IRGC navy commander says Iran has offered to do joint military drills with Qatar

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Iran has offered to hold joint military drills with Qatar, said the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) navy on Thursday, the official IRIB news agency reported.

“We have also messaged Qatar and informed them that we can perform joint military drills with them,” said Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri, adding that the country will also stage military drills with Iraq and Oman this year.

Tangsiri did not say if Iran had received a response from Qatar or specify the proposed date for the drills.

Tangsiri said he had previously visited Qatar, where he discussed establishing Iranian “security” in the Arabian Gulf. “In a visit to Qatar, I told a German journalist that we [Iran], with the help of regional countries, can establish lasting and stable security in the Arabian Gulf, and the presence of foreign forces in the region makes no sense,” said Tangsiri. Mehr previously reported that Tangsiri headed an Iranian delegation to Doha to take part in Middle East Naval Commanders Conference in March 2018.

Tangsiri’s claim that Iran had offered military drills with Qatar, which was published by Iranian media outlets including the IRIB and semi-official Mehr news agency, came after another Iranian official said that China, Russia, and Iran are planning a joint naval drill.

Iran’s General Staff of the Armed Forces General Ghadir Nezami Pour informed the semi-official Fars new agency on Saturday that the drill would take place in the Sea of Oman and northern Indian Ocean but did not specify when it would take place.

Qatar has increased its ties with Iran since 2016, when the Arab Quartet of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE began their boycott of the island nation. Qatar has been accused of hosting members of Iran’s IRGC and funding and promoting terrorism.

The two countries have recently increased their economic ties, with Iranian exports to Qatar almost tripling and providing a lifeline for the country’s economy.

Earlier this month, Iran granted Qataris visas on arrival access, according to Mehr, citing an official source at the Qatari Foreign Ministry’s Department of Consular Affairs.

The source added that Qatari nationals can obtain a single or multiple-entry visa from Iran’s embassy in Doha, to avoid occasional delays at the arrival airport in case of crowding of passengers at the visa office there, reported Mehr.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said the country is willing to cooperate with Qatar on construction projects for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, according to reports from Iran’s official IRNA news agency. Rouhani made his comments in a phone call with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on August 25, 2019, reported IRNA.

Tangsiri also discussed Iran’s missile program, which he said is developing daily and is a “red line” for negotiations.

“We will not allow our country’s defense capability to be weakened,” said Tangsiri.

“Missiles are a part of our defense capability which we develop day by day. They are our red line,” he added.

Tangsiri was sanctioned by the US on June 24, along with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and seven other IRGC commanders, under Executive Order 13876 in response to Iran’s downing of a US drone on June 20 and its long-term promotion of terrorism in the region.

The United States last year stepped away from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and has since put economic pressure on Tehran to try and force it to curb its nuclear program and restrain its missile program, as well as halting its support for proxy and terrorist organizations.

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