For Iran, Qatar Crisis Is a Welcome Distraction

TEHRAN — Iran’s leaders have been noticeably restrained in their response to the Qatar crisis, and for good reason, analysts say. Not only have they welcomed it, they would be happy to see it quietly drag on.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar last month for what they said was its financing of terrorism and working too closely with Iran.

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.

 “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.”