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Under sweeping sanctions, Iran hawks its weapons in Qatar

DOHA, QATAR (AP) – Iran, under sweeping economic sanctions, was hawking weapons on Wednesday at a Qatari defence exhibit, a surprising sight at the major conference also showcasing American companies and fighter jets.

Tucked away in the far left corner of the carpetted convention centre, commanders from Iran’s Defence Ministry marketed their missiles and air defence weapons systems. The Defence Ministry manufactures arms for both Iran’s military and its powerful paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard, a group that plays a singular role in the creation and execution of Iran’s national security and foreign policy.

The DIMDEX exhibition serves to promote Qatar, a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally of the United States (US) that’s home to the largest American military base in the Middle East. The tiny Gulf Arab country, however, also maintains good relations with Iran, with which it shares the world’s largest gas field.

Iranian representatives declined to speak with The Associated Press (AP). They handed out brochures to an AP journalist promoting their homemade jet trainers, helicopters and hovercraft.

The Qatari Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Salem al-Nabet toured Iran’s pavilion before the exhibition wrapped up, inspecting displays of lethal merchandise in glass cases and listening to a sales pitch about machine guns.

Qatari Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Salem al-Nabet visits Iran’s pavilion during the DIMDEX exhibition in Doha, Qatar. PHOTO: AP

Notably, Iran’s pavilion cannot be found on the conference map. The country’s Defence Ministry and armed forces logistics remain under crushing US sanctions over suspected illegal weapons trade.

The Revolutionary Guard, for its part, is widely regarded as a toxic business partner for its designation as a terrorist group by the Trump administration, its global reputation for meddling in regional conflicts and sanctions over its ballistic missile programmes and alleged human rights violations.

With talks to restore Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers nearing a resolution four years after former US president Trump abandoned it, the possible removal of the Guard’s terrorism designation has drawn fierce criticism from America’s Mideast allies.

The US has balked at the Iranian demand, barring commitments from Tehran to stop funding and arming extremist groups in the region and beyond. Nuclear negotiators have yet to reconvene in Vienna.