Abu Dhabi: Three months into the Qatar crisis, Doha has relied on allying with Iran and Turkey and putting pressure on the anti-terror quartet in the international arena to survive.
On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Qatar accusing it of failing to fulfil previous pledges to clamp down on terrorist financing and stop its meddling in the affairs of regional states.
Doha’s refusal to meet the demands of the Quartet has burnt bridges and deepened the crisis — entering its fourth month on Monday — and undermined the Kuwait-led mediation.
This obstinacy culminated in restoring full diplomatic relations with Iran last month, exposing Qatar’s true face and its links to terrorism. Observers and analysts say Qatari moves have thwarted all diplomatic attempts to resolve the crisis — an indication that it intends to continue its policy aimed at destabilising security of the region.
Observers do not foresee Qatar breaking up its relationship with Iran — even if a settlement is reached with the Arab Quartet. They also warn that Qatar and the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries could part ways if Doha insists on engaging in political adolescence instead of addressing the concerns raised by its fellow GCC members.
“Restoration of full diplomatic relations between the Qatar and Iran — never actually cut off but scaled down — is seen as particularly dangerous as it increases Iran’s influence in the Gulf and the rest of the Middle East, which Riyadh has consistently warned about and sought to stem,” Marwan Asmar, an Amman-based commentator, said.
Through Qatar, Iran will have an “extra door” to meddle in the region’s affairs, as it has privately and sometimes openly boasted about.
Qatar, however, sees its upgrading of relations with Iran as an attempt to influence an emerging power system in the region where it would seek to realign its relations.
Ambassador Hussain Haridi, former assistant to Egypt’s Foreign Minister, also is sceptical of a break in Doha-Tehran relations. UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Bin Mohammad Gargash, strongly criticised Doha’s decision to restore full diplomatic relations with Iran and alluded to Doha’s departure from the GCC when he tweeted “divorce is sometimes a choice.”
Gargash said Qatar’s “sovereign decision should not be shy or confused, but its arrogance and adolescent behaviour makes it so.”
Gargash added: “Qatar’s crisis was deepened through (Doha’s) crisis management of burning bridges, squandering of sovereignty and undermined what remained of the mediator’s chances. The wisdom we wished for is completely absent.”
Earlier, Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, warned Doha: “Enough is enough … enough with the support of terrorism and enough with the support of those that are against peace.”
Shaikh Abdullah added that efforts to ease tensions with Qatar rather than directly addressing core issues would only lead to further crises down the road. “We in the region have decided not to tolerate extremist groups, terrorist groups and hate groups,” Shaikh Abdullah said.
“Qatar must double its efforts to change the impression of many countries over its harbouring, supporting, and funding of terrorism, as well as for voicing extremist views, inciting violence and hatred,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Deputy Chairman of Police and Public Security in Dubai, said on his Twitter account, that Qatar, Iran and Al Houthis in Yemen were plotting to create a belt threatening the Gulf security and the Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s government against Iranian-aligned Al Houthis.
Anthony H. Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, agreed and explained Iran wishes to create a corridor of lasting strategic influence that divides the Arab world from Iran through Iraq, Syria to the Mediterranean.
Its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Al Quds force, train and assist efforts, use of Iranian volunteers and ties to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, shipments of arms, and funding of non-state actors all give it broad, strategic leverage to intervene in other states.
Cordesman told Gulf News that Iran’s ties to Al Houthis and other elements in Yemen include the supply of land attack and anti-ship missiles and missile components, some of which are now being smuggled through Oman.
Oman has consistently denied such reports.
Iran presents a potential threat to shipping through the Bab Al Mandab at the entrance to the Red Sea, where an Iranian-dominated facility could threaten virtually all shipping through the Suez Canal, including some 3.9 million b/d worth of petroleum and other liquids (crude oil and refined products) and LNG — which accounted for 17 per cent and 6 per cent of total Suez cargoes, respectively.