They then delivered a list of 13 demands that Qatar has dismissed as a grave infringement on its sovereignty and threatened further sanctions if those were not met. On Sunday, they extended the deadline to meet the demands by 48 hours to late Tuesday.
For Tehran’s clerical leaders, the confrontation between putative Persian Gulf allies came at a particularly auspicious time — when the entire Sunni Arab world seemed lined up against them after President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May.
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“They wanted to weaken us,” Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, an Iranian journalist, said with a chuckle, “but now they are losing themselves.”
While Iran and Qatar share one of the largest gas fields in the world and have diplomatic relations, Qatar is of little or no strategic value to Iran.
About the most that Tehran has had to say about the situation was a mild remark from President Hassan Rouhani, who told the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, that “Iran’s airspace, sea and ground transport links will always be open to Qatar, our brotherly and neighbor country.”
After Mr. Trump’s visit, however, Tehran was preparing to face a united bloc of wealthy, militarily well-equipped Persian Gulf nations ready to isolate Iran with the enthusiastic backing of the United States. Saudi Arabia had bought $100 billion worth of American weapons and had formed a close partnership against Tehran with Mr. Trump.
The United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel were painting Iran as the primary source of instability in the region, a nation supporting terrorist groups in Yemen, Lebanon and Gaza and fighting on behalf of the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The road to ratcheting up the pressure on Iran — a sectarian rival hated by the Saudi kingdom for its version of political Islam — seemed open.
Then they started fighting among themselves.
A Qatari news report, subsequently dismissed by the Qatari government as fake, was said to have quoted the emir as saying he wanted to ease tensions with Iran. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates reacted furiously, starting a diplomatic and trade blockade against the gas-rich nation, handing over the list of 13 demands — “demand 13: agree to all our demands”— and even forbidding their citizens to wear Barcelona soccer jerseys because they bear the name of their sponsor, Qatar Airways.
One of those demands is that Qatar close a Turkish military base, which would alienate Turkey, a NATO member and an ally of Saudi Arabia in Syria. “Instead of making an Arab NATO, they are only making more enemies,” said Hamidreza Taraghi, a hard-line analyst in Iran. “In the end, only America is benefiting, selling all those weapons to those countries.”
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