US 'disappointed' that Iran's IRGC is selling weapons at Qatar defence show

Iran had a booth featuring models of missiles and reportedly sent Islamic Revolutionary Guard officers to the event

The Iranian stand at the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition in Qatar.  Reuters

The US said it was “deeply disappointed” by the presence of Iranian military officials at a defence show this week in Qatar, which is home to the largest US military base in the region.

Military commanders from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were reportedly seen drinking tea, eating dates and displaying models of Iranian missiles at the event in Doha.

The Iranian booth was organised by Tehran’s Ministry of Defence and the commanders were part of a broader Iranian delegation sent to Qatar.

“We are deeply disappointed and troubled by the presence of Iranian military officials and reportedly Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officers at the Doha Defence Show in Qatar,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.

“We utterly reject their presence at the show and its maritime defence exhibit, as it is Iran that is the biggest threat to maritime stability in the Gulf region.

“Transactions related to Iranian weapons are generally sanctionable under multiple US authorities, including sanctions related to terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.”

An official Qatari statement to Reuters on Thursday said that “the participation in the event and pavilion was by the Iranian Ministry of Defence and there were no invitations sent to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard”. Qatar has good ties with Iran, with which it shares a giant gasfield.

Some IRGC officials at the Doha defence show huddled in meetings at their booth, which featured a giant poster of a fast boat filled with commandos. Others explored the trade floor. They passed the entourage surrounding the commander of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, took mobile phone photos of an Italian armoured personnel carrier and handled Turkish machine guns.

In a booth adjacent to Iran's, US firm General Atomics showcased its roughly $30-$40 million MQ-9B predator drone, which is engineered to conduct anti-surface warfare, including maritime surveillance and precision-guided munitions.

The three-day exhibition ended on Wednesday.

The US designated the IRGC a terrorist organisation during former president Donald Trump's administration but that designation might now be lifted as part of a deal to revive the 2015 deal to contain Iran's nuclear programme.

The US this month made Qatar one of the few Arab countries to receive the status of “major non-Nato ally”.

President Joe Biden told Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim during a visit to the Oval Office earlier this year that he was notifying Congress of the designation “to reflect the importance of our relationship".

The status gives Doha benefits related to arms transfers and security cooperation, but falls short of a formal defence pact.

It will also make Qatar eligible for certain defence loans and equipment for research and development, as well as priority delivery of surplus US defence material.

Updated: March 25, 2022, 11:37 AM