News You Really Need To See: “Qatar’s Take on Foreign Policy: Let’s Be Friends”

“Qatar’s Take on Foreign Policy: Let’s Be Friends”

The Washington Post, October 5, 2014, p.A1

“The U.S. military orchestrates the air war over Iraq and Syria from a hulking command center on the vast al-Udeid Air Base, a Qatari-owned encampment that is home to 8,000 American military personnel and dozens of Air Force jets. … Twenty miles to the northeast, in the heart of this opulent and fast-growing capital city, the even more gargantuan Grand Mosque has served as a key outpost for al-Qaeda-linked rebels fighting the Syrian regime. … Qatar’s strategy of backing Islamists — from Hamas in the Gaza Strip, to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, to hard-line Syrian opposition fighters — while also offering itself as a key U.S. ally in the volatile Middle East is rooted in pragmatism: This gas-rich, finger-shaped peninsula that borders Saudi Arabia and juts into the Persian Gulf wants to protect itself by being friends with everybody. … ‘We don’t do enemies,’ Qatar’s foreign minister, Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah, said in a rare interview.  ‘We talk to everyone.  We cannot change geography — this is for sure — so whoever is in the vicinity of our geography has to be our close friend.’ … The same conciliatory spirit extends to rebels in Libya seeking to topple that country’s democratically elected government, and to Iran, with which Qatar shares natural-gas fields under the gulf.  Instead of joining the strident rhetoric of its Arab brethren over Tehran’s nuclear program, the Qataris have sought to pursue a more harmonious relationship, even through Iran backs the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which has been battling militants financed by Doha. … To the Qatari government, however, it is all about survival.  Fearful that the Muslim Brotherhood, the principal movement of political Islamists, might seek to establish a foothold in this tiny sheikdom, leaders here cut a deal of sorts two decades ago: They offered safe haven to Brotherhood members from other countries, and even doled out financial assistance, in exchange for an implicit commitment not to interfere in Qatar.  That policy also allowed the Qataris, who wanted to use their wealth to become more significant players in the Middle East, to step out of Saudi Arabia’s shadow.  Instead of relying on their large neighbor to protect them, the Qataris figured they would forge their own alliances.”

Quickie Analysis: A very good article on the foundations of Qatar’s foreign policy and how it has impacted the region.

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