It is exactly one year since the Saudi government, supported by the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain, stunned the world by imposing a land, sea and air blockade against the tiny sheikhdom of Qatar. But while the ‘Quartet’s’ true motives may still be unclear, there can be no doubt of one thing: the ongoing blockade has proved largely ineffectual and even counterproductive, and doing so acts as a stark reminder of the likely fate of another embargo – already being imposed by the United States against Iran and now set to become much more draconian.

When it first began, the Qatar blockade looked likely to strangle the kingdom into submission. It wouldn’t be long, the Saudi princes must have calculated, before Doha would surrender to their ‘thirteen demands’, which included shutting down the Al Jazeera TV network, closing a Turkish military base and distancing itself from Tehran and ‘terrorists’. Forced to fly vital materials in and out of their territory, and to take highly circular routes, the Qataris would face huge extra costs to feed their population and keep their economy functioning. And the mere risk of disruption to Qatar’s voluminous exports of liquified natural gas (LNG) would send insurance premiums soaring and frighten foreign buyers who need reliable suppliers.

How differently things have turned out. Although the blockade has hit hard, the supremely wealthy kingdom has proved adept at sanctions-busting. Instead of buckling under pressure, and despite some initial disruption, it has spent vast sums – the IMF reckons $40 billion – on subsidising the extra costs of travel and has continued to ship LNG supplies through the Strait of Hormuz. It has even announced plans to significantly expand its LNG capacity, even though the blockade was supposed to severely curb the import of vital raw materials and foreign expertise.

In general, the blockade has proved counterproductive, not just ineffectual. Far from breaking the morale of the Qatari people, the blockade has brought them together as they rally to resist: private individuals, rather than the government, have borne many of the additional costs it has imposed. Qataris determinedly look for new markets abroad and more efficient ways of reaching them, while striving to attain a new level of self-sufficiency.

Above all, it has strengthened rather than diminished Iran, which may have been the Saudis’ true target. Now highly dependent on Iranian waters and airspace, Qatar cannot afford to alienate the Tehran regime. And in the early days of the blockade the Iranians sent sending huge cargoes of vital foodstuffs to Qatar, alleviating widely-held fears of starvation and thereby portraying themselves, in sharp contrast to the Saudis, as humanitarians.

The Qataris have also won praise for their relative magnanimity: although the Quartet expelled Qatari civilians from their own territories, Doha has not retaliated in kind. Not surprisingly, much of the outside continues to sympathise with the victims rather than the perpetrators: the Saudis, in particular, are widely regarded as bullies whose tactics are, at best, very tenuous under international law. Even their strongest supporter, the United States, has shown signs of impatience.

The fate of the Qatar blockade acts as a reminder of the law of unintended consequences – a law that has particular validity in complexities of the Middle East- and that another blockade by the United States against Iran, is now likely to suffer a similar fate.

On 8 May, President Trump announced his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal – the 2015 international agreement aimed at preventing the Iranians from developing a nuclear weapon- and vowed to impose ‘powerful’ new sanctions against Tehran. Since then, Washington has upped its rhetoric, threatening to impose ‘the strongest sanctions in history’.

But such moves will probably go the same way as the Qatari blockade. The Iranians will prove adept at side-stepping some of the measures, moving closer to China, Turkey and any other countries that are willing to challenge the American line. Inside Iran, hardliners will exploit any hardship – or even the mere threat of it- to stir up national resentment at ‘foreign plots’, allowing them to bolster their position.

The most important reason, however, is that the imposition of sanctions will provoke a new wave of anti-American sentiment. The United States will be more widely viewed as the oppressor and warmonger, and Iran as the innocent victim. This is partly because Tehran has complied with the terms of the 2015 deal. But these sentiments will also merge with commercial interests: EU governments, particularly France and Germany, did have considerable and growing business interests in Iran that, under the threat of sanctions, they are now having to surrender. Many people will resent the commercial losses that the sanctions will impose.

Let us hope that Washington will acknowledge the lessons of the Qatar blockade and reconsider its position towards Iran.

RT Howard is the author, most recently, of ‘Power and Glory: France’s Secret Wars with Britain and America 1945-2016’ and ‘Warmongers’.