During a meeting with the Qatari ruler Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al Thani in Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared his support for a Qatari initiative to hold a bilateral meeting to solve the problems of the Middle East, which can be described as an inflamed region that is unfamiliar with stability. Are Iran and Qatar together capable of such a task?
In Tehran, the Emir of Qatar warned that “By using certain pretexts, Western countries seek to turn some regional countries against Iran; however joint cooperation between regional states can thwart the conspiracies of the enemies.”
This comes just days after the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Dr Abdul Rahman al Attiya stated that the Iranian occupation of the UAE islands, and the establishment of two Iranian facilities on one of the islands, is an act of hostility. He expressed that there is no difference between Iran’s occupation of the UAE islands and Israeli occupation of Arab territories.
Al Attiya added that in order for Gulf-Iranian ties to develop, firstly, confidence-building measures must be strengthened, and secondly, the crisis of the three UAE islands must be solved. In addition, there must be respect for the sovereignty and integrity of neighboring states whether it’s for their sea borders or administratively since Iran set up two offices on the Abu Musa Island.
Let us not become preoccupied with providing an answer as to whether Iran and Qatar are capable of solving the problems of the Middle East; let Iranian-Qatari statements have the opportunity to resolve some of the regional issues. But whilst Ahmadinejad has pledged his support for Qatari efforts, why doesn’t Qatar launch an initiative to solve the problem of Iranian occupation of the UAE islands?
Instead of Qatar and Iran beginning with a solution to the Middle East’s “problems”, these states should proceed with bringing the Iranian occupation of the UAE islands to an end based on the consideration that this is a problem close to home. It is inconceivable that there are Gulf territories occupied by Tehran whilst there is talk of bilateral ties between the Gulf and Iran.
Therefore, Iran and the Gulf must clear the air to begin with and this cannot happen until Iranian occupation of the UAE islands is brought to an end. After this, the Qataris and the Iranians will be able to begin another round in order to reach an agreement between the Gulf and Iran that aims to ensure that Iran does not interfere in the internal affairs of regional states whether through funding, fatwas [religious edicts] or instigation.
Away from Iranian interference in Lebanon, Yemen, Egypt and Jordan, and amongst the Palestinians, and the negative role that Iran is playing in Iraq, as well as it’s dubious alliance with Syria − if the Qataris are able to solve the problem of Iranian occupation of the UAE islands by making Iran withdraw and restoring the UAE’s sovereignty to the islands, we would then take our hats off to the Qataris since their efforts would have been extraordinary and distinctive.
If the Qataris fail to convince Iran to withdraw from the islands that it occupies then we could say that the discussion on resolving the problems of the Middle East is without doubt part of the problems of the Middle East itself.