US-Qatar dialogue: Doha close to Tehran too
Qatar seems to find it hard to side with the United States or Iran on the latter's nuclear programme issue. Doha's relations with Washington and Tehran both have been strong.
If the Unites States intended to use its fifth round of the strategic dialogue with Qatar this week to rope in the latter in its goal of containing Iran's nuclear programme, it turned out to be a flop.
Observers say that, during the strategic dialogue held in Doha this time, US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken discussed with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani the developments related to the Iranian nuclear programme. There was, however, hardly any agreement on the matter.
Tehran keeps insisting its nuclear programme is for "peaceful" purposes. The fact is it has drastically expanded its nuclear production. Recently, Iran itself has announced it has begun producing enriched uranium at 60 percent purity.
At a joint press conference with Qatari Foreign Minister Al-Thani in Doha, US Secretary of State Blinken said, "We continue to believe that the best way to resolve the challenges posed by Iran's nuclear program are through diplomacy. Iran has chosen to insert extraneous issues into the effort to revive the JCPOA."
The observers say Qatar seems to find it hard to side with the United States or Iran on this issue. Doha's relations with Washington and Tehran both have been strong. Qatar hosts thousands of American troops at its massive Al-Udeid Air Base, the forward headquarters of the US military Central Command (CENTCOM). This base was started about 20 years ago.
In March this year, US President Joe Biden designated Qatar as a major non-NATO ally. Afterwards, the USA began delivering F-15 aircraft to the Qatar Emiri Air Force. Today, the Biden administration is pleased with Qatar's commitment to ramp up its production of liquefied natural gas.
Qatar was very helpful to the United States when the Taliban took back power in Afghanistan. It helped the United States relocate tens of thousands of at-risk Afghans, aid workers, diplomats, and others. Qatari Foreign Minister Al-Thani played an important role in helping secure the release of US citizen Mark Frerichs after more than two and a half years of captivity in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, largely Sunni Qatar has had friendly ties with Shiite Iran. Unlike fellow Gulf Council Countries, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Qatar generally refrains from criticising Iran's domestic and foreign activities. Qatar holds high-level meetings with Iran to discuss security and economic issues. Recently, Tehran provided airspace routes for Qatar Airways flights and supplied food shipments to Qatar.
(Jagdish N. Singh is a senior journalist based in New Delhi. He is also Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, New York)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.