Qatar: The Limits of Nouveau Riche Diplomacy

By and April 25, 2017

Executive Summary:

Under the leadership of Sheikh Hamad al-Thani (1995-2013), Qatar established itself as a regional mini superpower. It launched and subsidized the global media giant Al Jazeera, poured billions into its unrivalled liquefied natural gas infrastructure, made a successful bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and diversified its economy through international acquisitions by its Qatari Investment Authority.

This newfound wealth emboldened the emirate to attempt to broaden its diplomatic profile and extend its influence. And it is in this sphere that its maverick foreign policy, which at times spanned the world’s most fraught ideological lines, has led to increased tensions with its immediate neighbors and some unequivocal diplomatic disasters.

The June 2013 succession of Sheikh Hamad by his son Sheikh Tamim was viewed as a rebranding attempt at a difficult time for Qatar. The new emir’s first three years were marked by a rollercoaster ride that eventually led to a degree of rapprochement with fellow Arab states. The threat of ISIS, the triumph of Egypt’s Sisi, a carved-up Syria, a fractured Libya and the war on Iranian-supported Houthis in Yemen have all changed the landscape. Qatar has become part of a Saudi-led coalition of more than ten countries pledged to protect the Hadi government in Yemen. It has dutifully fulfilled Saudi demands and so far has managed not to infuriate its other large neighbor, Iran.

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Dr. Gil Feiler
Dr. Gil Feiler

Dr. Gil Feiler is managing director of Info-Prod Research, Ltd, and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. Email: [email protected]

Hayim Zeev