A Qatari arms factory that makes rifles and grenade launchers has added a product that saves rather than takes lives: ventilators, now needed at home and abroad amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The venture is the latest salvo in Doha’s charm offensive to cement old partnerships and secure new friends, as a bitter spat with Saudi Arabia and its allies drags into its fourth year on Friday.
The embargo has allowed the small Persian Gulf state to draw on capabilities developed the hard way in the wake of its regional isolation.
In the nerve center of Qatar’s nascent arms industry — the state-run Barzan Holdings facility — giant posters of soldiers toting locally made rifles promote “sovereignty” and “lethality.”
However, alongside all of the gun parts and night-vision goggles, the factory is preparing to churn out 2,000 life-giving ventilators per week, in collaboration with US defense manufacturer Wilcox.
Many are earmarked for export to what Qatar deems “friendly countries.”
“We thought it would be the perfect time to try to seize the moment to ... ramp up production needs,” Barzan managing director Nasser Hassan al-Naimi said of the pandemic.
Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, abruptly cut diplomatic, economic and travel ties with Doha in June 2017, insisting that Qatar was too close to Iran and funding radical Islamist movements.
Qatar rejected those allegations and refused to budge on 13 demands made by its allies-turned-adversaries, including the closure of the Doha-based al-Jazeera news network and shutting a Turkish military base in the emirate.
At the end of April, al-Naimi oversaw a military airlift from the US of manufacturing equipment, which is initially to be used to build ventilators, before later being repurposed to produce military gear.
“There was a five-year strategy to bring in these machines over time, but now you’ve got it all at once,” al-Naimi said at the glistening factory in a science park on the outskirts of Doha.
The operation is reminiscent of an airlift that flew in cattle, mostly from the US, to meet demand for dairy products in the first days of what Doha calls “the blockade.”
Qatar’s ostracism by the Gulf’s key economic players propelled a self-sufficiency drive involving stockpiling food and setting up vegetable farms, in a country once entirely dependent on imports.
The blockade “worked as a catalyst and got us to where we are today,” al-Naimi said. “It has been a blessing in disguise and allowed us to realize our true potential and make sure that everything that we need strategically ... is manufactured here.”
Alongside using defense manufacturing capabilities developed under the embargo to respond to the coronavirus crisis, Qatar has also leaned on food security steps that it took after adversaries cut shipments.
At vast warehouses in the desert five key staples — including rice, cooking oil and sugar — are stockpiled to help prevent empty shelves, as seen in Qatar immediately after its neighbors severed ties.
“We have been eager to increase the stockpile of commodities that can’t be grown in Qatar to meet the challenge of any epidemic,” said Jassim bin Jabor bin Hassan Al Thani, undersecretary for consumer affairs and head of the Strategic Storage Working Group for Food Security at the Qatari Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Stockpiles of rice should last eight months, sugar for seven months and cooking oil for three months, he added.
“If you just back up ... 10 years, everyone was talking about the Khaleej [Gulf] community,” Royal United Services Institute associate fellow Tobias Borck said. “Qatar never really needed to be that self-sufficient, but the crisis created this moment of nationalism and of showing what they can do.”
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
BEYOND CULTURE: The US State Department was expected to announce that the Chinese government-funded institutes would have to register as foreign missions US President Donald Trump’s administration is increasing scrutiny of a long-established Chinese-government funded program that is dedicated to teaching Chinese language and culture in the US and other nations, the latest escalation of tensions with Beijing. The US Department of State was expected to announce as soon as yesterday that Confucius Institutes in the US — many of which are based on college campuses — would have to register as “foreign missions,” according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified. The designation would amount to a conclusion that the institutes are “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by
SHOW OF SOLIDARITY: The publisher’s ‘Apple Daily’ newspaper has had to raise the number of copies printed from 70,000 to 550,000 to meet a huge surge in demand They have occupied Hong Kong’s central business district, marched by the hundreds of thousands through the territory’s streets and endured tear gas and pepper spray in pitched battles with riot police. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy supporters are now wielding a new protest weapon: their stock-market trading accounts. To show support for Jimmy Lai (黎智英), the publisher and outspoken government critic who was on Monday arrested under the territory’s new national security legislation, Hong Kongers have been piling into shares of his media company Next Digital. The result: a more than 1,100 percent surge in two days that propelled the stock to a seven-year