Qatar reaches out to Russia amid diplomatic spat

Amid a severe diplomatic crisis with some of its Arab neighbours, Qatar’s foreign minister will visit Moscow for talks with

Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry

Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry

Amid a severe diplomatic crisis with some of its Arab neighbours, Qatar’s foreign minister will visit Moscow for talks with Sergei Lavrov today.

Last Wednesday, CNN reported that Russia was behind an alleged hack on the Qatar News Agency’s website. Qatar claims hackers posted fake articles that showed the country’s leader praising Iran, which inflamed tensions days before Saudi Arabia and its partners cut ties with Doha. Qatar hasn’t commented on this report and Russia denies involvement.

Regardless, the alleged comments are just a small part of a much deeper rift, which stems from Qatar’s support for regional Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as its relatively warm ties with Iran—with which it shares the world’s largest natural gas deposit.

Donald Trump’s anti-Iran stance, which was on display at last month’s Riyadh summit, appears to have emboldened Saudi Arabia to take action against its smaller neighbour in a bid to bring it into line with the GCC’s staunchly anti-Iran policy (Oman is an exception).

While Turkey—which also backs many of the same Islamist groups that Qatar does—has provided diplomatic and military support, Iran itself is an important part of the equation and has offered to help bust the blockade.

However, the optics of Qatari diplomats flying into Tehran days after the Saudi-led bloc cut ties would only inflame the current spat—something Qatar wants to avoid. Instead, it appears the country’s foreign minister has (correctly) identified Russia as an influential Iranian ally that has Tehran’s ear.