Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 March 2018

Iran and Qatar reinforce alliance, increasing Doha's isolation 

Iran 'supportive' of Qatar's government, commander tells Iranian news agency

The Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition in Doha. Karim Jaafar / AFP
The Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition in Doha. Karim Jaafar / AFP

Iran voiced its support for the Qatari government this week, further consolidating its alliance with the small Gulf state.

Navy Rear Admiral Ali Reza Tangsiri, who headed a delegation to Doha said Iran is "supportive" of Qatar’s government and citizens.

The “ground is ready for development of co-operation with Qatar and we are doing our best to have stronger relations with Doha,” the Deputy Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' told Iran’s news agency IRNA on Tuesday. The Revolutionary Guard is the primary force behind Iranian military presence in Syria, supporting Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, while Qatar continues to support Syrian opposition.

Iran and Qatar restored full diplomatic relations last summer in defiance of the 13 demands put forward by the Arab quartet comprised of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain – including curbing ties with Iran and closing its diplomatic missions there. The Arab Quartet have voiced concerns about Iran’s military actions in Syria, Yemen and other parts of the Arab world.

The quartet has also demanded that Doha sever all ties to “terrorist organisation”, specifically ISIL and Lebanon's Hezbollah and shut down state owned Al Jazeera, which the quartet says provides a platform for extremists and dissidents.

Iran and Qatar’s close relationship has further isolated the two countries from their Gulf neighbours.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut transport and diplomatic ties with Qatar in 2017 over accusation of its support for extremist groups and interference in the affairs of other countries. Doha denies all allegations.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said the dispute with Doha “could last for a long time”, making a comparison to America’s decades-long embargo on Cuba, the Egyptian daily Al Shorouk reported earlier in March.

As a result of the boycott, Turkish dairy goods and Iranian fruit have been flown in to Qatar. Trade between the two countries exceeded 200 million dollars. Last month, Iran and Qatar launched a joint chamber of commerce, following up closer ties between Iranian and Qatari banks established in December 2017. Many Iranian banks continue to be under American and international sanctions.