Qatar’s Silence Over Iran’s Attack on Saudi Aramco

Western intelligence sources revealed that Qatar had been informed in advance of Iran’s alleged attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facility, aimed at disrupting Saudi’s oil giant Saudi Aramco’s plan to list its shares (initial public offering/IPO). Qatar did not alert its Western allies about the attack.

Besides the 14 September drone attack on Saudi Aramco’s facility, the leaked report, as Fox News wrote, claimed that Qatar had been aware of the May attacks targeting Saudi Arabian oil tankers, two Norwegian vessels, and the United Arab Emirate (UAE) ship at the Strait of Hormuz thus raising concern that the Gulf state’s silence could ruin ties with other countries in the Middle East.

“Credible intelligence reports indicate that the IRGC’s Quds Force is responsible for the attacks near Fujairah and that elements of the Iranian government, as well as the State of Qatar, were aware of the IRGC’s activities,” Fox News stated in its report as The Arab Weekly quoted.

Washington accused Iran of masterminding the attack. Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the Aramco blast. The incident cut Saudi’s oil output in half.

Later, an investigative report from Reuters revealed that unidentified Iranian officials confirmed Tehran’s involvement in the attack.

Washington and Tehran have been involved in the prolonged conflict following the former’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA/Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) signed in 2015. The US blamed Iran for violating the agreement despite the compliance report from the world’s nuclear energy watchdog, IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).

Reactions: Qatar denies the report, the West is raising a concern

Qatar snubbed the allegations that it had prior knowledge to those incidents, as Oilprice reported. Doha has yet to issue an official response so far.

The US intelligence source refused to comment. However, a French senator Nathalie Goulet and a British parliament member told Fox News that the report was “very alarming.”

“If proven correct, this poses serious questions for our alliances in this region,” Ian Paisley, British parliament member, said.

Goulet, one of the respected European figures in counterterrorism effort, confirmed she would send the report to the minister of defense and chief of the security department.

Qatar hosts the largest U.S military base in the MiddleEast. Fox News reported. The wealthy Gulf country is among the world’s largest weapon buyer From the 2009-2013 period and the 2014-2018 period, Qatar’s arms import skyrocketed 225 percent, mainly from the US and Germany, Lobelog reported.

Saudi Arabia and Other Arab Countries are worrying Qatar’s improved ties with Iran

In 2017, Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) imposed a blockade on Qatar, stemmed from Riyadh’s and Abu Dhabi’s accusation that Doha had assisted and sponsored terrorism-related organizations.

Qatar was accused of funding the Ikhwanul Muslimin, closely related to Taliban and Al-Qaeda affiliates, and having a close relationship with Iran. Qatar’s reputable TV station Al-Jazeera was blamed for supporting Iran-backed Houthi rebel in Yemen, where Saudi and Iran are trying to exert their influence.

Qatar has expanded its support for the Houthis in Yemen, evident from backing from Qatar to Yemeni to pull away from the late Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had close ties with these tribes and their leaders.

Such a backing paved the way for Houthis to kill Saleh at the end of 2017. The former president was trying to reduce Iranian influence before his tragic death.

As the impact of the Gulf diplomatic crisis, Qatar was banned from taking land, sea, and air routes from and to several neighboring countries, such as Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE. Besides those five nations, four other countries (Maldives, Mauritania, Libya, and Mauritius) called for the blockade.

Iran came as the guardian angel by providing its access and food aid to Qatar. Both countries’ relationship has got closer since then, which upsets Saudi given Riyadh’s ambition to contain Tehran’s influence in the Middle East, ignoring other Arab countries’ request that Qatar had to sever ties with Iran.

“The state of Qatar expressed its aspirations to strengthen bilateral relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in all fields,” the Qatari Foreign Ministry statement said as CNN wrote.

David Reaboi, an adviser at the Security Studies Group, think tank, said that the report (that Qatar knew Iran’s plan to attack Saudi Aramco’s refineries in advance) came as no surprise, but still sounded unusual.

“It’s no surprise to see Qatar play both sides, the United States and Iran, but it’s unusual for a state like this to be as ideological as Qatar,” Reaboi told The National.

Will The Soccer Tournament Help To Create Peace In The Gulf?

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have softened their stances by sending their national football teams to Doha to participate in the Arabian Gulf Cup, Business Insider reported.

Saudi Arabian team and officials flew directly to Doha, effectively marking the end of the boycott. Bahrain followed suit while the UAE team and officials chose to take transit to Kuwait before continuing their flight to Qatar.

The Gulf’s soccer diplomacy can be a positive sign to ease the never-ending conflict in the oil-rich region. However, it seems that the tension will not go away soon, given the Abu Dhabi still sticks to the blockade

Dr Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Gulf analyst, told Business Insider: “The Qatari Prime Minister’s participation at the Mecca Summits in Saudi Arabia at the end of May did not lead to any breakthrough, as some beforehand had hoped it might.” The leadership in Abu Dhabi remains resolutely opposed to any normalization of ties and easing of the blockade.