Donald Trump's 'Maximum Pressure' Campaign Against Iran Will Only Unite Country, Former Qatari PM Says: They 'Can Wait for the Next President'

President Donald Trump's maximum pressure campaign against Iran will not work and will only make the country more united, the former prime minister of Qatar has warned.

Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani, who was prime minister of the natural gas-rich state for nearly six years, said Friday that Iranians can wait out the Trump administration and predicted the White House's campaign will amount to nothing.

Al-Thani made the remarks at the Yalta European Strategy annual meeting—organized by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation—in Kiev. Speaking with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, al-Thani shared his insights into recent Middle Eastern tensions, informed by decades of high-level diplomacy in the region.

The Trump administration, having withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal in May last year, is employing economic sanctions and diplomatic and military pressure to try and force Tehran back to the negotiating table. The White House wants more stringent restrictions on Iran's nuclear program, as well as limits on its ballistic missile program and regional influence.

Iran has rejected the proposition, instead attempting to keep the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action alive with the support of the remaining signatories Russia, China, France, Germany, the U.K. and the European Union.

Washington is now attempting to cut Iran's oil exports to zero, which would be catastrophic for the country's already struggling economy. The administration believes that, eventually, the situation will deteriorate to the point that Iran will have to agree to a U.S.-dictated deal in exchange for relief.

Though al-Thani acknowledged that "they are suffering a lot," he said the external aggression will only serve to force Iranians closer together rather than tear the country apart.

"The structure in Iran is a strong structure when you pressure it more," al-Thani told Zakaria. "As with any other nation, when there is a threat from outside they will come together."

No matter how hard the White House tries, al-Thani suggested it is not possible to fully isolate Iran. Noting its seven borders and many rivers, he warned that you "cannot seal" the country.

Ultimately, he argued, "I cannot see that Iran, under this pressure, will give up."

As a theocratic regime ruled by a Supreme Leader—currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—Iran is not as susceptible as the U.S. to the ebbs and flows of public opinion. This means Tehran can, if it survives the sanctions, simply wait the U.S. out.

"They can wait for the next president," al-Thani said. Whether in 2020 or in 2024, Trump will leave office. It is likely that his successor, whether Democratic or Republican, will be more lenient on Iran and keen to reach a new agreement with the country. "Iranians have patience," al-Thani explained.

Qatar has grown increasingly close to Iran in recent years, forced to rely more on Tehran after being embargoed by a Saudi-led coalition including several of its Gulf neighbors. Saudi Arabia and its allies accused Qatar of supporting terrorism in the region, a charge denied by the Qataris.

The economic blockade left the tiny country looking around desperately for friends, a gap that Shi'ite Iran was keen to fill as part of its ongoing rivalry with Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Muslim allies.

Al-Thani noted that Qatar is grateful for Iranian assistance. However, he stressed that, long-term, the country needs the economic blockade to be lifted by its neighbors so as to "dismantle the tension in the region."

Donald Trump, Qatar, Iran, pressure, deal
President Donald Trump is pictured during a cabinet meeting at the White House on July 16, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/Getty
Donald Trump's 'Maximum Pressure' Campaign Against Iran Will Only Unite Country, Former Qatari PM Says: They 'Can Wait for the Next President' | News