Qatar’s defence of Iran drives further wedge with neighbours

Comments by defence minister prove Qatar’s arrogant position when it comes to solving year-long crisis

Dubai: As the one year anniversary approaches since the Arab Quartet severed ties with Qatar, the Doha regime seems as intrangisent as ever.

Just a day before the anniversary, Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs, Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, has defended the Iranian nuclear deal despite criticisms from Arab states that the deal has empowered Tehran to wreak havoc in the region.

Al Attiyah said Qatar would not “go and fuel a war” in the region and called for engaging in talks with Iran.

“Is it wise to call the United States and to call Israel to go and fight Iran? … Whether any third party is trying to push the region or some country in the region to start a war in Iran, this will be very dangerous,” he said in a speech at a security conference in Singapore.

“Qatar continues to be arrogant although the crisis with its neighbours has cost it a lot in political and economic terms. It has spent billions of dollars in the West in order to improve its image and buy support, but for no good. Its regional and international influence has been weakened.” Salah Al Hadi, a political expert Al Hadi told Gulf News.

The US last month vowed to address Iran’s “malign influence” in the region that included the decision by President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

In mid-May, the US Treasury Department announced new sanctions against Iranian officials at Iran’s Central Bank accused of moving millions of dollars to pro-Iran Hezbollah on behalf of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force.

The White House accused the Iranian regime of “reckless actions [that] pose a severe threat to regional peace and security.”

The speech by Al Attiyah will be a further blow to the mediation efforts to settle the crisis between Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt on one side and Qatar on the other.

The crisis came out in the open on June 5 last year when the Quartet severed its diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar and accused it of supporting extremists, funding terrorism and siding with Iran despite its interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries.

The Quartet issued a list of 13 demands to end the crisis including to curb their support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas and to close down the Al Jazeera news channel, seen as a mouthpiece for extremists.

Another demand was to “curb diplomatic ties with Iran, expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard from Qatar and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with US and international sanctions will be permitted.”

However, Qatar rejected the accusations and the demands, which resulted in a stalemate.

Mediation efforts led by Kuwait have failed to achieve any incremental progress.

Qatar went on to further cement its relations with Iran, deepening the crisis.

Quartet officials, exasperated by Qatar’s stubborness to turn a new page, went on to downplay the crisis, saying that they expected it to last for a long time and it was no longer an important issue to them.


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