Thinking Aloud: Why Qatar?

Aug. 25, 2014 by Darius 

An American writer imprisoned in Syria by the al-Qaeda affiliate the al-Nusra Front since 2012 was released yesterday.  His release was secured largely thanks Qatar’s involvement in the negotiations.  Qatar remains the diplomatic go-to country in the Middle East, especially for dealing with Islamist groups.

Many Arab governments are allergic to political Islam, an allergy made worse by the Arab Spring.  Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and others all turning their backs on groups and ideologies they had previously supported.  Qatar, though, didn’t cut its relations with Islamism.  Qatar has long been the region’s leading sponsor of the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots as well as “moderate” Islamist groups fighting in Syria.  As a result, Qatar’s involvement can open many doors that would have otherwise remained steadfastly closed.

Qatar got in trouble with the rest of the Gulf countries a few months ago for its support of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.  But it remains a US ally, and this week’s events show why Qatar is still a helpful friend to have in the Middle East.

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