Tension between Qatar and Saudia began in 2016 when Qatar was the last Arabian Gulf country to condemn the Iranian government for the attack on the Saudi embassy in Iran by protestors that took place after Saudi Arabia had executed a Saudi Shia cleric. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt launched a number of attempts to prevent Qatar’s cooperation with Iran.
On June 4, 2017, when the attempts failed, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrin announced cutting all diplomatic ties with Qatar. They even imposed limited sanctions on Qatar banning Qatari jets and ships from entering the airspace or ports of Saudi Arabia and its allies. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia said that Qatar has to cut its diplomatic relations with Iran and to stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, the Hamas movement and Hezbollah.
Qatar refused to fulfil the demands. Qatari Foreign Minister Mohamad Bin Abdu Allah Al-Thani announced that Doha refuses any intervention in its foreign affairs and insured that Qatar can hold on forever facing the sanctions imposed on it.
Mohamad Al-Thani also said “No one got the right to intervene in our foreign politics.”
Iran didn’t support the actions of the Saudi-led block.
“The solution to differences among regional countries, including the current dispute between Qatar and its three neighboring states, is possible only through political and peaceful methods as well as transparent and explicit dialogue among the involved parties,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said. “The Islamic Republic of Iran calls on all neighbors involved in the ongoing disputes in south of the Persian Gulf to learn from the bitter experiences in the region… and move toward decreasing tension and restoring peace while exercising restraint.”
Many Iranian experts have linked the Saudi-led block actions against Qatar with the Arabian-American meeting in Saudi Arabia last week. Many of them believe that the kingdom’s actions were pre-approved by the USA.
Iran and Qatar start working to counter the anti-Qatari sanctions. Iran allowed Qatari Air Ways to use its aerospace. Over 150 Qatari jet crossed the Iranian skies daily. Moreover Iran announced that three seaports will be available to export goods to Qatar.
In the current situation, Iran expanded efforts aimed at drawing Qatar into the Iranian sphere of influence in the Middle East and the Saudi-led block actions contribute to these efforts.
Diplomatic relations were established between Iran and Qatar during the area of the Iranian Shah, Mohammad Reda Pahlawi, where it was agreed in 1969 on the demarcation of the border between the two countries. After the Islamic revolution in Iran, Qatar began providing financial support to the former Iraqi president Saadam Hussine in his war against Iran from 1980 to 1988. However, after the war, it immediately restored a significant part of its relations with Iran, where Iran and Qatar agreed in 1989 to operate the North Qatar gas field jointly, as one third of the field is located in Iranian territorial waters.
In 1991, Qatar reestablished its diplomatic relations fully with Iran, but the Iran-Qatar relations didn’t develop significantly due to internal pressure in Iran against the Gulf and Saudi pressure on Qatar, this political pressure led to the failure of a project to regulate security in the Arabian Gulf with the participation of Iran. It also aborted a project to pump fresh water from Iran to Qatar.
In 2006, Iran-Qatar relations developed significantly, with Qatar playing a key role in supporting Hizbollah during the 2006 Lebanon war, where Qatar was the first country to send humanitarian aid to Lebanon. Moreover, Qatar – using its relations with Israel – is believed to have played a key role in the negotiations which ended the Lebanon 2006 war with a ceasefire.
After the end of the 2006 war, the relations between Qatar and Hezbollah grew significantly. Qatar – in cooperation with Iran – reconstructed Lebanon and especially the southern suburb of Beirut and the villages of southern Lebanon.
Iran worked to develop Syrian-Qatari relations, and after that Qatar worked to develop Syrian-Turkish relations. In the end, one of the strongest and most “strange” (according to some experts) alliances in the region was born including: Syria, Iran, Qatar, Hamas and Hezbollah. Moreover, Syria and Qatar worked to push Turkey to lead the Iran-US negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program.
In February 2010, Qatari Prime Minister (Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani) said that if the Iranian program led to a “nuclear race in the region, it would be an unhealthy race for all.” Sheikh Jaber also called for “direct dialogue between Iran and the United States”. In May 2010, Qatari Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad expressed their support for the Turkish-led efforts to find a diplomatic solution for Iran’s nuclear program.
In 2011, despite the collapse of the alliance created by Iran and Qatar as a result of the Syrian crisis and the support of Qatar and Turkey for opposition groups and later terrorist groups, the Iranian-Qatari relations were not affected at all. As well, Qatar hasn’t criticized Iran for the popular protests in Bahrain unlike other Arabian Gulf countries.
“The joint Investment of gas” might be one of the most important aspects of the Qatari-Iranian relationship, which is the most important source of national income in Qatar. Moreover, Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood makes it closer to Iran, which has supported Hamas for a very long time.