Regional Implications of Saudi-Qatari Reconciliation

2020/12/19 | interview, political, top news

Strategic Council Online - An expert on the Middle East affairs said: Given Iran’s goodwill towards Qatar, normalization of relations between Riyadh and Doha is not considered as being in line with dealing blows on Iran’s national interests. But, Qatar should be careful not to fall into the trap of Saudi conspiracy against Iran, in which case it will be harmed.

Davood Ahmadzadeh, in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, referred to the recent debates on the reconciliation of Qatar and Saudi Arabia and said: Political and security problems between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE in 2017 faced Doha with numerous sanctions and threats. At that time, Saudi Arabia insisted that any opening in Riyadh-Doha relations depended on Qatar observing 13 key conditions, most notably cutting aid to groups and countries that Saudi Arabia and its allies considered terrorists but Riyadh also stressed that Qatar should sever all political and economic ties with Iran.

He continued: Another request Riyadh made of Doha was to cut off Al Jazeera’s propaganda and media activities altogether so that relations could return to normal; but despite sanctions and boycotts against Qatar, including a ban on Qatari flights over Saudi Arabia air space, Doha refused to accept the conditions.

According to the expert, one of the conditions that intensified Qatar’s sanctions and led to its political isolation in the Persian Gulf region was that the United States, led by Donald Trump, supported Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, which created more problems for Qatar.

In return, and in response to the measures taken by Riyadh and its allies in the region, not only Doha did not comply with their demands but also expanded its political and economic relations with Iran in various fields, and Iran’s skies were opened to Qatari aircraft.

Referring to Turkey’s role in those developments, Ahmadzadeh explained: Turkey, as an influential country in the region that sought to compete with Saudi Arabia in the Arab Middle East and North Africa, by establishing a military base in Qatar, supported the country against Saudi Arabia.

The university professor, saying that contrary to Donald Trump’s strategic mistake, Qatar was not and is not a small country in the region, added: Qatar’s petrodollars and soft power in the form of media outlets such as Al Jazeera have prompted Trump to realize his strategic mistake in recent months and try to reconcile Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Analyzing Iran’s role in the disputes between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Ahmadzadeh said: In different situations, not only the Islamic Republic of Iran has not sought to create tension and spread chaos among its Arab neighbours, but has also sought to de-escalate tensions and establish calm in the region. In this regard, in a situation where Qatar was facing various Saudi sanctions and Tehran had problems with Doha over security issues such as Syria and the Takfiri groups, it opened its air borders to Qatari planes in good faith, and at the same time provided some of the economic and agricultural needs of Doha that were previously met by the sanctioning countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Given Iran’s goodwill towards Qatar, he stressed that normalization of relations between Riyadh and Doha does not connote to taking steps in line with dealing blows on Iran’s national interests. But, Qatar should be careful not to fall into the trap of Saudi conspiracy against Iran, in which case it will be harmed.

Ahmadzadeh added: Qatari officials have repeatedly supported Iran’s good neighbourliness, and the trend of developments in the region shows that the Qataris will not take steps to the detriment of Iran’s interests; because Qatar seeks multilateralism in its relations with its neighbours in the Middle East region.

Emphasizing that Doha has also had close relations with Iran over the past several decades, the Middle East expert said: The two countries have always tried to work together on various issues.

Analyzing Saudi Arabia’s policy of reconciliation with Qatar under the present juncture, he said: It seems that with the shift of power in the White House and coming to power of Joe Biden and the fear of the leaders of conservative Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE towards security issues in the region, including the possibility of the US return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Riyadh intends to reduce its security issues in the region, including political and security disputes with Qatar, in order to take a united stance against Iran by gradually normalizing relations with the Zionist regime.

In conclusion, Ahmadzadeh noted: Despite the positive signs of Saudi Arabia for reconciliation with Qatar, the position of the UAE and Egypt as the two important countries that have sanctioned Qatar is not clear in this regard. It is also simplistic to consider the establishment of full Qatar-Saudi diplomatic relations as a solution to all security problems and issues in the regional affairs. Qatar is still reluctant to accept Riyadh’s 13 main demands, and it seems that there are fundamental differences between the two countries on issues such as Palestine and the regional affairs, including support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

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