For the third time in weeks, warplanes from Qatar have deliberately and wilfully buzzed civilian aircraft from the UAE, and the latest in this series of aggressive and intimidating encounters involved a UAE passenger plane en route from Dammam to Abu Dhabi. As in the previous incidents, the passenger jet was following a regular and prescribed civilian air corridor when the Qatari warplanes flew too close and buzzed the aircraft. This time, the passenger plane was flying in Bahraini airspace.
In the past three months, Qatar has stepped up its deliberate interceptions of both UAE and Bahraini civilian aircraft, and all the incidents have occurred within prescribed air corridors, in airspace controlled by civilian controllers, and involved regularly scheduled flights. In other words, there is no other interpretation of the fighter pilots’ actions than to say they were deliberate, and were done on orders from the powers that be. All the interceptions have been recorded by air traffic control, showing that these buzzing incidents are planned. As a matter of course, these serious threats against unarmed civilian aircraft are acts of intimidation where, given the speeds involved, the warplanes’ capabilities and the very short distances, there is absolutely no room for error and the lives of those on board the civilian planes are wilfully jeopardised. As a matter of course, the UAE’s General Authority on Civil Aviation is reporting the serious incident to the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
But what of those orders from the highest levels in Doha? Clearly, these three incidents now confirm that Qatar believes it has a right to engage in these barnstorming flying circus antics. At the very least, that is blase and cavalier. It signals once more that Qatar has no intent of following international norms, nor is it interested in resolving the current diplomatic disagreement between Doha and the four members of the anti-terrorism quartet, who have shut their respective air and sea spaces to Qatari aircraft and vessels. The quartet of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt has also imposed financial restrictions on the Qatari government to highlight its failure to meet its international and regional obligations to fight those who spread terror and extremism across the broader region. While there have been on-and-off efforts again to try and amicably close this diplomatic chapter, it’s clear that the leadership in Doha is somehow satisfied with the status quo, and that it believes it now has a right to endanger and intimidate air passengers and civilian pilots and crews.