Feb 17, 2021 - World

Qatar wants to mediate between U.S. and Iran

Qatar's emir (C) meets with Iran's supreme leader (R) in Tehran in January. Photo: Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Qatar is trying to facilitate a dialogue between the U.S. and Iran, advocating that both sides return to the 2015 nuclear deal and reduce tensions, Qatari officials say.

Why it matters: In 2012 and 2013, it was Oman that facilitated the secret talks between the U.S. and Iran that paved the way to the nuclear deal. It seems the Qataris want to play a similar role.

Driving the news: Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani spoke last week with U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Iran envoy Rob Malley.

  • On Monday, Thani met in Tehran with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to discuss possible re-engagement with the Biden administration. He also gave Rouhani a letter from the emir of Qatar.

What they're saying: Rouhani told Thani that Iran will fully implement its commitments under the nuclear deal only after the U.S. removes all nuclear-related sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, according to Iranian media.

  • Thani told Rouhani he hopes the U.S. will remove sanctions and return to the deal and stressed that Qatar would try to help make that happen.
  • It's unclear if the Qatari foreign minister passed on any messages from the Biden administration to Iran.

Between the lines: Unlike in 2012, many in the Biden administration know their Iranian counterparts and how to contact them, so the Qatari facilitation might not be necessary.

What to watch: Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency sent a letter this week notifying the IAEA's director general of Iran’s intention to stop implementing the “additional protocol” of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty starting Feb. 23.

  • That would see Iran curtail its cooperation with UN inspectors, suspend their ability to conduct unannounced visits to nuclear sites.
  • The message to Biden is that the window to save the nuclear deal is closing.

What's next: The director general of the IAEA is expected in Tehran on Saturday.

Go deeper