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Iran to supply gas to Qatar? 4, January 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, Qatar.
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A few reports have emerged suggesting that Qatar may begin to import Gas from Iran. This may sound rather curious. Qatar, after all, has the third largest gas supplies in the world and is the world’s largest exporter of LNG. Why, you may well ask, would they therefore possibly need to import gas?

Simply put, it makes far more economic sense for Qatar to suck the gas out of the ground and export it than to use it internally. Qatar, like most GCC States, heavily subsidises internal energy to the tune that I’d be surprised if they would cover their costs were they to use their own gas and charge their domestic market rates.

They can make a bigger profit on the gas that they sell abroad to easily offset the cost of buying the gas from Iran, if it comes to that. This kind of logic also helps to explain why Qatar did not supply Kuwait and Bahrain recently when they asked for Gas supplies. Seemingly, these GCC countries wanted some kind of wasta-based discount. Qatar refused as they can simply make more money selling their gas further afield.

Iran does not have the technology to engage meaningfully in the LNG business and so their good old fashioned gas can be piped along relatively cheaply; certainly there will not be many transportation costs. Moreover, Qatar and Iran have a good outwardly friendly relationship. This kind of agreement – which is to say one that is not integral to security, but more than the usual litany of MOUs – fits nicely into their current positive relationship.

The other cause could simply be that currently Qatar does not have any spare capacity to spare for their domestic market. Yet, while Qatar certainly does have a large number of long-term overseas contracts, given the scale of their production, I’d be surprised if this were the case.

The Qatar Tribune also notes that the Barzan Gas Project is expected to be completed by 2014 which plans to supply gas for local power generation. I can only assume that this project is heavily subsidised by the rest.


Qatar in the cablegate relases 29, November 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations.
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As with most of the cables, we did not learn anything overly new but had existing suspicious confirmed. Qatar maintains a close relationship with Iran to safeguard its “trillions of dollars of potential wealth”. Nevertheless, the Head of the Army noted that “while we’re neighbours, we’re not friends” and HBJ (the Foreign and Prime Minister) bluntly states that “we lie to them, and they lie to us.”

Regarding Al Udeid, it was noted that the U.S. pays no rent, Qatar funded 60% of the improvements on the base and would not allow it to be used as a base for “kinetic operations” [what a phrase!] against Iran [as the Emir also noted in a recent interview]. Only a “permanent USG security guarantee to Qatar, to include its offshore gas fields shared with Iran” could (perhaps) persuade Qatar to change its position.

U.S. relationship

When U.S. Deputy Secretary thanked HBJ for Qatar’s support for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, he replied that “We might have our own Katrina.” An allusion, it was suggested, regarding potential crises in the Qatar-Iran relationship and the Qatari reciprocal need for support [quid pro Clarisse…etc].

The Head of the Army, to whom the responsibility falls for maintaining a strong U.S. military relationship, complained that Qatar had been “disapproved” of the Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) system as an add-on to their purchase of c-17s. (It is an automatic counter-missile system). Others in the region had been granted this system.

It is reasonable to assume that this addition was left off specifically for the U.S. to use in a quid-pro-quo. Assistant Secretary of Defence Vershbow, for example, suggests that were Qatar to “bring about a change in Hamas’s behaviour, it could enhance the U.S.–Qatar strategic relationship.”

Qatar’s record on anti-terrorist activity is noted as being conspicuously poor. The NYT records that Qatar is the “worst in the region” in counterterrorism efforts and its security services were “hesitant to act against known terrorist out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals.” Additionally, the leaked (available) cables note that the U.S. is concerned with Qatar’s continuing support of Hamas via charities and the “moral support” that Hamas receives from Al Qaradawi.

This is not the first time that Qatar has been accused by the U.S. in this way. They continually play a tight-rope game between appeasing the U.S. and ‘Islamists’ (for want of a better catch-all phrase). Perhaps they have a similar notional-agreement as was once mooted in Dubai between authorities and ‘Islamists’: ‘use our city for transit or occasional respite, but don’t do anything here’.


The Emir believes that Hamas would accept the 1967 border with Israel but cannot currently do so lest they lose popular support. Senator Kerry confirmed that he had heard similar sentiments in Damascus.

HBJ, in another round of the ongoing Egyptian-Qatari tiff, suggested that Egypt has “a vested interest in dragging out Palestinian reconciliation talks for as long as possible.”


The perennially frosty Bahrain-Qatar relations continue. King Hamad voiced annoyance/concern/anger with Qatar on two counts.

Firstly, because of the visit of the Head of the Army to Iran where, he believes, Qatar agreed to too much cooperation with Iran.

Secondly, because Qatar have consistently refused to supply Bahrain with Gas. He claims that Qatar have said that they do not have spare supply but notes new agreements signed with various countries.

I can only assume that this is a simple disagreement over price. Earlier this year Kuwait balked at the price that Qatar wanted for gas. Both expect, I believe, some kind of ‘brotherly’ GCC, wasta-like discount.

King Hamad also suggested that he would like “our brother in Saudi Arabia to send a note telling Qatar not to play like this [re: Iran].” This suggests that Hamad has a rather longingly antiquated view of the Qatar-Saudi Arabian relationship.

Food security

The Embassy in Doha judges that food security is “a key national priority” for Qatar and a growing one for the Arab region. (Perhaps a summation of interest to those with an interest in the ‘widening’ security debate.)


One of my favorites so far:

In a conversation between the U.S. and Chinese Ambassadors in Bishkek over the topic of the Chinese seeking to offer inducements to prompt the Kyrgyz authorities to not renew the Manas Base, one cable reports that:

Very uncharacteristically, the silent young [Chinese] aide then jumped in: Or maybe you [Americans] should give them $5 billion and buy both us and the Russians out.” The aide then withered under the Ambassadors’ horrified stare.

What a curious outburst. Here’s hoping that he’s not been reassigned to a post in the middle of the Gobi desert.

Qatar: MOUs with Iran and US 28, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Iran, Qatar.
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Within 24 hours, Qatar signed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with Iran and America. The former in terms of a military agreements for greater cooperation etc and the latter for greater cooperation in the realm of renewable energy.

A small microcosm of Qatar’s politics in 24 hours.

Iranian destroyer docks in Doha along with Clinton 20, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Iran, Qatar.
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Two Iranian naval ships, one destroyer and one warship, docked at Doha’s port at the invitation of the Qatari Navy. Iran’s Press TV commented on the maneuver with the usual line about how it was part of the close relations between Iran and Qatar owing to their shared border, close historical bonds, shared concerns etc etc.

It is far more interesting to note that the Qatari Navy invited these Iranian warships to Doha at the same time as US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was in Doha castigating Iran for descending into ever more of a dictatorial, militarized and repressive state. This is a perfect example of Qatar playing the delicate game of international diplomacy. One might also be tempted to draw interesting inferences from the fact that it was ships from Iran’s regular Navy and not ships from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard that docked in Doha.

Qatar-Iran relations 31, October 2009

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…will be strengthened by the founding of a Qatari-Iranian shipping line between Bushehr and Doha.