By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
August 30, 2017
Qatari-Iranian cooperation by no means surfaced as a surprise to Gulf observers. The alliance stood as proof to the claims made by the bloc of four countries boycotting Qatar for its hostile behavior and actions.
It is stark proof that Qatar, like Iran, is a source of chaos and violence. The renewed alliance is at best described as the meeting of the two main violence-funding poles in the region.
On one hand, Iran is the main supporter of ultra-hardline militant groups such as Hezbollah, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, the Fatimids, and others. While on the other, Qatar, for nearly three decades, sponsored extremist militant organizations such as al-Qaeda, ISIS, Nusra Front, Ansar al-Sharia, and others.
The only common denominator bringing Qatar and Iran together is regional security and political cooperation.
Qatar is not an important trading partner of Iran, and there is no Shiite figure in Qatar to facilitate their visits to the holy sites. There is no cultural or popular consensus that can justify political rapprochement.
Doha saying that the economic boycott by its angry Gulf neighbors forced it into rebooting ties with Tehran is simply not true. The peninsula’s consumer market is relatively the smallest in the region, meaning that Qatar’s demands can easily be met.
Any potential Qatari-Iranian trade is based on one factor– forming a hostile front against Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE.
Adopting such an approach suggests that Qatar has fallen back to its pre-2010 policies. Qatar was an ally of Iran, a key supporter of Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad and Lebanon’s “Hezbollah. “
This alliance was then directed against the Saudi-Egyptian alliance. The relationship between Doha and Tehran lasted for over a decade, was anti-Saudi, with the two governments fiercely supporting Hezbollah and Hamas.
Signs of change and the advance of cooperation preceded visits carried out by Qatari officials to the Iranian capital recently. Al Jazeera, Doha’s state-funded media mouthpiece, started employing altered rhetoric from what the Qatari government was using.
It covered the Iran-backed Houthis militias, defended pro-Iranian armed groups in the Saudi town of Awamiyah, and changed its viewpoint about its coverage of the uprising in Syria.
Qatar refused to agree to several terms set by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, describing the blockade and demands made by the quartet a blunt and loud transgression against its sovereignty– but it is now making itself liable to Iranians and their allies.
Why? Not for military protection, as it is the case with Turkey, but the cooperation with Tehran is a conscious effort to take a hostile, offensive step in the region. In return, the Iranian cleric-led regime expects Qatar to pump funds and propaganda support to Iranian proxies spread across the region in order to amp pressure against its adversaries.
This all emphasizes what everyone knows already, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, the retiring prince, is still the one who first-handedly deals with the crisis in Qatar, not his son Tamim, the current emir.
Unfortunately for Doha, no matter who holds the reigns today, US policy under the leadership of Donald Trump, the main international player in the region, changed from what it was during former president Barack Obama. Trump’s administration is fighting Iran rather than appeasing it.
Doha’s cooperation with the Iranian regime is a nonsensical step and presents proof the Arab quartet can use in discussions with international governments. It is further evidence of the hostile nature of the Qatari administration and its ties to extremism and violence. It will be difficult to justify Doha’s decision to a large part of the Arab public which despises the mullahs in Tehran because of their actions in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.