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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs