Qatar refused earlier this month to hand over visiting Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi to the Iraqi central government, which has charged him with running death squads. In an email interview, Reidar Visser, a research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and member of the Gulf Research Unit at the University of Oslo, discussed Iraq-Qatar relations.
WPR: How have Iraq-Qatar diplomatic and trade relations evolved since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003?
Reidar Visser: Like most other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, Qatar has had a strained relationship with Iraq since 2003, in particular after the emergence of a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad in 2005. The Qatar-based television station Al Jazeera has been an additional thorn in the bilateral relationship. Since 2004, the Iraqi government has often considered Al Jazeera’s reporting to be pro-resistance sedition. More recently, this year there were attempts to create a thaw before the Arab League summit in late-March -- including in the economic sphere, with the announcement by Qatar Airways that it will operate direct flights from Doha to Baghdad and Irbil in the Kurdistan region of Iraq starting in May. Al Jazeera has also been welcomed back to Baghdad. Broadly speaking, though, these initiatives must be considered unsuccessful, since Qatari representation at the Baghdad summit remained low-level.