Fri Jun 1, 2018 08:53PM
File picture taken on May 9, 2017 shows Russian S-400 Triumph medium-range and long-range surface-to-air missile systems riding through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow. (AFP photo)
File picture taken on May 9, 2017 shows Russian S-400 Triumph medium-range and long-range surface-to-air missile systems riding through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow. (AFP photo)

Saudi King Salman has reportedly threatened to take military action against Qatar if Doha purchases the S-400 aerial defense system from Russia.

According to a report by French daily Le Monde on Friday, King Salman has written a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron, expressing his "profound concern" over ongoing negotiations between Qatar and Russia for the sale of the advanced anti-aircraft weapon system.

The Saudi king noted that Doha's acquisition of S-400 will jeopardize the security interests of Riyadh, urging France to intensify pressure on Qatar in an attempt to prevent the country from purchasing the air defense system.

"[In such a situation], the kingdom would be ready to take all the necessary measures to eliminate this defense system, including military action," King Salman was quoted as saying in the letter.

The report came a day after Saudi Ambassador to Russia Rayed Krimly said negotiations between Riyadh and Moscow over the purchase of the S-400 missile system were “advancing well,” noting that the two sides were working out the technical details of the contract. Saudi Arabia had signed preliminary agreements to purchase the S-400 system from Russia during King Salman's visit to Moscow last October.

In January, Qatar's ambassador to Russia had also said that negotiations for the acquisition of S-400 were "at an advanced stage."

The announcement came about three months after Russia and Qatar inked an agreement on military and technical cooperation during a visit by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to Doha last October.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Russia-based defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said Saudi's opposition to the possible Qatar deal will not affect Russia's decision, as Moscow's years-long efforts to forge trade ties with Saudi Arabia have not worked out due to Riyadh's political expectations.  

"Saudi Arabia has been clearly attaching political strings to any possible deal with buying Russian weapons... that Russia should scale down its cooperation with Iran primarily and maybe modify its position in Syria," Felgenhauer said.

"Qatar is not attaching such strings [and] Russia would not militarily try to get involved in anything that is happening in the [Persian] Gulf... In any case these anti-aircraft missiles, if they ever appear in Qatar, this will not be any time soon," he added.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt severed diplomatic relations with Qatar, in a scheme generally believed to have been orchestrated by Riyadh. The four countries accused Qatar of sponsoring “terrorism” and destabilizing the region, an allegation strongly denied by Doha.

Several African countries have also broken ties with Qatar in support for the Saudi-led quartet.

The Saudi-led quartet presented Qatar with a list of demands and gave it an ultimatum to comply or face consequences. The demands included closing the Doha-based Al Jazeera broadcaster, removing Turkish troops from Qatar’s soil, scaling back ties with Iran, and ending relations with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement.

The quartet also imposed sanctions against Doha, including restrictions on Qatari aircraft using the airspace of the four countries. To further pressure Qatar, Saudi Arabia totally closed its land border with its tiny neighbor, through which much of Qatar’s food supply crossed.

Qatar, however, refused to yield and denounced the demands as unreasonable, saying its sovereignty had been attacked. In return, the four boycotting countries vowed to impose further sanctions.

According to an investigative report released by the Associated Press in late May, a top fundraiser for US President Donald Trump and his business partner had been prompting anti-Qatar policies at the highest levels of the US government over the past one-and-a-half year in return for lucrative business favors from the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Trump’s fundraiser Elliott Broidy and Lebanese-American businessman George Nader spent a year cultivating links with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan who were seeking to change US foreign policy with regard to their archrival Qatar.

Broidy and Nader spearheaded their secret campaign to influence the White House and Congress and championed the anti-Qatar policy of the Persian Gulf monarchies that eventually led to the blockade of the tiny nation.