Severed Qatar-Saudi Alliance Ties; What’s there for Iran?

An aerial view of Doha's diplomatic area, Qatar . Photo: REUTERS

An aerial view of Doha’s diplomatic area, Qatar . Photo: REUTERS

In an unprecedented move Persian Gulf states on Monday cut all diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates as well as Egypt all announced they were severing ties with gas-rich Qatar. Libya and Maldives also followed the Saudi alliance against Qatar.

To “protect its national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism” Riyadh decided to “sever diplomatic and consular ties with Qatar, and to close all land, sea and aviation” links, a Saudi official cited by the official Saudi Press Agency said. Qatar’s foreign ministry called the other nations’ decision “unjustified” and vowed that the move would not affect the “normal lives of citizens and residents,” according to a statement reported by Al Jazeera.

Earlier this week, Qatar’s state-run news agency released comments attributed to Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on sensitive issues. The Qatari emir was quoted as describing Iran as an “Islamic power” and “big power in the stabilization of the region.” The Qatari government then said that the state agency had been hacked and that the remarks attributed to the emir and the foreign minister had never been made. But Saudi media continued attacking Qatar, accusing it of having “betrayed” the other Arab countries particularly at a time when they had attempted to stage a show of “unity” against Iran after Trump’s visit from Riyadh.

First Iranian reaction to the event came from the Political Deputy of Iran’s Presidential Office Hamid Aboutalebi calling the move by Saudi and its allies as the first outcome of Trump’s visit from Riyadh.

Some analysts do not rule out the possibility of a military action or a coup attempt against Qatar.

“I expect more radical moves against Qatar to come. A coup like the one Saudi planned against Egypt’s Mohammad Mursi and in the worst and least possible scenario a military attempt to occupy wealthy and strategic Qatar by Saudi alliance is possible,” Said Mojtaba Mousavi, Iranian political analyst.

“One could expect any radical move from new Saudi rulers who are bombing another neighbor, Yemen, for several years,” He added.

But the situation could also provide an opportunity for Tehran. “If Qatar and some other players can handle the situation to avoid a coup, this situation can be an extraordinary opportunity for Iran to have Doha in its front. Qatar now feels like being a blockade, people are queuing in front of shops and banks and Iran can be the closest and more plausible solution to bypass the blockade,” Mousavi said.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi also warned about possible Saudi military attempt against Qatar and asked both sides to solve their differences through dialogue and avoid confrontation.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif asked Saudi to avoid coercion to reach its political aims. “Neighbors are permanent; geography can’t be changed. Coercion is never the solution. Dialog is imperative, especially during blessed Ramadan,” He tweeted.

In mean time, Iran expressed its readiness to supply Qatar with its food products. Saudi is Qatar’s main source of food supply and about 40% of Qatar’s food is believed to come via Saudi border which is closed now.

Head of the Iran’s Union of Agricultural Products Exporters said today that the country is ready to export its agricultural and food products to Qatar through the waterway and 3 Iranian ports. ” We have coordinated with Valfajr shipping company to export goods from Bushehr, Bandar Abbas and Bandar Lengeh ports,” he said.

In the other hand, some political observers believe the Saudi’s move is backed by the US. “It’s clearly an attempt to get the Qataris in line and not support Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Peter Sluglett, visiting research professor at the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore told CNBC.

In the case of Iran, he added, a key factor is the Trump administration’s threat to review a landmark deal that lifted most economic sanctions against Iran in return for curbing its nuclear and missile programs. “The Americans cannot unilaterally back out of the deal as it is the P5+1, so they are using the GCC and Egypt to put pressure on any countries supporting Iran,” Sluglett said.

- AFP, CNBC contributed to this report.

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