Bloomberg | Ladane Nasseri: The Saudi-led rupture with Qatar is backfiring where Iran is concerned — at least for now.
If the severing of ties was intended to force the Gulf nation back into Saudi Arabia’s fold and further isolate its key rival, Shiite Iran, then the opposite is happening. Qatar responded to the blockade by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt by rerouting flights to Africa and Europe via Iran, which has rallied to its ally’s defense.
“In terms of Realpolitik, this is good for Iran,” said Foad Izadi, a member of the Faculty of World Studies at the University of Tehran. Qatar is “blocked from all sides except the side that looks at Iran.”
Saudi Arabia accuses its fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member of supporting a range of militant groups, from Iranian proxies to the Sunni militants of Islamic State. Qatar, which has long vexed the kingdom with its maverick alliances, has dismissed the charges as baseless, and accused the Saudis of seeking to dominate the region.
On Monday, Saudi and its allies suspended flights and sea travel to Qatar and land crossings through which vital food imports pass were snapped shut. Thousands of trucks carrying food across Saudi Arabia’s land border with Qatar were stopped, the Riyadh-based Al Eqtisadiah newspaper reported. The aviation ban, which has led to a loss of direct traffic between Qatar and its neighbors, also means the small Gulf nation will have to absorb new costs of rerouting flights through Iran, which sits on the other side of the Persian Gulf.
With Iran able to provide quick fixes to some of Qatar’s woes, however, the clash is pushing the two nations closer.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif waded into the fray on Monday, saying on Twitter that “coercion is never the solution” and “dialogue is imperative,” especially during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Hours later, he spoke by phone with his Qatari counterpart to discuss the feud, according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency.
Neighbors are permanent; geography can’t be changed. Coercion is never the solution. Dialog is imperative, especially during blessed Ramadan