|The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, here in Kuwait City in March 2014.|
As soon as announced the rupture of relations decided by Saudi Arabia and its allies towards Qatar, Iran called on its neighbors of the Gulf to ” a frank dialogue ” to resolve their differences. So what are the links between Qatar and Iran and why Riyad accuses Doha of supporting Tehran?
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar on Monday (June 5th) and decided to close their airspace and land and sea borders with this small but rich oil and gas monarchy. Especially gas. The break with Doha was justified by its” support for terrorism “, including al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group (EI) and the Muslim Brotherhood, a brotherhood classified as “terrorist” by Egypt and the Gulf countries. According to Riyadh, Doha also supports ” the activities of terrorist groups backed by Iran in the province of Qatif (east) “, where the Shiite minority of the Saudi kingdom is concentrated, as well as Bahrain,
The reaction of Tehran was not long in coming. ” The resolution of disputes in the countries of the region, including the current problems between the three neighbors of Qatar and this country, is only possible through political and peaceful means and a frank dialogue between the parties,” said Monday A statement by Bahram Ghasemi, the spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
Qatar and Iran have maintained relations for several decades, which neither the Saudi kingdom nor Donald Trump pleases. The two countries have had relations since the creation of Qatar in 1971. Doha maintains links with Tehran for two main reasons: the common gas reservoir and the desire to loosen the Saudi vice.
It was not until the 1980s that there was a distancing between Doha and Tehran when all the countries of the region were moving closer to Riyadh for fear of spreading revolutionary Islamism. ” The fundamental dynamics is 1979,” says Alexandre Kazerouni *, a political scientist, a researcher at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, specialized in the contemporary Muslim world, the Iranian revolution provokes fear of all the monarchies who agree to enter into a regional union United States by leaning against Arabia. Since 1979, Mohammad-Reza Djalili **, a professor emeritus at the Institute of Higher International Studies and Development in Geneva,
In the 1990s, at the end of the Second Gulf War, Qatar repositioned itself regionally, even globally. He then moved closer to Iran. The links are strong.
” During the Gulf War, the coastal states, which are principalities, realize that not only is Saudi Arabia unable to protect them militarily against a threat from outside the Arabian Peninsula Iraq) but that in addition, they had given to him whole sections of their local authorities, “analyzes Alexandre Kazerouni. The entry into the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1981 was indeed the Saudi hegemony over its neighbors but in exchange, Riyadh was not able to protect them. ” Iran is a resource against Saudi Arabia,” explains Alexander Kazerouni. Getting closer to Tehran is a way for Doha to find a balance with Riyadh. “
Qatar is trying to get rid of the Saudi seizure. In order to do so, it multiplies direct relations with the Western powers and begins to create its own networks, including a very strong partnership with the United States in the field of liquefaction of natural gas.
A tremendous wealth for Qatar that comes from a reservoir located in the middle of the Persian Gulf of which one-half belongs to Qatar and the other to Iran. It is also ” the essential problem that Iran and Qatar must always find a modus vivendi: the sharing of this gas reserve, the largest in the world, ” analyzes Mohammad-Reza Djalili. A problem that is compounded by the Arab revolutions in the early years of 2010.
A strong and lasting relationship?
The Arab Spring brings to light the difficulties between Qatar and the Islamic Republic. On the Syrian issue, Doha and Tehran find themselves in two opposing camps, Qatar opting for a policy of support for Arab revolutions as Iran positions itself alongside its ally Bashar al-Assad.
” One would have expected that the ties would deteriorate much, analyzes Alexandre Kazerouni, but in fact, no. For it is the tensions with Saudi Arabia that have gone crescendo. Because the main problem of Qatar is not Iran but Saudi Arabia: Doha fears to be absorbed by its Sunni Arab neighbor, of which it is the natural geographical extension. “An opinion supported by Mohammad-Reza Djalili when he asserts that the Arab Spring greatly accentuated the Cold War Riyadh-Tehran. Would the problem of Qatar then come from the United States?
The delicate position of Qatar
While US investment in natural gas liquefaction has made it possible for Qatar to enrich itself considerably ” the rapprochement is now unfair,” explains Alexander Kazerouni. The election of Donald Trump plays a big part in what we see “. And no one can help but make the connection between the current crisis and the US President’s visit to the region two weeks ago. In Saudi Arabia, Donald Trump wanted to put Riyadh back on his position as regional leader in the fight against terrorism and called for Iran’s isolation. This trip comes as the government of Tehran keeps calling for dialogue ” and the Saudis have not yet shown interest,” notes Mohammad-Reza Djalili, And may not be encouraged to speak with Iran since Trump’s visit. “
“On the front, Qatar has always adhered to a unit of the countries of the Arabian peninsula,” continues Kazerouni, while remaining close to Iran (…) and Saudi Arabia is seeking today That Doha more visibly shows its connection with Tehran: to force Qatar to return to the ranks by putting it face to face reality “: the relations, especially economic, between Qatar and Iran are real.
” Now, analyzing the political scientist, is Qatar will show its solidarity with Iran in this sort of regional conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, is contrary to Doha will estimate he has too much to lose in this Game, and especially with the Americans, and then go into the ranks. Another possibility put forward by Alexander Kazerouni is that a coup d’etat should occur and the Emir should be overthrown. It should be noted that there have been numerous coups d’état in Qatar since its founding, and in particular since the country has been close to Iran in the 1990s. In 1995, it was thanks to the United States That a coup backed by Riyadh fails … Now, Qatar finds itself out of tune after Trump’s speech to isolate Iran.
Clear relations between Riyadh and Salafist Islamism
According to Mohammad-Reza Djalili, ” it is not in the interest of Qatar to display its relationship with Iran anymore, even if there is a continuation. He is going to keep a low profile so as not to provoke more the wrath of Riyadh. If there is a real military confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the future, small countries like Qatar will try to distance themselves because they do not have the capacity to resist these two economic and military giants.”
So what will Qatar do, this ally of Iran within the Arab world, within the Sunni world and within the Arabian Peninsula and the GCC? One thing is certain: ” We see today a desire of the United States to confuse Iran with terrorism by erasing the ties between Saudi Arabia and Salafist Islamism to put Riyad back on the stage and to isolate more than ever Tehran, “concludes Alexandre Kazerouni. ” The accusations of Donald Trump are very amusing,” adds Mohammad-Reza Djalili, ” when he evokes an axis of evil between Daech and Iran, which is absolute nonsense. The Salafist, Jihadist, Sunni organizations, close to the Wahhabi division, are anti-Shi’ite in their DNA!”