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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs