Iran is sending food to the isolated Gulf emirate of Qatar as neighboring states continue their boycott against it, a boycott touched off partly by Qatar’s close relations with Tehran.
“Iran’s national carrier has already delivered 90 tons of food and flights will continue “based on demand,” Sky News reported on Monday. “Three boats, carrying more than 350 tons of food, will also be leaving an Iranian port for Qatar, according to Tasnim news agency, quoting local officials.”
The Sky News report adds that it is unclear if the food shipment was a contribution of humanitarian aid from Iran or a shipment of goods purchased and imported by the Qatari government.
CNN relays a statement from Iran’s state-run Tasnim news agency that another hundred tons of fresh fruit and legumes will be shipped to Qatar every day for the duration of the crisis.
Doha News adds that Iran is shipping 45 tons of dairy products to Qatar to go along with “an influx of Turkish poultry and dairy products.” Doha News also finds it noteworthy that Iranian officials announced the news of the food shipments from Tehran through Iranian media, rather than Qatari officials – perhaps a sign that Qatar’s government is reluctant to applaud Iran too loudly at this juncture in the diplomatic crisis.
NBC News speculates that these food shipments, combined with other measures such as opening Iranian airspace to accommodate air travel blocked by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are part of Iran taking advantage of the crisis in the Gulf states. The Wall Street Journal likewise sees Iran “trying to insert itself into the worst political break in decades between some of the U.S.’s closed Middle Eastern allies.”
The Washington Post noted at the outset of the crisis that Qatar imports 99 percent of its food from outside sources and most of those shipments have traditionally crossed its land border with Saudi Arabia. The UK Independent estimates that 80 percent of Qatar’s food was supplied by the very same nations that are now seeking to isolate it.
It was estimated at one time that Qatar only had three days’ worth of food stockpiled for emergencies, although that estimate predates agreements made by the emirate to improve its access to food and the size of its emergency stockpile.
Unprecedented crowds at grocery stores were reported as soon as the boycott against Qatar was announced, although the government downplayed the risk of shortages and advised against panic buying. Talk of Iran stepping in to assist with food shipments began almost immediately.