News / Middle East

Change Not Likely After Qatar's Leadership Transition

Qatar's Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (C) attends a soccer match at al-Sadd Stadium in Doha, May 4, 2013.
Qatar's Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (C) attends a soccer match at al-Sadd Stadium in Doha, May 4, 2013.
Phillip Walter Wellman
The new emir of Qatar says he will continue to follow the "path" set by his father, who abdicated the throne earlier this week, suggesting the country is unlikely to see a sudden change in policies under new leadership.

In his first televised address as head of state, 33-year-old Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani praised the efforts of the outgoing Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in transforming Qatar from a Persian Gulf backwater into a diplomatic, financial and energy powerhouse.

Moving forward, the new emir said the country would take direction from no one and would seek to keep relations with all governments and states.

The speech on Wednesday coincided with a cabinet reshuffle that saw the long-serving Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani replaced as both prime minister and foreign minister.

Known as "HBJ" the Sheikh has been a major driving force behind the country's rise to global prominence.

Jamie Ingram, an analyst at IHS Global Insight, says the new ministers have a lot to live up to.

"It's likely they will be less active. Hamad bin Jassim was very keen to pursue a very adventurous foreign policy and his successor is unlikely to be as enthused by such a strategy as that. They will continue to try and maintain Qatar's role as an international mediator and as a player in international affairs, but perhaps not to the same extent as we've grown accustom to over the last three, four, five years," Ingram said.

Qatar, whose large oil and gas supplies and small population make it the world's richest country in terms of per capita gross domestic product, emerged from the Arab Spring as a major force in regional diplomacy.

The country played a prominent role in supporting the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, and it continues to be one of the strongest backers of the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

But its actions abroad have not always been welcome, with protests against its "interference" being seen in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

Qatar's efforts in arming opposition fighters in Syria are also said to be causing tensions among rebels leaders, with some claiming Doha is only backing those with strong Islamist views.

Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center, says Syria will be the most pressing foreign policy challenge of the new Qatari government.

"This is going to be an issue, which I'm sure, is going to consume Tamim and those around him, particularly his new foreign minister," Shaikh said.

While Sheikh Hamad's abdication was foreseen, critics worry that the timing of Tuesday's announcement - amid multiple ongoing involvements for Qatar both at home and abroad - could lead to complications.

The 61-year-old suffers from kidney problems, but government officials insist that is not why he ceded power to his son.

"It helps to reinforce Qatar's desire to project itself as an active, flexible and responsive state. One of the youngest leaders in the world perhaps offsets the sense of a country that promotes change elsewhere, but doesn't have it at home. At the same time it keeps everything in place in terms of the family's dominance in politics," said  Neil Partrick, an associate fellow at London-based Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies.

The peaceful transfer of power is extremely rare in the Gulf, where absolute monarchs traditionally keep their positions for life.

Analyst Ingram says the events in Qatar are unlikely to be replicated by its neighbors any time soon.

"This isn't going to spread to other Gulf States. In terms of pressure to bring in new people, this will undoubtedly cause some discomfort for places like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, where there are a lot of calls for the prime minister there to step down, but the pressure is unlikely to reach the point where the rulers are actually going to be forced to act on that," Ingram said.

In light of regional unrest, all Gulf states, including Qatar, have cracked down on internal dissent in an apparent bid to protect the sovereignty of the ruling families.  Political parties are banned in Qatar and there are no elections.  The emir has absolute authority.

In February, a Qatari poet was jailed for 15 years for criticizing the emir and attempting to incite revolt.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Djamel Kada from: Washington DC
June 27, 2013 10:25 PM
Qatar is just a banana republic .... Without the bananas. All what is said or done in Qatar is dictated by the USA.

by: Rudy Haugeneder from: Canada
June 27, 2013 6:12 PM
Considering Qatar's very sizable investments in Britain, the City -- and Wall Street -- must have huge worries about the royal change of guard, especially not really knowing whether the new Emir, a strong Muslim, actually likes the Christian and generally anti-Islamic UK and America as much as everybody expects.

Now that the Arab Spring has swung toward a more militant brand of Muslim extremism than originally anticipated, will he and Qatar continue to militarily and financially support rebels they cannot control and who may soon target Arab royal families for being too Western in thought and action -- which could see Emirs everywhere across the Arabian Peninsula be disposed of as brutally as the once all-powerful Czar and his family were in Russia.

A wise new Emir would tie his soul and finances more closely to Islam than rely on the West for protection.

by: Fitemoo from: US
June 27, 2013 4:20 PM
How amazing!!! Qatar was amongst the first nations to start arming to the Syrian rebels who were demonstrating against a dictator and were asking for democracy.
Yet, Qatar does not believe in democracy in their own country.
So, I wonder why would they be arming a democracy movement in another country?
In Response

by: Me from: there
June 27, 2013 11:32 PM
@ Fitemoo

Why? Because our Sunni dictatorships "allies" are part of a sectarian war targeting Iran and Shia muslims, and that the USA see no hypocrisy and problem in joining dictatorships backing and bankrolling Sunni fundamentalism (Salafists, Wahhabists, etc) and international terrorism (From the Taliban to Al Nusra and Al Qaeda) when they ar part of a sectarian war. The USA foreign policy is more that often a plain and dangerous disgrace, notably i the Middle-east where its allies are the land-grabbing far-right half-apartheid Israel and Sunni dictatorships, what a lovely bunch...

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More