Qatar-Iran Foreign Relations
Qatar and Iran share close ties and membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Despite its close ties to Iran, Qatar is also an ally of the United States, hosting U.S. Central Command’s Forward Headquarters in Doha.
Unlike fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar has refrained from directly criticizing Iran’s interference during Bahrain’s Shi’a uprising in 2011, and even held several high-level meetings with Iranian officials to discuss security and economic agreements during the period in which the uprisings occurred. Qatari officials, however, have not expressed public support for Iran regarding its actions in Bahrain; the GCC, which Qatar is a member of, has criticized Iran’s interference. Qatar and Iran appear to be maintaining their strong diplomatic relationship.
Qatar has called for a peaceful end to the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program, and has even suggested direct talks between the United States and the Islamic Republic to resolve the matter. Though Qatari officials discussed Iran’s nuclear program with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2010 and U.S. Special Adviser for the Persian Gulf Dennis Ross in 2009, they have limited their public statements to rhetoric supporting Iran’s right to a peaceful nuclear program and expressing fear over a nuclear arms race if Iran were to weaponize its own nuclear program.
Iran and Qatar have made several agreements over the past few years to further develop their economic relationship, most specifically their oil and gas cooperation both within and outside of OPEC. Iran and Qatar are both members of the OPEC—and together the two states control the South Pars Gas Field, a massive global natural gas reserve, 38 percent of which lies under Iran’s territorial waters. Qatar, Iran, and Russia hold an estimated 50 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves and have formed a “gas troika,” in which the three states work together to expand cooperation in the gas sector. Aside from economic dealings in oil and natural gas, Iran and Qatar also cooperate in the shipping sector.
May 9, 2010: Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani and Syria’s President Bashar al Assad expressed support for Turkish efforts to bring about a diplomatic resolution to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. Turkish officials proposed to mediate direct talks between Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
February 14, 2010: During a question-and-answer session following U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim bin Jaber al Thani conceded that if Iran’s program spurs “a nuclear race in the region, it will be an unhealthy race for all.” He also advocated for “direct dialogue between Iran and the United States.”
April 27, 2009: U.S. Special Adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia Dennis Ross visited Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar to discuss diplomatic efforts to engage Iran on its nuclear program.
December 16, 2008: The five permanent members of the UN Security Council – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States – plus Germany held a meeting with eight Arab states – Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – to discuss how the UN could apply pressure to Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment.
February 8, 2011: Iranian Minister of Commerce Mehdi Qazanfari and his Qatari counterpart met to discuss ways in which the Gulf neighbors can boost trade ties.
October 31, 2009: Iranian Valfajr 8 shipping line resumed its operation in Qatar. Iranian Ambassador to Doha Abdollah Sohrabi acknowledged that the resumption of the line was a “model for friendship between the two countries” and he thanked Iranian Deputy Roads and Transportation Minister Seyed Ataollah Sadr, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, and the Qatari Prince and Crown Prince for their cooperation in this endeavor.
September 7, 2009: Qatari Finance and Economy Minister Youssef Hossein al-Kamal met with Iranian Deputy Economic Affairs and Finance Minister Behrouz Alishiri to discuss the countries’ cooperation in trade by reducing customs and tax tariffs.
May 31, 2009: The Iranian government agreed to issue $100 million in bonds to finance the development of the South Pars gas field. The South Pars gas field is a large offshore gas field shared by Qatar and Iran.
May 6, 2009: Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Qashqavi visited Doha to discuss increasing media cooperation with Qatar.
January 11, 2009: Representatives from Russia, Qatar, and Iran met in Tehran, where they agreed to establish a “gas troika” to cooperate on the exploration and production of their gas reserves.
June 27, 2011: According to an analysis by U.S.-based defense consultants Frost & Sullivan, the member states of the GCC (including Qatar) are set to spend upwards of $122 billion on defensive and offensive weapons systems over the next ten years to counter the surging Iranian threat.
June 26, 2011: Iran’s Interior Minister, Mohammad Najjar, met with his Qatari counterpart in Tehran to discuss future cooperation in areas of mutual interest between Iran and its Gulf neighbor. Qatari Interior Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al Thani was visiting Iran to attend the International Anti-Terrorism Summit. Najjar noted that, “In my previous trip a security agreement was signed between Iran and Qatar and we reviewed the contents of the agreement in today's meeting.”
June 15, 2011: Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, Iran’s Interior Minister, announced that Iran signed security agreements with Qatar and Oman. According to the report “protecting borders, fighting organized crimes [sic], human trafficking, and drugs are the aims of the agreements.”
May 2, 2011: Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi met with Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamid bin Khalifa al Thani in Doha to discuss “bilateral ties, regional developments, and other issues of mutual interest.”
March 10, 2011: Meeting with his Qatari counterpart in Doha, Iranian Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Abdolreza Sheikholeslami expressed Iran’s readiness to expand bilateral relations with Qatar in all areas. He noted, “We believe that there are suitable capacities for expanding cooperation and there is no limit in this respect.”
December 21, 2010: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim bin Jaber al Thani met in Tehran and agreed to increase regional security cooperation. Ahmadinejad said, “By consultation and harmony Iran and Qatar can strengthen unity among regional countries and implement security and stability.” The emir similarly added, “Cooperation between Iran and Qatar can guarantee security and stability in the region.” During the same visit, the emir met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. During this meeting the Supreme Leader criticized “the Americans and Zionists” for “[fueling] these countries' ignorance of the importance of security in the region,” and added: “If the security of the region is hurt all of its countries will be unsafe, and lose.”
February 2, 2010: Iranian First Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi hailed the friendly ties between Iran and Qatar and called for the expansion of bilateral relations between the two states. “Beyond the friendly relations, the mutual respect existing between the two countries is very valuable,” Rahimi said in a meeting with Qatari Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani in Tehran. He also called for the promotion of ties and cooperation between Tehran and Doha for the benefit of the two nations and the region.
January 21, 2010: Qatar’s Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Major General Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah met with Iranian Ambassador to Qatar Abdullah Sohrabi. The two sides expressed increasing bilateral cooperation. Sohrabi also delivered a message from Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi to the Crown Prince. The letter similarly called for increased cooperation between Qatar and Iran.
January 12, 2010: President Ahmadinejad, in his meeting with the new Qatari Ambassador to Tehran, Ibrahim bin Abdul-Rahman Hassan al-Muqaisib, claimed that relations between Iran and Qatar serve as an exemplary model for excellent regional ties given the two nations determination to improve the level of bilateral ties to the highest possible level in line with both nations' interests.
January 11, 2010: Iranian Ambassador to Qatar Abdullah Sohrabi announced that "no change will be implemented” to maritime borders with Qatar and that “the work will proceed according to the agreements already signed,” He added, “Everything regarding border issues is distinguished and it only needs to be renewed and updated in some cases.”
January 8, 2010: Negotiations between Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran to lay the foundations of an agreement on maritime borders began in Tehran. Iranian Ambassador to Qatar Abdullah Sohrabi spoke in anticipation of Qatari Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani’s visit to Tehran, lauding Qatar’s role as mediator between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Sohrabi described relations between the two Gulf countries as strong due to several high-level diplomatic talks between 2006 and 2010, during which time Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani has visited Iran four times. Military cooperation between the two countries is anticipated to increase during the forthcoming visit by Iranian Interior Minister Mustafa Najjar to Doha to discuss armed forces cooperation, naval training, defense exhibitions, and technical expertise.
November 30, 2009: Iranian Ambassador to Qatar Abdullah Sohrabi stated that the relations between Iran and Qatar are a role model for interactions between Muslim nations. Speaking at an Eid al-Adha – a Muslim holiday – ceremony, Sohrabi said, “the good relations between Iran and Qatar not only serve both countries’ interests but are also beneficial to the interests of the whole region and Islamic countries.
October 31, 2009: Qatari Minister for Environment Abdallah bin Barak al Meadadi visited Iran to meet with Iranian Vice President and head of Iran’s Environment Protection Organization Mohammad Javad Mohammadizadeh and Iranian Minister of Agriculture Medhi Qazenfari. Iranian Envoy to Doha Abdullah Sohrabi announced that the ministers “will discuss bilateral and regional issues, including dust pollution which has sparked abundant problems in the bordering and southern parts of Iran and for the other regional countries in the last four years, marine pollution, aquatic issues, the necessity for the organization and reorganization of animals.”
July 10, 2009: The head of Iranian Frontier Police, Major General Ghasem Rezaie, announced that Iranian frontier guards would participate in joint training exercises with Qatar’s coastal command.
July 7, 2009: Chief of Staff of the Qatari Armed Forces Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah and Iran’s Defense Minister, Mostafa-Mohammad Najjar, met in Tehran to discuss defense ties. During the meeting, Najjar explained to Major General Hamad bin Ali al Attiyah that “Iran-Qatar defense ties can serve as a good example for expansion of defense cooperation in the [Persian Gulf] region.” According to Najjar, Iran seeks to play a prominent role in the security of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway through which roughly 40 percent of the world market’s oil is transported.
July 6, 2009: Iran’s parliament speaker Ali Larijani met with Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani in Qatar. Larijani described Qatar as a strategic partner and indicated that Iran is determined to expand bilateral ties with Qatar. Iran’s Fars News Agency quoted the Qatari emir echoing these sentiments during the meeting: “Iran is always standing behind Arabs and people of Palestine, but some want to make minds turn against the country while we have no problem with it. Iran is always our friend and we won't allow any ill-will person to create problems between us.”
April 8, 2009: In a meeting with the Qatari minister of information, Sheikh Hamad Bin Thamar At-Thani, Iranian Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani expressed Iran’s desire to create unity among regional and Muslim countries.
March 3, 2008: In reference to tensions between the United States and Iran and its relations with both countries, Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasim stated that Qatar “would like to be friendly with everyone.”
December 24, 2010: General Alireza Nasseri, an officer in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy (IRGC-N), met with the commander of the Qatari navy, Mohamed Nasser Mubarak al-Mohammadadi. The Qatari official urged closer cooperation between Qatari and Iranian naval forces, noting that “IRGC and Qatar's navy can have close cooperation in intelligence, security and training fields.” IRGC General Nasseri added, “The presence of the IRGC's fleet of warships in Doha and the warm welcome it received indicates the depth of bilateral relations between Iran and Qatar.” Qatar’s Chief of Armed Forces, Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah also met with a visiting delegation from the navy force of Iran’s IRGC and stated that Qatar is ready to hold joint military exercises with Iran.
December 22, 2010: Iranian ambassador to Qatar Abdollah Sohrabi, deputy commander of Qatar’s navy Brigadier General Abdul-Rahman al Saliti, and Iranian military attaché Brigadier General Masha-Allah Purseh greeted the IRGC naval task force as it arrived in Doha. The three military officials held talks with IRGC Captain Mahmud Shiari and Fleet Commander Ali Reza Naseri. The meeting took place one day after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei met with Qatari Amir Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani.
December 20, 2010: Second-in-command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy (IRGC-N) Rear Admiral Ali Reza Tangsiri announced that the IRGC had dispatched a fleet of ships to Qatar on a “naval observatory mission.” The fleet consisted of three missile-equipped PT boats and two support vessels. The IRGC delegation was scheduled to inspect Qatari military facilities.
August 18, 2009: Cooperation between the two countries’ border guards was further expanded when Iran and Qatar signed an agreement designed to improve efforts at controlling territorial waters.