Iran–Qatar relations

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Iran-Qatar relations
Map indicating locations of Iran and Qatar

Iran

Qatar

Iran–Qatar relations refer to the bilateral relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the State of Qatar. Iran has an embassy in Doha while Qatar has an embassy in Tehran. Qatar and Iran have close ties but relations between the two countries were soured after Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran following the January 2016 attack on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.

Both are members of OPEC, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. Unlike fellow GCC member states Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Qatar generally refrains from criticising Iran’s domestic and foreign activities. Qatar has also held several high-level meetings with Iranian officials to discuss security and economic agreements.[1]

The two countries have a close economic relationship which affects their diplomatic relations, particularly in the oil and gas industries. A big portion of Qatar's oil comes from a field that is related to Iran. Iran and Qatar jointly control the world’s largest natural gas field.[2] Qatar has 13% of the world’s total proven gas reserves. Qatar is producing 650 million cubic meters of gas per day from its section of the field, and Iran is producing 5750 million cubic meters of gas from the field.[3][4] In addition to ties in the oil and natural gas arena, Iran and Qatar also cooperate in the shipping sector.[1]

Bilateral relations[edit]

In 1969, during Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi's regime, Iran and Qatar signed a demarcation agreement.[5]

Throughout the Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988), Qatar supported Saddam Hussein's Iraq financially by providing large loans and cash gifts. Iran's claim in May 1989 that one-third of Qatar's North Field gas reservoir lay under Iranian waters was later resolved by an agreement to exploit the field jointly.

Qatar has maintained cordial relations with Iran. In 1991, following the end of the Persian Gulf War, former emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa welcomed Iranian participation in Persian Gulf security arrangements, however due to resistance from other Persian Gulf Arab States these never came into fruition. However, Qatar maintains security cooperation with Iran through bilateral ties. Additionally, plans were in progress in 1992 to pipe water from the Karun River in Iran to Qatar, but after local resistance in Iran this was laid to rest.

In February 2010, during a Q&A session following US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech at the US-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani conceded that if Iran’s nuclear programme spurs "a nuclear race in the region, it will be an unhealthy race for all". Sheikh Jaber also advocated for “direct dialogue between Iran and the United States.”[6]

In May 2010, Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and Syrian President Bashar al Assad expressed support for Turkish-led efforts to bring about a diplomatic resolution to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme. Turkish officials proposed to mediate direct talks between Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.[7]

Cooperations[edit]

Qatar shares a good relation with Iran, both being members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Russia, Qatar, and Iran all control around 50% of the world's oil reserves.[8] They have made agreements to develop their economic relationship especially within the OPEC. Both countries own the South Pars / North Dome Gas-Condensate field, the world's largest gas field, having a big influence in the Irani-Qatari relation.

On 11 January 2009, representatives from the three countries (Qatar, Iran and Russia) met in Tehran, agreeing on the production of their gas reserves.[9]

Tensions[edit]

Qatar has a difficult time when it comes to maintaining a good sustainable relationship with Iran, as well as adopting the policies set by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) towards it. They are treading lightly on both sides in pursuance of their own self-interests. However trying to maintain a good relationship with the GCC and Iran has led into tensions.[vague][citation needed]

On 2 July 2011, the GCC unanimously agreed to have a combined military force, leading to an increase of double the current troops size. Dr Sami Al-Faraj, stated that the decision was made in order to counter a growing threat from Iran “and its subversive terrorist elements across the GCC".[10]


Iran and Qatar prior and during the Iranian Revolution[edit]

The large landscape in the Persian Gulf made Iran grow a rising military and economic power, whereas Qatar is small. In the 1970s Qatar tried not to upset Saudi Arabia by following the OPEC policies, and at the same time not oppose Iran with the Oil prices.[vague]

Leading up to the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Qatar and Iran shared a friendly relationship. This was exemplified by the support of the government of Qatar and Sheikh Khalifah for the monarchy of Iran, stating that “Iran is a dear and friendly neighbour with which we are united by the brotherhood of Islam”.[citation needed] The desire to keep up friendly relations was motivated by Iran’s status as a military and economic powerhouse as well as interests with OPEC.

Although there was some apprehension[who?] about the introduction of regional instability after the rise of the Islamic Republic, a delegation of 70 Shia Qatari’s met with Ayatollah Khomeini to express their support for the revolution.[citation needed]

Oil and gas relations[edit]

North Field and South Pars[edit]

The world’s largest natural gas field, called North Field (Qatar) and South Pars (Iran) is between the boundaries of Qatar and Iran. The gas field covers 97,000 square km with the majority (about two-thirds) lying in Qatari waters. Although the field is jointly owned, there is an uneven distribution in natural gas extraction. Namely, Qatar extracts about three times as much natural gas from the field as Iran does and continues to grow its extraction. It is estimated that Qatar’s total income from the field was about $37 billion.[citation needed]

Iran’s natural gas expansion efforts[edit]

Iran’s oil minister Rostam Qasemi predicted back in 2012 that Iran would match the extraction levels of Qatar by March 2014 - but his prediction was quite off. In 2013 Iran again made an effort to develop their pace in extracting gas from the field by 2018 under the Rouhani administration. Whether or not this will happen remains to be seen.

Criticism in the Iranian media[edit]

The Iranian print media heavily criticises the uneven distribution of oil and gas extraction from South Pars. They criticize both Qatar for the excessive nature of the extraction as well as Iranian officials for their inability to match Qatar’s extraction numbers and revenues. This has also placed pressure on the Rouhani administration to increase oil extraction in South Pars.

Timeline[edit]

1980s: Iraqi Invasion of Iran[edit]

At the onset of the Iran–Iraq War in 1980, Qatar, along with Oman, opted for minimal support to Iraq, whereas Saudi Arabia and Kuwait openly provided financial support to Iraq. Qatar strategically attempted to avoid upsetting either party in the interests of not being drawn into a military conflict. The government of Qatar was also aware that it would risk marginalizing its minority Shia population if it threw its full weight behind Iraq. They were put in uncomfortable situations; in 1983 Iraq attacked Iranian oil fields in the Persian Gulf, threatening plants in the Qatari coast, forcing Qatar to build barriers so it would not be affected.[11]

As the war ended, Iran sided with Qatar during the dispute with Bahrain over the Fasht a-Dibal Islands. However Qatar did not support Iran when it came to the three islands, Lesser and Greater Tunbs and Abu Musa, instead supporting the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Qatar believed that its relationship with the GCC was strategically more important than its relationship with Iran.[11]

December 2008: Concern on Iran nuclear power[edit]

The five permanent members of the UN security council (and Germany) held a meeting with a coalition of Arab nations consisting of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt over the perceived threat of Iran's nuclear weapons to the whole MENA region.

In response to the nuclear powers, the GCC (including Qatar) are set to spend $122 billion on weapons over the next decade.[12]

May 2009: South Pars Gas field[edit]

Iran and Qatar both own the South Pars / North Dome Gas-Condensate field. Iran agreed that they would issue $100 million in bonds to build and improve the gas field.

December 2010: Military cooperation[edit]

An officer in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) met with the commander of the Qatari army, stating that “IRGC and Qatar's navy can have close cooperation in intelligence, security and training fields". Hamad bin Ali Al Attiyah, Qatar's Minister of Defense, met with the naval forces of Iran and stated that Qatar is ready to have joint military exercises with Iran.[8]

January 2011: Bahrain's Shia uprising[edit]

Qatar was one of the few GCC countries that stopped criticizing Iran’s alleged "interference" in Bahrain. They held economic agreements during that period of time. Qatar did not officially state they support Iran's alleged interference, however they did not criticize them for their alleged involvement. Iran denies interfering in Bahrain's internal affairs.

January 2014: Qatar offers Iran help with extracting gas[edit]

Qatar offered Iran to help extract its side of South Spars, the world’s largest gas field. This would not only maximize Iran’s rewards but also Qatar’s. Iran requested Qatar’s help, and they responded willingly, fearing sloppy work by Iranian firms would damage the gas field and affect Qatar revenues too.

A Qatari government official said, “There has been a lot of drilling activity in that area and we have many studies on the field that I’m sure can benefit Iran”. Too much drilling activity done by Iran might affect Qatar, as that might damage the fields.[13]

2016 attack on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran[edit]

Qatar condemned the attack and decided to recall its ambassador from Tehran, while the Qatari Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a protest statement to the Iranian embassy in Doha, saying that the attack constitutes a violation of the international charters and norms that emphasize the protection of diplomatic missions and their staff.[14] It was the last country to back Saudi Arabia by recalling its ambassador.[15]

2017 Iranian support for Qatar[edit]

During the Qatar diplomatic crisis, Iran provided diplomatic and economic support to Qatar.[16] On June 5, the day that the crisis erupted, Iran asked the Arab nations to settle their dispute through dialogue.[17] After Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf allies blocked Qatar economically, Iran sent food supplies, amounting to 1,100 tons of fruit and vegetables and 66 tons of beef, to Qatar on a daily basis.[18] On 25 June, Iranian president Rouhani denounced the "siege" on Qatar, and in a phone call with sheikh Tamim, said that "Tehran will stand by Qatar's government". He also noted that Iran's airspace was open to Qatari aircraft.[19]

On 23 August 2017, it was announced that Qatar would be returning its ambassador to Iran. In a press statement released by Qatar's foreign ministry, Qatar expressed its willingness to improve bilateral ties with Iran.[20]

Country comparison[edit]

Flag of Qatar.svg Qatar Flag of Iran.svg Iran
Population 2,235,000 79,110,000
Area 11,437 km2 (4,468 sq mi) 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi)
Population Density 201/km2 (522/sq mi) 50/km2 (129/sq mi)
Capital Doha Tehran
First Leader Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani Ayatollah Khomeini
Current Leader Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (Emir)

Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani (Prime Minister of Qatar)

Ali Khamenei (Supreme Leader)
Hassan Rohani (President)
Official languages Arabic Persian
Main religions 67.7% Muslim (Sunni Muslims 60.9% & Shia Muslims 6.8%)
13.8% Christian
13.8% Hindu
3.1% Buddhist
1.6% other and none
98% Muslim (Shia Muslims 90% & Sunni Muslims 8%)
2% other and none
GDP (nominal) US$ 164.641 billion US$ 425.326 billion
Currency Qatari Rial (QR) Iranian Rial (IIR)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Fulton, Will; Farrar-Wellman, Ariel (July 22, 2011). "Qatar-Iran Foreign Relations". AEI Iran Tracker. American Enterprise Institute. Archived from the original on December 10, 2016. Retrieved November 2, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Factbox: Qatar, Iran share world's biggest gas field". Reuters. July 26, 2010. Retrieved November 2, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Iran, Qatar in competition over world's biggest gas field". Natural Gas World. Archived from the original on 2017-09-01. 
  4. ^ "آیا ایران در برداشت از پارس جنوبی به قطر رسیده است؟". BBC Persian. 2017-04-16. Retrieved 2017-05-29. 
  5. ^ Mokhtari, Fariborz (Spring 2005). "No One Will Scratch My Back: Iranian Security Perceptions in Historical Context" (PDF). The Middle East Journal. 59 (2). Retrieved 1 November 2016. [permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Remarks With Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani After Their Meeting". US Department of State. Retrieved 2 November 2016. 
  7. ^ "Turkey says Syria, Qatar back Iran plan". Agence France-Presse. Retrieved 2 November 2016. 
  8. ^ a b "Qatar-Iran Foreign Relations". Critical Threats. Retrieved 7 May 2017. 
  9. ^ "Iran to swap gas with Russia, Qatar". Tehran Times. Retrieved 7 May 2017. 
  10. ^ "GCC-Iran Foreign Relations". Critical Threats. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  11. ^ a b Anoushiravan Ehteshami, Neil Quilliam, Gawdat Bahgat (2017). Security and Bilateral Issues between Iran and its Arab Neighbours. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 172–174. ISBN 978-3319432885. 
  12. ^ "World powers, Arabs share concern on Iran nuclear program". Iran Focus. Retrieved 16 May 2017. 
  13. ^ "Qatar offers to help Iran get out its gas". Iran Times. Retrieved 16 May 2017. 
  14. ^ "Qatar recalls envoy to Iran after attacks on Saudi missions: State News". Reuters. 6 January 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2017. 
  15. ^ "More countries back Saudi Arabia in Iran dispute". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  16. ^ Adel Marzooq (15 August 2017). "The New Axis of Dissent: The Qatari Money, and Turkey & Iran as the Two Largest Representatives of Islam". Gulf House for Studies and Publishing. Retrieved 2 September 2017. 
  17. ^ "Iran calls on Gulf Arab neighbours to resolve dispute through dialogue -TV". Reuters. 5 June 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2017. 
  18. ^ "Iran supplies 1,000+ tons of food to Qatar every day – media". Russia Today. 22 June 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2017. 
  19. ^ "Iran: Hassan Rouhani condemns 'siege of Qatar'". Al Jazeera. 25 June 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2017. 
  20. ^ "Qatar says its ambassador to return to Iran: foreign ministry". Reuters. 23 August 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2017. 

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