The Shia and Sunni Islamist nations of Iran and Qatar are the owners of the world’s largest natural gas deposits. That natural gas and oil fields have made the two nations wealthy, and allowed both to project power in different ways.
Both nations have shared a close alliance for years, but their relationship has become even closer since the Saudi-led blockade against Qatar in July 2017. That summer, Qatar’s neighbors in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with the Gulf nation over its support for terrorism and Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.
At the same time, the Trump administration began to unravel the flawed Obama-negotiated Iran nuclear deal, and to apply a “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions to force Iran to cease making violent mischief in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and throughout the Middle East. Iran has added state-sponsored piracy as one of its main tools for negotiating: hostage-taking, supporting terrorism, and nuclear blackmail.
Hurting economically and refusing to bend on their support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Qataris shrewdly sought to curry favor with the United States by becoming the Trump administration’s interlocutor with Iran — as they had done with the Obama administration in Afghanistan.
“Qatar is at a position that allows it to mediate and carry out this mission,” wrote the Kuwaiti Arabic-language newspaper al-Qabas. “It has a significant relationship with the US on one hand and on the other, with Iran, thanks to its a geographic location.”
Qatar’s media attaché, Jassim Bin Mansour Al-Thani, made this intention clear recently, when he announced, “We have offered to act as an independent and impartial mediator should Iran and the US decide to come to the table for discussions.” And the plan is already in motion. Recently, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had a phone call with the Gulf nation’s emir, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, while Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, made the short trip across the Gulf to Doha to meet with Qatari officials.
While having a Qatari genie emerge from a bottle to solve America’s most pressing problems in the Middle East sounds tempting, Qatar’s ideological commitment to virulent political Islam make them untrustworthy mediators.
Over the last three years especially, Qatar has refused to change its malignant behavior with regard to working to destabilize the regimes of our long-standing allies in the region. While Qatar’s support for terror, through Hamas, and its conscious decision to promote the Muslim Brotherhood should be enough by itself to prevent it from mediating between Iran and the US, and there are other reasons why the supremely wealthy Gulf nation should not be given this role.
“Qatar plays both sides of the fence,” said Matthew Brodsky, a senior fellow at the Security Studies Group. “It’s not exactly the Switzerland of the Middle East.”
“The idea of anyone [being] in between the United States and Iran is problematic because really the decision comes down to what Iran is going to decide for itself,” Brodsky continued. “Iran can either get back into the nuclear agreement; to negotiate a new and more expansive agreement — which is the Trump administration’s goal; or to continue playing the game they’re currently playing, which will end badly for them.”
Just in the last several months, Qatar has made international headlines over its role in allegedly planning and carrying out a terrorist attack in Somalia, as well as its alleged bankrolling of Islamist terrorists to fight alongside pro-regime forces in Libya. The Libyan National Army (LNA) threatened to punish Qatar for its terrorist role in Libya and the region as a whole.
Most alarming, perhaps, is the security concern of allowing Doha to host the World Cup, considering it is home to influential radical Islamist hate-preachers like Yusuf al Qaradawi, who are promoted worldwide using Qatar’s massive Al Jazeera megaphone. In a 2009 speech that aired on Al Jazeera, Qaradawi called for a Muslim holocaust against Jews saying, “Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler.”
Indeed, it has spent untold billions in agit-prop aimed at the United States, all part of Qatar’s vast “influence war” on American public and elite opinion. Despite calls from leading security experts and members of Congress to enhance transparency on the foreign funding and direction of Qatar’s state-run Al Jazeera news network — including the better enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) — Qatar’s political warfare machine continues grinding against that nation’s enemies in this country.
Still, mediating the conflict between the United States and Iran might still be a worthwhile endeavor. But Kuwait and Oman, two traditionally neutral nations, are far better-equipped to take on such a critical and pivotal role. Should Qatar be allowed to mediate in an official capacity between America and Iran, it would certainly greatly tip the scales in Iran’s favor. Unlike Qatar, these others nations aren’t responsible for spreading Islamism across the region and the world.