If there was any confusion on which side of the Qatar crisis Iran found itself, it was swept away today after Iran's Tasnim news, cited by Turkey's Anadolu Agency, reported that Iran plans to send two warships to Oman on Sunday. The two ships will depart using Iran's southern waters off the port city of Bandar Abbas for an overseas mission to the Arab Peninsula state and then on to international waters.
On Sunday, the 47th flotilla, comprised of an Alborz destroyer and Bushehr logistic warship, set sail from the southern port city of Bandar Abbas, Tasnim reported. From Oman, the ships will then head to the Gulf of Aden and international waters north of the Indian Ocean. At the same time, Iran's 46th flotilla consisting of a Sabalan destroyer and Lavan logistic warship, is due to return to Iran on Sunday after completing a two-month mission to secure naval routes and protect merchant vessels and oil tankers in the Gulf of Aden.
Separately, Reuters reported that amid food shortages after Qatar's biggest suppliers severed ties with the import-dependent country, Iran has dispatched four cargo planes of food to Qatar and plans to provide 100 tonnes of fruit and vegetable every day. Qatar has been holding talks with Iran and Turkey to secure food and water supplies after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut links, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism. Qatar, which has claimed the terrorism-funding allegations are lies, on Friday hired John Ashcroft to serve as a PR crisis mediator in the US and to defend against terrorism accusations, for which he will be paid $2.5 million for 90 days of his time.
"Following the sanctions ... on Qatar, IranAir has so far transported food and vegetables to this country by four flights," Shahrokh Noushabadi, head of public relations at Iran's national airline, was quoted as saying by Fars news agency. The head of the industries, business and trade organization in the Fars province was also quoted by the Tasnim news agency as saying on Sunday the first planes carrying food to Qatar had flown from the southern city of Shiraz.
"Every day we will export 100 tonnes of fruits and vegetables to Qatar," Ali Hemmati said, with Reuters providing more details:
An Iranian diplomat in Doha said three cargo planes from Iran were landing in Qatar each day, bringing mostly fruit and vegetables. The diplomat also said small boats were bringing some less perishable produce.
"Dozens of Iranian businesses are ready to help Qatar with more goods if they are needed," the diplomat said.The head of Iran's livestock exporters said on Sunday they had exported 66 tonnes of meat to Qatar in the last two days.
"We will also be sending 90 tonnes of meat in the coming week," Fars quoted Mansour Pourian as saying.
Why the push by Iran and Turkey to prop up Qatar in the ongoing spat? According to Lebanon’s ex-parliamentary speaker Ili al Farzali, "If Qatar loses its influence in the Middle East, so will Turkey."
Interviewed by Sputnik, Farzali said that Tte current crisis over Qatar is just the tip of the iceberg of the ongoing struggle for influence in the Sunni world.
“I see this conflict around Qatar also as a war against Turkey in the Sunni world. Assuming that Qatar is indeed a sponsor of terrorism, namely the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the most influential Sunni party both in and outside the Arab world. If Qatar stops supporting it, this would also have a negative impact on Turkey, which has until now been building up its influence in the Arab world,” Ili al Farzali said.
“The Americans want oil and money and they just don’t care about what is going on there. Trump has made this perfectly clear,” Ili al Farzali noted. Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised to expand his country’s cooperation with Qatar and pledged every effort to seek a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
Also commenting on the situation, Turkish ex-ambassador to the United States Faruk Logoglu said that Ankara should be careful not to take sides in the ongoing crisis.
Turkey has found itself in a very difficult situation as it maintains close ties with the countries, which have broken off diplomatic relations with Doha. Moreover, we have signed a defense pact with Qatar and are going to open our first overseas military base there. This means that much now depends on the policies Turkey is going to pursue under the circumstances,” Logoglu told Sputnik Turkey.
He said that Ankara should watch its step in this conflict because everything is it says or does could eventually backfire. “Despite its close ties to Qatar, Turkey should avoid taking sides and do what it needs to do if this crisis continues,” Faruk Logoglu noted.
So far the diplomatic fallout from the initial crisis has been contained, although with both Turkey and Iran taking hardline positions against the Saudi alliance by siding with Qatar, this may change quickly (and perhaps violently) in the coming days.
Finally, to avoid confusion, here is a map of the "complicated" relationship among the key players in the ongoing crisis, courtesy of BofA.