being of Qatar.”

Defense

Qatar has spent billions of dollars shoring up its defenses in the past few years amid growing regional instability.

In December, it placed a $29.5 million order with US firm Lockheed Martin for an unspecified number of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC3) missiles and PAC-3 MSE interceptors.

U.S Pacific Command

Patriot missile

And last fall, the government signed a deal to install a defense system along its coast to help stop hostile ships from entering its waters.

Qatar is also investing in new aircraft as it expands its air defense capability. For example, US lawmakers recently approved Qatar’s purchase of 36 F-15 fighter jets from Boeing.

Thoughts?

Ameer Abdul Razak/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar is likely to remain one of region’s most stable economies in the coming years due to its strong economy, top-heavy governance and politically inactive population, a new report has found.

According to BMI Research, the government’s ability “to provide its citizens with generous subsidies and economic opportunities” is a main reason for the stability.

However, Qatar has implemented some austerity measures in recent years due to lower oil prices and budget deficits.

Reem Saad / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only

But when asked about actions such as rising utility and gas prices, BMI told Doha News that these were “unlikely” to have a negative effect on stability.

Andrine Skjelland, MENA Country Risk Analyst at BMI, said:

“The scope of fiscal consolidation remains limited, and the overall impact on Qatari citizens’ living standards will be minimal.

In any case, we believe the government would be quick to scale back measures at first signs of significant popular discontent, preventing unrest from spreading.”

However, BMI’s report noted that political involvement from Qatari citizens is expected to remain “minimal.” Additionally, it forecast that foreign workers will continue to be subject to “heavy restrictions.”

It added that national policies will continue to be shaped by “a small group of elite decision makers” who face few constraints, “in turn ensuring broad policy continuity.”

Trump effect

BMI was also optimistic in terms of the big picture. For example, it asserted that Qatar’s diplomatic ties with the US will remain strong.

This is despite Donald Trump’s presidency and his views on radical Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Donald J. Trump/Facebook

US President Donald Trump

The report concluded that the continued US military presence at the Al Udeid air base and deep economic ties between the two countries will outweigh other US foreign policy concerns.

BMI’s experts added that a softer focus on human rights by the US would likely work in Qatar’s favor.

“Compared with the previous administration, we expect the US government under Trump to focus less on human rights issues and the spread of democracy in its foreign policy – a trend that will likely be welcomed in Doha, as it limits the potential for external pressure on it to implement political and social reforms.”

Muslim Brotherhood links

Trump’s team is also currently debating whether to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

This move could strain diplomatic relations between the US and Qatar, whose support of the group in Egypt has caused past conflict with its neighbors.

European External Action Service

Deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi

However, BMI asserted that Qatar’s ability to act as a peace-broker in the region, coupled with financial and military concerns, guarantee that the two countries won’t fall out over the issue.

“Doha’s ties to a broad range of state and non-state actors mean it is still considered a facilitator of MENA negotiations in Washington,” the report stated.

“The two countries also have deep trade links, particularly in the energy sector, and Doha has announced plans to invest $45bn in the US over the next five years.”

BMI added that Qatar would likely yield to US pressure over its Muslim Brotherhood ties if required to do so.

This is because relations with the US and other GCC countries are becoming increasingly important amid regional instability, according to the report’s authors.

Thoughts?