Doha severed ties with Iran in early 2016 when mobs ransacked Saudi diplomatic missions in Tehran and Mashhad. Their restoration will further strain relations with its Arabian Gulf neighbors, and is likely to anger the US.
The Anti-Terror Quartet — comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt — severed diplomatic relations with Qatar in June and imposed a trade and travel boycott in protest at Doha’s support for militant groups and interference in the domestic affairs of its neighbors. Kuwait has tried to mediate and the US has called for reconciliation, but the rift shows no signs of easing.
Doha’s restoration of diplomatic relations with Tehran does not necessarily suggest an alliance, but “undoubtedly will be seen as a move in the wrong direction by both Washington and the quartet of Arab states pressing Qatar to cut its ties to violent extremists,” David Andrew Weinberg, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Arab News.
“This is especially likely given that an enormous alleged ransom payment from Qatar to Iran and to Iranian-backed armed groups in Iraq has been described as the action that may have triggered the Quartet’s sanctions against Qatar.”
David DesRoches, professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, told Arab News: “This doesn’t appear to me to be a good move at this time. It will not be well received in Washington, and works against the Qatari narrative that they have been unfairly targeted.”
While geography necessitated some cooperation between Qatar and Iran “this could be accomplished without taking this action,” he said.
Iran “welcomes this measure by the Qatari government,” its Foreign Ministry said.
Doha said the Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif had discussed bilateral relations in a telephone call.