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Iran, Russia and Taliban among guests at nominal US ally Qatar's weapons expo

Qatar has tried to play a friend to everyone, putting at odds the various interests of its allies as it tries to remain neutral but vital to various alliances.

Iran turned up at a Qatari weapons exposition this week, providing a high-profile platform for Tehran to tout its military capabilities even as Doha continues to affirm defensive and strategic partnerships with the United States.

The Islamist nation was among several attending nations hostile to the U.S., raising concerns Qatar could be helping America's enemies arm up. But one expert told Fox News Digital such events often bring together strange bedfellows.

"It's not surprising that Qatar was inviting Iran, Russia and other countries. I even heard the Taliban sent a delegation there to the defense exhibition. So, this is, in many ways, typical for Qatar to be open to everyone," Matt McInnis, senior fellow for the Institute for the Study of War, told Fox News Digital. 

"At the same time, it certainly is going to reinforce concerns by the U.S. and other partners about the role that Qatar's playing potentially in facilitating those arms sales and proliferation of more advanced weapons that are coming from places like Iran and Russia," McInnis added. "I think this is something the U.S. was not pleased with, but at the same time, it's somewhat par for the course for Qatar to be this type of host." 


Qatar’s Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (DIMDEX) exhibition for technology, maritime and defense industry capabilities ran from March 4-6 and included VIP delegations from countries across the globe. The U.S., Australia, United Kingdom, China, France and Japan are just some of the heavy hitters that turned up this week, according to the exhibition’s website. 

The delegations also included Russia and Iran, and Iran went a step further by also exhibiting some new weapons — drones, guns, missiles and radar systems, including the Shahed-149 drone, originally unveiled in 2021, according to the Tasnim News Agency, an outlet associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) highlighted Iran's presence at the exhibition and urged the U.S. to work toward denying such access to any future weapons expos.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran, the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism and home to the largest ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East, is working to sell its weapons to the world," the FDD wrote. "Washington should work to deny Iran access to weapons expos and counter its role as arms supplier." 

"Weapons produced in Iran don't stay in Iran," the group wrote. "Washington must begin to deny Iran access to weapons expos." 


McInnis argued that U.S. officials already started talking about the relationship America has with Qatar, which also has connections to Hamas used to help broker hostage release deals since the Oct. 7 attack in Israel, and noted that Washington has some blame in the current dynamic. 

"The relationships that Qatar has with groups like Hamas, with Iran and with others are going to come under a lot more scrutiny from the United States," McInnis said. 

"Some of this was part of our policy and Israeli policy, frankly, to have conduits to these groups through Qatar. So, we take some responsibility for this. My expectation and understanding is that there is going to be some serious conversations between the U.S. and Qatar as we maintain our alliance, that we're going to need greater security assurances about their relationships with groups, with countries like Iran and groups like the Taliban." 

Middle East outlet Al-Monitor also reported Taliban Acting Defense Minister Mawlawi Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid attended the exhibition and planned to meet with Qatari defense officials during the event. 


The display occurred at the same time the U.S. and Qatar met and reaffirmed a commitment to bilateral security and defense cooperation. A joint statement following the meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani cited key priorities to include concerns about Afghanistan and Ukraine

The statement did not make mention of Iran, even as it highlighted a strong security partnership on counterterrorism, promising to "build greater collaboration and capacity in aviation and border security, information sharing, countering violent extremism and combating terrorism and the financing of terrorism."

"The United States expressed its appreciation for robust ongoing counterterrorism coordination between the two countries," the statement said. "To further deepen bilateral law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Qatari Ministry of Interior committed to signing a new Memorandum of Cooperation on Biometric Data sharing."

Neither the U.S. State Department nor Qatari officials, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Qatari Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Embassy in Qatar, responded to a Fox News Digital request for comment. 

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