Apparently, the world has had much to thank Qatar for in recent years. And if you haven’t been thanking it, check your closest government office, local opposition force or ailing business conglomerate for details. One of them is sure to have been blessed (or soon will) by the graces of the tiny Gulf emirate without your prior consent.
Until only recently, a country often confused by non-Arabic speakers with a sharp Swiss knife-like cutter, a territory slightly larger than Cyprus, a minute appendix to the vast Saudi kingdom from which it emanates, was yet another energy exporter eager to make a name for itself with its newly attained wealth. Soon enough, the fortunes of its good fortunes trickled upon the Middle East and the world, and “Shukran Qatar” (“Thank You Qatar”) became a household slogan.
From its assistance in rebuilding villages devastated by the July 2006 War in Lebanon to pledging millions for reconstruction in Gaza late last year. From semi-private Qatar Foundation’s sponsorship of Barcelona’s renown football team in 2010 to funding former French President Sarkozy’s retirement. Qatar and its dollars have and continue to make their mark everywhere they land, similar to the petrodollar offensive of its Gulf neighbors decades earlier, albeit more subtly and in wiser investments at home and abroad.
But what really is the point of reaching the heights of financial dominance, owning classic works of art, exclusive retail establishments and sports clubs, without vying for some of what seduces the most: political power.
A mixture of its own powerful media and almost public relations-like offensive in the Arab and world arena in recent years, Saudi Arabia’s increasing focus on the so-called Iranian threat, Qatar’s almost laissez-faire attitude towards Israel (so as not to incite much criticism from the West), the Arab spring of some countries and efforts exerted by others to avoid their own, provided the perfect circumstances to gain ground. For example, it brokered the Doha Accord for Lebanon in 2008 and facilitated the formation of a unified Palestinian interim government in 2012. In parallel, however, reports of Qatar’s support for fundamentalist Islamic elements throughout the region (in Libya, Lebanon, Egypt), reminded us of how Qatar rose to world prominence in the first place, through the Al Jazeera network and its continued coverage of Islamic fundamentalists. Qatar’s alleged support of Syrian opposition forces, most notably the Islamic fundamentalists out of them, has been sarcastically described as a new type of investment, that of funding revolutions, regardless of the recipient, so long as it fulfilled a short-term political objective (in Syria’s case, toppling the Asad regime).
History has taught us all too well that the power brokers and affluent of today, may well become the simple observers and humble populace of tomorrow. But it has also tried to teach us, that those that may be supported today, may well become the enemies and nightmares of tomorrow with altered goals and objectives, even more extreme than when they first appeared. Qatar’s influence may remain or diminish, yet the questionable elements it supports today will remain and maybe even flourish tomorrow. Then, it will be all too late to take back all the thanking for Qatar during all these years…