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

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells California Republican Convention delegates the campaign will be 'a battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of the June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora