A confidential western intelligence report has revealed that Qatar had advanced knowledge of the attack on several international oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman in May, believed by experts to have been carried out by Iran.
The US intelligence assessment, obtained by Fox News, allegedly shows that Qatar was aware of the planned strike, but failed to notify its Western allies or immediate neighbours, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, whose ships were the primary target of the attack.
The news is likely to further confirm the view among Qatar’s neighbours, and one increasingly held in other nations, that the country is still involved with extremist movements, as well as maintaining dangerously close relations with the Iranian regime. Both concerns were the catalyst for a diplomatic crisis between Qatar and the wider region, when the latter severed diplomatic relations and imposed a boycott in June 2017.
Qatar’s support for terror movements is well-documented and has included Islamic State, Hamas, and Al-Qaeda. Several known terror financiers and leaders live with impunity in the country. As was recently revealed, the Qatar Charity, ostensibly a humanitarian organisation, is actively involved in exporting extremist thought to Europe.
That the country should now be shown to have supported Iran, itself a global exporter of terrorism, should hardly surprise Western observers.
Given the advanced warning received by Qatar over the tanker attacks, intelligence agencies are also said to be looking actively into whether Iran also tipped off the small Gulf state in advance of the September attacks on Saudi Aramco facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia.
It will also place pressure on President Trump to reconsider his stance on the boycott: while he was initially supportive, noting that Qatar was a “funder of terrorism at a very high level”, he later backtracked and emphasised the friendship between the US and Qatar.
The latest development is also likely to cause further concern in European capitals over the reliability of Qatar as an ally against Iran’s increasingly bellicose and destabilising regional activities. Though the US, France and Germany in particular share close economic and security ties, this should not prevent them from calling out Qatar’s actions for what they are.