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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

How is it helpful for Doha to cosy up to Tehran?

Qatar's rapprochement with Iran clearly reflects its failure to grasp reality 

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani shakes hands with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during their meeting in Doha on October 3, 2017. Qatar News Agency / REUTERS
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani shakes hands with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during their meeting in Doha on October 3, 2017. Qatar News Agency / REUTERS

As the rift between the Arab quartet and Qatar nears its fifth month, the latest shift in Doha’s foreign policy is telling. It has previously shown an unwillingness to take any steps towards ending the crisis and has now, instead, sought to curry favour with a regional power that stands in direct opposition to Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

On August 24, Qatar decided to restore full diplomatic ties with Iran, nearly 20 months after recalling its ambassador from Tehran following attacks by protesters on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.

The recent meeting between Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim, in Doha reflects a desire to enhance those relations and to seemingly flaunt ties with a country that has long been accused of stirring instabilities in the region. In doing so, the emir has played out a deliberately provocative and willfully destructive act.

The UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, clearly voiced the quartet's stance in a series of tweets, highlighting Qatar's failure at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York and that "politically, Doha's options are diminishing", and that since efforts to solve the crisis have repeatedly and dramatically backfired, the four countries are now "striding confidently past this issue, which no longer is one of their priorities".

As summer turns to autumn, it appears as though Qatar has failed to grasp either the severity of the situation or the resolve of the quartet. Their position is clear. This dispute is about addressing the root causes and funding of violent extremism. Knowing this, Doha must ask itself: how is it helpful to cosy up to Tehran, a place that has been repeatedly described as the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism?

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