News / Middle East

    Amid Season of Unrest, Qatar Seeks to Expand Role in Middle East

    Libyan Finance Minister Nagib Mustafa al-Serraj, left, talks with Yousef Hussain Kamal, Qatar Finance Minister, at the opening of Arab Finance Ministers Exceptional meeting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, September 7, 2011.
    Libyan Finance Minister Nagib Mustafa al-Serraj, left, talks with Yousef Hussain Kamal, Qatar Finance Minister, at the opening of Arab Finance Ministers Exceptional meeting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, September 7, 2011.

    While many of its neighbors grapple with civil unrest, the small country of Qatar in the Persian Gulf continues to strengthen its role as a regional leader. But whether the absolute monarchy will be able to retain its leadership position in a post-Arab-spring Middle East remains unclear.

    In March, Qatar gained international praise when it became the first Arab nation to send troops to Libya to reinforce NATO’s combat mission against pro-Gadhafi forces.

    The support did not stop there. Qatar also became the first Arab state to recognize Libyan rebels as the legitimate representatives of their country. It hosted the first meeting of the international Contact Group on Libya and used some of its vast oil wealth to provide the rebel’s National Transitional Council with $400 million in aid.

    Some international media reports have described Qatar’s efforts as somewhat unexpected. However, Gulf analyst Mehran Kamrava, director of Georgetown University’s Center for International and Regional Studies in Doha, says he was not surprised.

    “[Qatar’s] involvement in Libya early on and so extensively did not necessarily come as a surprise because it is consistent with very proactive diplomacy that has propelled Qatar to the forefront of regional affairs,” said Kamrava.

    There has also been some criticism.  Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations says that while Qatar has been an important partner for Libya, its motives are solely aimed at advancing its own interests.

    “The decision to back the rebels was certainly not based on any great principle. It isn’t as if this was done to advance democracy and personal freedom because if that were the case, they wouldn’t be taking the position they do in Bahrain,” said Abrams.

    At the same time as Qatar began supporting military intervention in Libya, the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which Qatar is a member, was also using its troops to help quell pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain.

    Qatar’s leader, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, later expressed his support for Bahrain’s crackdown on dissidents, which rights groups say left over 30 people dead.

    According to Abrams, Qatar’s varied positions on external matters suggest that it is likely to carry on with a carefully nuanced and deliberately crafted approach to its foreign policy.

    “The next time around, we may not find that we’re on the same side as Qatar. The expansion of Qatari influence is a mixed bag, a mixed blessing,” he said.

    Qatar is an ally to both the United States and Iran. How it will progress with its international relations remains to be seen. What is almost certain, however, is that it will try to start reaping rewards in the new Libya as soon as possible.

    Libya is full of investment opportunities, one of the most lucrative being its national oil company - the gatekeeper for the largest known reserves of crude in Africa.

    Toby Jones, assistant professor of Middle East history at Rutgers University, says while foreign states are assessing how they can benefit form Libya’s crisis, it is still too early to determine who will be involved in the reconstruction process and in what capacity.

    “Who is going to be calling the shots in Tripoli when things settle remains unclear and that’s going to have ultimately an impact on not only which regional actors are able to be involved, weather it’s Qatar, the UAE, Egypt or somebody else, but also which global actors are going to be able to be involved,” said Jones.

    Qatar will have to compete with Chinese, Russian and Western companies. And while the tiny nation’s enormous wealth may be able to influence Libyan rebels now, that may not be the case in the future.

    Abrams says the same can be said of Qatari leadership in the region. There is a possibility it could become irrelevant as more countries in the Middle East attempt to push ahead with democracy.

    “If they have new democratic leadership, then I think that even though they don’t have money in the way the Qataris do, they can really make a challenge to Qatar: what gives you the right to lead the Arab World? You have a tiny population and you have what is essentially an absolute monarchy, we want to lead the Arab world,” said Abrams.

    So, as demands for democracy continue to bring change to all corners of the region, it appears Qatar will just have to wait and see what role it will have, not only in the new Libya, but also in the new Middle East.

    Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
    and discuss them on our Facebook page.

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.