Qatar Restores Diplomatic Ties With Iran Despite Demands by Arab Neighbors

Qatar said Thursday it has restored diplomatic relations with Iran, marking a further break with Arab nations that have joined against Qatar for its links to Islamist groups and others perceived by U.S. allies as regional threats.

The decision ignores demands by Qatar’s neighbors — led by Saudi Arabia — to limit ties with Tehran and threatens to deepen the region’s worst diplomatic crisis in decades, which has complicated Washington’s policies in the Middle East.

Qatar hosts U.S. warplanes at a major air base and serves as a logistical hub for Pentagon operations.

“The State of Qatar expressed its aspiration to strengthen bilateral relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in all fields,” Qatar’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The brief statement made no mention of the tensions that have roiled the Persian Gulf since June, when Saudi Arabia and three other Arab nations severed ties with Qatar. The Arab bloc shut down borders, airspace, and shipping lanes after accusing the tiny, energy-rich nation of backing terrorism for ties with groups such as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar has also come under pressure to close down the powerful pan-Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera, which is based in the Qatari capital, Doha.

Qatar has denied the allegations and has weathered the boycott, not least by turning to Iran and Turkey for economic and military assistance.

Qatar recalled its ambassador from Tehran in early 2016 to show solidarity with Saudi Arabia after protesters ransacked the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran and a consulate in the city of Mashhad. The attacks were triggered by Riyadh’s execution of a well-known Shiite Muslim cleric, and prompted Saudi Arabia to severe ties with Iran after accusing it of failing to protect its missions.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Sudarsan Raghavan and Erin Cunningham

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