Tehran, Iran – Despite COVID-19 issues, Qatar’s ruling emir and Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler hugged as the previous arrived within the historic metropolis of Al-Ula on Tuesday for a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit.
Soon after, their two nations, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait – who collectively kind the GCC – signed a “solidarity and stability” deal at their annual summit.
With Egypt additionally signing a reconciliation settlement with Qatar, a blockade on the peninsular Arab state lasting three and a half years has ended.
Iran was watching intently. The blockade, in spite of everything, was partly imposed as a result of Qatar and Iran have been creating nearer ties.
The prolonged preliminary record of calls for to elevate the blockade – that have been by no means granted – included provisions that stated Qatar should shut down diplomatic posts in Iran, expel members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and solely conduct commerce and commerce with Iran in compliance with United States sanctions.
The GCC itself, established in 1981 shortly after Iran’s 1979 revolution, was partly based to counter Iranian affect and that of since-deposed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
While GCC leaders tried to cut back frictions at their January 5 summit, deeper rifts throughout the organisation are tougher to fix.
“The mere fact that this blockade was imposed brought to light the myriad of intra-GCC conflicts and proved that the GCC was never a union of six states, and it will never be one,” stated regional affairs analyst Mehran Haghirian.
“The GCC, if it survives, will not and cannot be more than a regional deliberative organisation without any meaningful authority,” he advised Al Jazeera.
Iran and Qatar
Iran’s relations with Qatar have been rising earlier than the blockade, however the two nations grew to become considerably nearer as different Arab states shunned Qatar.
The two nations boosted political and diplomatic ties, Iran’s air house grew to become a significant air hall for state-owned Qatar Airways, and sea corridors boosted commerce.
One 12 months in the past, days after Iran unintentionally shot down a Ukrainian Airlines flight killing all 176 aboard amid tensions with the US, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani travelled to Tehran and stood subsequent to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a present of unity.
In late March, when Iran had already grow to be the nation hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic within the Middle East, Qatar Airways facilitated help to Iran from the United Nations Children’s Fund freed from cost.
“It can be expected that bilateral relations between Iran and Qatar will continue to grow on the current pace even after the lifting of the blockade,” Haghirian stated.
Qatar has additionally tried to behave as a mediator between Iran and the US, a job that was performed by Oman a decade in the past.
Most just lately, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani relayed messages between Iran and the US in late December as the primary anniversary of prime Iranian normal Qassem Soleimani’s assassination by the US loomed.
The area continues to take care of the fallout from Donald Trump’s choice in May 2018 to unilaterally abandon Iran’s 2015 nuclear take care of world powers and impose harsh sanctions on Tehran.
Nuclear deal and regional rivalries
Iran’s nuclear deal and its regional proxies and missiles programme have been long-standing points which have fuelled previous rivalries with different GCC members, primarily Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
GCC states are used to capitalising on Iran’s tensions with the US and can subsequently oppose any developments that would cut back tensions, in line with Mehran Kamrava, head of the Iranian Studies Unit on the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies.
“Along the same lines, none of the GCC actors, even those that are ostensibly friendly with Iran, are happy about the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] and would like to see fundamental changes to it,” he advised Al Jazeera utilizing the formal identify of the nuclear accord.
The landmark accord, signed with the P5+1 – the US, France, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, and Germany – prioritised curbing Iran’s nuclear programme over its rising affect within the area and its domestically made missiles.
Iran says its regional presence is by invitation and a primary pillar of its technique of deterrence in tandem with its missiles in a area the place most states have welcomed US army presence.
US president-elect Joe Biden will enter the White House on January 20 on guarantees of restoring the nuclear deal, but in addition with alerts that he needs Iran to barter on its regional affect and missiles – one thing Iran adamantly rejects.
“Iran has long believed that the real power player in the region is the US, and that the GCC is not an independent actor on its own,” Kamrava stated.
“Ultimately, the reason behind the nature of Iran’s regional actions and initiatives is to change US behaviour.”
Iran’s rivals throughout the organisation, nonetheless, want to play a job in shaping the nation’s future.
The Gulf states just lately requested to be occasion to any future negotiations towards a brand new nuclear take care of Iran.
Iran, for its half, has proposed the Hormuz Peace Endeavour or HOPE, to provoke inclusive, region-wide dialogue and has referred to as on Arab states to chorus from “buying security” from the US.
The initiative, which envisions cooperation on power safety and arms management amongst different issues, has didn’t get off the bottom as far as Iran and its regional rivals proceed to conflict on key points.
“The only path forward is to compartmentalise these issues and allow for the complete reinstatement of the JCPOA and, in tandem, prepare the required platform for re-establishing an inclusive regional dialogue,” stated Haghirian.
“It can be argued that any resolution to the GCC crisis could pave the way for an inclusive dialogue between Iran and the GCC.”