Qatar Using Iran’s Initiative to Its Advantage

17 February 2013 | 22:16 Code : 1912920 Interview General category
Excerpts of an interview with Dr. Masood Assadollahi, an expert on Middle Eastern affairs
Qatar Using Iran’s Initiative to Its Advantage


What is your assessment of the recent position taken by Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister with regard to the establishment of an organization composed of member countries of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council and Iran to provide the security of the Persian Gulf?

With regard to the sudden and unexpected position taken by Qatar's Prime Minister in the Conference of Arab-International relations in Kuwait based on which he has asked for the adoption of a new security agreement between Persian Gulf countries, which Iran would be a member of, to create new security arrangements in the region, it should be said that this issue is completely new. Traditionally, we have seen that although the Islamic Republic of Iran has always, during the past few decades, proposed this idea and opposed the presence of extra-regional forces in the Persian Gulf and emphasized the point that the security of the region should be locally provided by the existing forces in the Persian Gulf, this proposal has always been rejected by the Arab governments of the Persian Gulf. 

This sudden position raises many questions regarding what has happened which has caused the Prime Minister of Qatar to propose this request of the Islamic Republic of Iran as a new proposal. 

What was the reaction of the Arab countries with regard to this proposal?

The attitude of the Arab world and its media show that they are not at all content with this proposal. The political officials of the Arab world and the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf have not taken any position in this regard and have practically ignored it. 

What is the Qatar’s goal in proposing this idea?

My assessment of this proposal is that considering the defeat of Qatar's policies in Syria and Libya and overall on the issue of Qatar's support of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world, it seems that the Qataris are faced with problems in their foreign relations. The reason is that although the positions of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are almost similar on Syria and both countries seek the downfall of the government in Syria, there are, in fact, differences in their positions, the most important of which is that the Qataris support the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and demand that the Muslim Brotherhood come to power following the downfall of the government in Syria. But due to its old enmity with the Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia does not pursue such a development. This is an important difference between the positions of Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

There are similar differences with regard to Egypt. The Qataris strongly support the government of Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, while Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates strongly oppose it. There are even numerous reports in Egyptian media claiming that Saudi Arabia and the UAE spend huge amounts of money to topple the government of Mr. Morsi. These two countries support the opponents of Mr. Morsi in Egypt. The same situation exists in Tunisia. In Tunisia, the al-Nahda Party and Mr. Rachid al-Ghannouchi have very close relations with Qatar, and Saudi Arabia is not content with this relation. In Libya, where the Qataris both financially and militarily helped to overthrow the government of Qaddafi, we see that the situation is completely out of control and the central government does not have much power and the Salafi groups have gained power. It was revealed in the developments in Mali that numerous financial and economic aids were given to the Salafi militia and the existing groups in that country. This issue has caused the French officials to voice their protest. France’s intelligence agency has informed the French government that the Qataris play an important role in supporting the armed groups. The same situation exists in Algeria and the Qataris support the government's opposition. 

Therefore, we see that the Qataris have played a provocative role in regional developments and they are now experiencing its negative consequences.

It is possible that the Qataris feel that they are isolated in the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council and are under pressure by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, thus, they have proposed this idea to create a balance. 

Considering the fact that relations between Iran and Qatar have been damaged due to the issue of Syria, what should Iran's proper reaction, in your opinion, be? Can it use this proposal as an opportunity to improve bilateral relations and is such a measure basically needed?

There are still numerous differences between Iran and Qatar with regard to the issue of Syria and other issues of the region. It means that the policies of the Qataris have not yet been fundamentally changed. Although the role played by Qatar in the Syrian crisis has been weakened, but it still gives huge financial and military aids to the Syrian opposition. If the Qataris are serious in their proposal, they will certainly pursue it. If they take another step, it can be viewed that the Qataris intend to review their policies. In that case, dialogue is a good step, provided that it would cause Qatar's policies with regard to Syria to be changed. But if the Qataris only intend to perform a political maneuver against Saudi Arabia and reduce the pressures of this country on the Muslim Brotherhood, it does not seem that it would be in the interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran to get involved in this competition between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

tags: arab saudi arabia iran qatar muslim syria the persian gulf