Iranian leaders and media outlets today reacted to a decision by Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations to sever diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar by blaming Washington and Riyadh for regional tension and discord. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of Iranian Parliament's Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, said the rising tension is a direct result of President Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East. “Interference of foreign countries can never be a solution to regional problems, particularly by America, the known enemy of Islamic countries,” he was quoted by the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency today. Criticizing Washington’s multi-billion-dollar arms deal with Riyadh, the Iranian official warned “it is likely that we see more negative incidents in the region.”
Former Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) Mohsen Rezaei cautioned that Saudi Arabia may invade Qatar. “After Bahrain, Saudi Arabia intends to bring Qatar under its complete control as well,” he wrote on his Instagram page. “I remember that during the invasion of Kuwait, Saddam used to say why the Arab community was divided; that the Arab world should be transformed into two or three states so as to counter the Turks and the Persians,” Rezaei, who is the Secretary of Iran's Expediency Council, added. “His excuse for invading Kuwait was establishing [a united] Arab community. After Saddam, Daesh [Islamic State] presented the idea of uniting Iraq and Syria; and today [Saudi King] Malik Salman has replaced Saddam and craves to swallow Bahrain and Qatar,” he claimed. “These ignorant and backward ideas are promoted by America and Israel so that peace and brotherhood are never established in the region,” he concluded.
Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, a senior advisor on foreign policy to the Iranian speaker of parliament, said the rift reveals a lack of trust within the Gulf Cooperation Council (G.C.C.) members. “Saudi Arabia does not trust even the Arab countries in southern Persian Gulf – its so-called allies,” he noted.
The reaction from Iranian diplomats, however, were relatively mild.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif criticized the decision by Arab states to sever relations with Qatar and urged dialogue to defuse tension. “Neighbors are permanent; geography can't be changed. Coercion is never the solution,” he wrote on his Twitter account. An Iranian Foreign Ministry statement also called on the Arab states to exercise restraint. “At a time when the (Middle East) region and the world are still suffering from broad consequences of terrorism and extremism and the continued occupation of Palestine by the Zionist regime, the escalation of tensions in relations between neighboring countries is not in the interest of any regional nations or governments."
Comment: Tehran views the heightening tension between Qatar and other regional Arab powers as an opportunity to weaken the Gulf Cooperation Council (G.C.C.) and the U.S.-Arab alliance created during Trump's last trip to Riyadh to fight terrorism and counter Iran and its proxies in the region. An article in Tasnim News Agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.), last week praised Qatar for “standing up” to the Saudi Arabia and its allies and seeking better relations with Iran. “Qatar, which is paying attention to these attacks [by Saudi media], continues to praise Iran as an important country in the region and ed President Hassan Rouhani by phone and declared that the only way to deal with Iran is dialogue,” noted another article in Tasnim. “With this, it invalidated all the results of the Riyadh summit,” it claimed.
Some Iranian leaders and analysts, however, say that it is too soon to predict the outcome of Qatar’s tense relations other Gulf states – pointing out that Riyadh and Doha have in the past resolved their disputes through dialogue and mediation by other Arab countries.
The Riyadh summit last month attended by Trump and leaders of about 50 Muslim countries added to Iran’s worry about the creation of an “Arab-NATO” to contain Iran’s growing influence in the region. But the latest diplomatic spats between Qatar and other Sunni Gulf nations have provided some relief to Tehran.
The Iranian media has covered the latest Doha-Riyadh dispute extensively and urges the Rouhani government to exploit inter-Arab rivalry to weaken the anti-Iran alliance. The Saudi-Qatari tension, wrote the state-run , “provides not only an opportunity for our country’s diplomatic apparatus to promote unity in the region but also a card to play in order to disrupt the ceremonial summit of Arab countries against Iran and the resistance front after Trump’s highly hyped trip to Riyadh and the region.” It further reasoned that the dispute shows “there are serious cracks in the anti-Iran Arab front and a lack of collected will to implement the U.S. policies in the region.”
The latest diplomatic row between Riyadh and Doha last week after media reports surfaced that claimed the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, during a speech at a military ceremony, called Iran a “big power,” praised Qatar's “good” relations with Israel, criticized Trump, and threatened to withdraw ambassadors from Saudi Arabia and some other regional countries. On Monday, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen broke off relations with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism. The Arab states also suspended all travels by air, land and sea to and from Qatar.