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Qatar: Small But Powerful

Qatar — that little country in the Persian Gulf — is a power player with a lot of money and ambition on the world stage.

Men wait to serve tea to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, unseen, and Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, unseen, during their meeting at Wajbah Palace in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday, June 23, 2013. (AP)

Men wait to serve tea to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, unseen, and Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, unseen, during their meeting at Wajbah Palace in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday, June 23, 2013. (AP)

Millions of Egyptians in the streets, calling for the ouster of their Muslim Brotherhood president.  The billions keeping him afloat and in power?  From Qatar.

Washington, deeply worried about heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles getting into Syria and jihadi hands.  Who’s shipping them in?  Qatar.

Furor last month when the Taliban raised its flag for talks over Afghanistan’s future.  Where did the flag go up?  Qatar.

It’s tiny.  It’s rich.  It’s Islamist-friendly.  It’s taking charge.

This hour, On Point:  big little player, Qatar.  Its billions, and its plan.  Plus, we’ll check in on the deadly wildfire in Arizona.

- Tom Ashbrook


Shadi Hamid, director of research for the Brookings Doha Center and a fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. (@shadihamid)

David Roberts, director and research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies in Qatar. Author of the forthcoming: “Qatar: Securing the Global Ambitions of a City-state.” (@thegulfblog)

Marc Lynch, director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and of the Project on Middle East Political Science and professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. (@abuaardvark)

Closing Segment on Deadly Arizona Wildfires

Katie Connor, reporter for KNXV-TV Phoenix.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times: New Hope for Democracy in a Dynastic Land — “Now that he is set to become the new emir, the absolute ruler of Qatar, what possibly can Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani promise to the citizens of a tiny, incredibly rich country that seems to have everything?”

Reuters: Qatar’s new PM signals lower key world role — “A stickler for discipline with a security background, Qatar’s new prime minister will have a narrower remit than his influential predecessor, who led the Gulf state’s forays into global finance and Arab Spring politics.”

Bloomberg: Chief Who Built Biggest Arab Bank Takes Over Qatar Finances — “For Ali Shareef Al Emadi, managing the finances of the world’s richest country is a job he’s already been involved in for eight years. During that time, the chief executive officer of Qatar National Bank SAQ, who was appointed finance minister in a new Qatari government late yesterday, helped build the company into the Middle East’s biggest lender. QNB grew its assets to more than $100 billion in the period, the only Arab bank to reach that threshold, data compiled by Bloomberg show.”

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  • RGSpore

    All good. Nothing wrong with a country having a plan. 

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    One common problem that I see today is that many wealthy folk are not about building anything but more wealth. The rise of vulture capitalism compels me to ask, are there any true captains of industry anymore? Do we see examples of such industry in Qatar or are they focused more on accumulation of wealth as well?

    I wish I had a couple of hundred million to invest in revolutionary tech and I am not talking about social networking.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Exactly. I’m a lot more concerned about the romney types in USA than whatever goes on in Quatar.

    • J__o__h__n

      I’d rather they squander or hoard it than donate it to spreading religion. 

    • Don_B1

      The support for Al Jazeera, founded in Qatar, was somehow left out of the introduction to this day’s discussion.

      In the U.S., most of the “publicity” about Al Jazeera has been distorted reports of Islamist issue coverage. But it’s actual coverage is apparently more balanced than given credit in the U.S.

      Also, many in the U.S. credit Al Jazeera with better, more balanced coverage of Climate Change issues than any papers in the “West,” with the Guardian, in the U.K., being the strongest competition for that honor.

  • anon

    I haven’t heard the show yet, but Tom’s summary is a little one-sided. Qatar has also established the Qatar Foundation, which has brought branches of well-respected universities to Qatar, sponsored the Doha Debates, built an Islamic art museum, etc.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

    The World Cup to Qatar?

    I still don’t quite believe it.

    Where will the fans come from? How out of reach will it be for the ordinary, face-painting fan to travel there and attend?

    • Ray in VT

      I wonder how the the country will handle an influx foreign visitors looking for a good time, given the nature of the law in Qatar.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        I hope someone’s already investing in party boats outside the 3-mile limit.

        PS The plan is to break down the stadiums and reassemble them elsewhere. I don’t get it; it sounds a worse reason to do this than South Africa in 2010.

        • Ray in VT

          1st point:  that sounds like a true business opportunity.

          2nd point:  weird.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            As to “weird”, I’d say “You don’t know what FIFA is capable of.”

            That organization seems almost determined to destroy the beautiful game. That FIFA and Sepp Blatter have not shows just how grand the game is.

    • anon

      Why shouldn’t it go to Qatar? Arabs are huge football fans…(soccer) 

  • brettearle

    Caller is encouraging too much post-modern McCarthyism.

    But he, very likely, has a partial point.

    I doubt, seriously, that every Islamic follower believes in Global Jihad. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001918556107 Ellen Dibble

    I found this at the American Foreign Policy’s World Almanac of Islamism, which suggests a historic relationship to the British, somehow:  “Wahhabism—the very strict interpretation of Islam espoused by 18th century preacher Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab—has shaped Qatar’s history for more than a century. Among the tribes which adopted the Wahhabi interpretation in the late 19th century was the Al Thani—as contrasted with the ruling Al Khalifas of Bahrain, who rejected Wahhabism. When the Al Khalifas attempted to invade the peninsula of Qatar in 1867, the Al Thani and their followers, with the help of the British, repelled the invasion. This victory established the Al Thani family as Qatar’s ruling clan. Thereafter, Qatar became the only country other than Saudi Arabia to espouse Hanbali-Wahhabism as the official state religion.16  This set the stage for tensions between Qatar and its other neighbors.”  

    • anon

      ‘Hanbali-Wahhabism’? Hanbali is one of the four established schools of thought of Islamic law (Sharia). ‘Wahhabism’ is simply a derogatory term; I’ve never heard a Muslim call himself or herself a ‘Wahhabi’. I doubt if the Qataris’ following Hanbali law (to the extent that they do) has much to do with their relations with other Gulf neighbors.

  • Kamal_M

    “kafer” means; non believer. That’s really it!
    “kuffar” (an Arabic word meaning those who don’t believe in the message if Islam in this context) are not all one color. Only those who are hostile to Muslims, and to some extent, those who worship idols, are considered enemies of Islam and Muslims…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001918556107 Ellen Dibble

    Though the Qatari emir had connected with the Israeli foreign minister in New York in 2007 (so I think that’s after Hamas was elected in Gaza in 2006), Qatar then severed relations with Israel after the Gaza war in 2009, and over Israel’s settlement policy and Judaization of Jerusalem.  The emir (Hamad) visited Gaza in October last year supposedly to provide $254 million in reconstruction funds.  

         It seems to me Palestine is Sunni mostly, but Hamas is Shi’a, so What Is That about?  But it is interesting if a Sunni emir is supporting Hamas…?

    • anon

      HAMAS is NOT Shia. It is Sunni and affiliated with the Muslim brotherhood. (Hezbollah – from southern Lebanon – is Shia.)

  • Kamal_M

    “kafer” means; non believer. That’s really it!
    “kuffar” (an Arabic word meaning those who don’t believe in the message if Islam in this context) are not all one color. Only those who are hostile to Muslims, and to some extent, those who worship idols, are considered enemies of Islam and Muslims…

  • Kamal_M

    I disagree with the speaker who framed Aljazeera as losing credibility. If siding with the clear victim against a predator is viewed as taking sides, they’re doing the right thing, don’t you think?!
    That said, Aljazeera does bring people who try to explain the Syrian regime stand point if that’s what you’re complaining about. It’s only that those have a very weak argument, obviously, and there are only few of them who still have a face to show…

  • AC

    I just got my gf a job with my company and she’s going to our Qatar office! she’s from Kuwait, a reasonable drive for her parents to keep an eye on her. diff set of rules for women in the work-place, but she’s used to it……

    • anon

      That’s like an 8-hour drive… through Saudi Arabia. Not exactly ‘keeping an eye on’ distance.

      • AC

        i sometimes spend 4 hours a day in a car. it doesn’t seem that big a deal….

  • homebuilding

    I’m quite amused that our oil money is coming back in the form of a Qatar drag racing team.

    They are very competitive–and most spectators aren’t particularly aware that a dominating ‘foreign’ team may soon walk away with all the marbles.

    The team name is Al Anabi, and a primary driver is Balooshi.  Find more at nhra dot com  National Hot Rod Association

    I’m rather certain that NASCAR will never allow an “Arab” to compete…..blacks are pretty much locked out, though they’ve had a couple of female competitiors

  • MrBigStuff

    It’s interesting that for such a small country, Qatar has such a disproportionately large influence. They’re fortunate enough to house Al-Jazeera, oil and plenty of US military muscle.  

  • MrBigStuff

    As I look at that picture above, I keep reminding myself that all that opulence is funded primarily through heavy oil-driven subsidies to the growing young and unemployed middle class. Vali Nasr makes quite a compelling argument as to just how fragile the Gulf Oil monarchies really are in his new book. The region is desperately trying to avert the attention that the Syrian Civil War is giving to “Arab Springers” with Qatar’s Al Jazeera focusing entirely on the subjugation of Sunnis by Assad, while ignoring the Wahhabi authoritarianism in its own region. Great story today Tom. 

    • Kamal_M

      If you compare coverage of the Syrian revolution to that of the Wahhabis by Aljazeera, you should also compare what’s happening in Syria to whatever you’re concerned about in Saudi Arabia. Otherwise, your comment is biased. Regardless of what Wahhabis do, they can’t compare to waging a war using every weapon at hand including chemical weapons, ballistic missiles, and all kinds of tanks and airplanes against their own civilian population and brutally mascaraing a hundred or so on a daily basis! How could any fair news agency deliver the same coverage and airtime to these two subjects?

  • anon

    While Qatar does have oil, it is know for  exports of natural gas.

  • DOlala3705

    How convenient, for whom?, is the relation between U.S recognizing “the rebels need for help” and Qatar sending weapons?  How convenient that we have a military base in the neighborhood.

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