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Monday, April 15, 2024

Iran sits pretty as the Qatar crisis continues to loom

News Analysis |

The Qatar saga continues to frustrate peaceniks. For many, this rift between Arab countries is Iran’s hit. As the crisis remains unresolved, Iran is likely to draw more benefits out of it. The defiant stance reiterated by the Qatari Foreign Minister on Monday implies that the stand-off is likely to continue. He ruled out negotiations till the blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries is removed.

“Qatar is under blockade, there is no negotiation. They have to lift the blockade to start negotiations,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told reporters on Monday.

By all means, targeting Qatar was in-line with the spirit of tightening the trap on Iran enshrined in the Riyadh.

He further said that nobody has a right to interfere in Doha’s internal matters. “Anything that relates to the affairs of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council is subject to negotiation. Anything not related to them is not subject to negotiation. No one has the right to interfere in my affairs. Al Jazeera is Qatar’s affairs, Qatari foreign policy on regional issues is Qatar’s affairs. And we are not going to negotiate on our own affairs,” he asserted forcefully.

Read more: Pressure from global players: Will the Gulf crisis be resolved through dialogue?

The GCC countries along with Egypt and other countries severed diplomatic ties with Qatar over its alleged support for terrorism earlier this month. The crisis has deepened and further disturbed the tenuous and fractured region. Iran and Turkey have rushed in to support Qatar while the aggressors, in this case, are bolstered by the US, which despite flip-flopping is still seen as a crutch for the Saudi-led surge.

Qatar’s top diplomat went on to say that Qatar has not been asked for specific measures to be taken. Vague demands are not actionable. The Minister said the Qatar would elicit from various countries, including Iran.

“Iran has facilitated for us the sky passages for our aviation and we are cooperating with all countries that can ensure supplies for Qatar.”

Tehran is better off

In all earnestness, Qatar was blockaded primarily because of its growing closeness with Iran. By all means, targeting Qatar was in-line with the spirit of tightening the trap on Iran enshrined in the Riyadh. However, the simmering Qatar conflagration has not caused Tehran much harm. If anything, Iran is benefitting out of this issue.

Firstly, the crisis has divided the so-called Islamic-NATO into its nascent stages. The alliance ostensibly aimed at countering Iran has been dealt a severe blow by this ever-widening gulf, much to the delight of Iran. Saudia’s principle rival will happily take a divided opposition and will feel confident in tackling it.

Read more: Of weapons and deals: Trump’s shenanigans with Qatar

Doha will be a conduit for Tehran and Ankara to paper over their differences which are even otherwise eclipsed by economic ties.

Secondly, the concerted effort on part of the USA and the Arab countries to arm-twist and browbeat Iran has compelled many to question a seemingly duplicitous attitude in countering terrorism. The feeling has gained traction after the ISIS attacked Tehran earlier this month. Piecemeal condemnations and the apparent refusal to recognize ISIS as the main threat raised many eyebrows. It could be argued that Iran is a Shiite state and the leading challenger to ISIS. The recent escalation of hostilities in Syria is not only opening up the possibility of a conflict between the US and Iran but it also puts question marks on US fight against ISIS, something which Iran’s Supreme Leader called a farce.

Iran is and will continue to fight the ISIS and also try to obviate Saudi influence in the region. The Qatar crisis brings it closer to not only the tiny Gulf country but also Turkey. The two countries have agreed to enhance cooperation after the gruesome attacks in Tehran. Doha will be thus a conduit for Tehran and Ankara to paper over their differences which are even otherwise eclipsed by economic ties.

Most importantly Iran is back to business with Hamas. In a June 15 interview with Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV, Abu Marzouk praised Iran for the first time since Hamas left the Syrian capital of Damascus. He said, “The support offered by Iran to the Palestinian resistance — be it in logistics, training or funds — is unmatched and beyond the capabilities of other countries. Iran’s support and backing to the resistance and the Palestinian cause are clear, explicit and equal to the stance of Arab, Muslim and free peoples of the world who back and support the resistance.” Last month Tehran resumed financial support for Hamas last month. The ties which were raptured after the war in Syria are now warming up. This is mainly because of Iran’s continued opposition to Israel.

Read more: The Gulf tightening its noose: What are Qatar’s real options?

Thus, Iran has much to gain from the ever-tightening encirclement of Doha. The much-dreaded Iranian sphere of influence may actually increase, making this new anti-Iranian surge counterproductive.