2006 July 30 Sunday
Contradictions Of Qatar

Writing for the German publication Der Spiegel Erich Follath reports on the seeming contradictions in Qatar, made possible by enormous wealth from massive natural gas reserves.

The country's leader, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, 56, and his brother Abdullah, 46, the head of the government, are Washington's staunch allies in its war on terror and have permitted the White House to expand the Udeid air base into the US Air Force's most important base outside the United States. The facility, which doesn't appear on any map of Qatar, is essentially the American's command center for the entire Iraq war.

The ruling family is also a major backer of the Al-Jazeera ("The Island") television network, which has been critical of both Arab feudal governments and the Bush administration. This probably explains why Al-Jazeera is the network of choice for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his associates, whose videos are routinely delivered to Doha, where Al-Jazeera broadcasts them to the rest of the world -- a source of constant irritation for Washington.

Israel is permitted to maintain a trade office in Qatar, and its directors are usually high-ranking retired generals. At the same time, Doha's ruling family has no compunctions about providing some of the funding for Hamas, which has yet to renounce terror. Indeed, Qatar recently gave the Palestinian organization $50 million without tying any conditions to the funding. At the same time, the sheikhs also paid for the construction of a soccer stadium near the northern Israeli city of Haifa.

While Follath claims Qatar has a per capita GDP of $53,000 the CIA World Factbook puts it at $27,400 per capita in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms. Possibly the CIA is including the guest workers in their division of GDP by population whereas perhaps Follath is not. The CIA lists Arabs as only 40% of Qatar's population. Also, perhaps Follath isn't quoting in PPP terms.

The CIA World Factbook puts the Qatari population at 95% Muslim. I suspect they include foreign workers in that figure and that the foreign workers are overwhelmingly Muslim.

Qatar is mediating between Israel and Hezbollah over the current conflict.

The sources said Qatar, which has not signed a peace treaty with Israel but enjoys friendly ties with the Jewish state, had intensified its diplomacy in recent days directly with Israeli officials and also with Hizbollah through Lebanese officials.

"The Qataris are mediating between Israel and Hizbollah to end the current crisis in Lebanon," one senior political source told Reuters. The sources did not give details.

A US base in Qatar supplied the guided bombs that the US recently rushed to Israel.

The United States will soon provide Israel with some 100 "bunker buster" bombs to kill the leader of Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrilla group and destroy its trenches, Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported on Monday.

Quoting unidentified informed sources in both Washington and Tel Aviv, the Saudi-owned Arabic daily said the bombs, which can penetrate up to 40 metres under ground, would be shipped to Israel from a U.S. military base in Qatar.

Heavily moneyed elites in Arab countries are more tolerant of non-Muslims than their masses. The Qatari rulers will make deals with Israelis, Western oil companies, and the US government while their population looks at the world in very different terms.

I wonder whether the rising popularity of Muslim fundamentalism will eventually pressure elites in the Persian Gulf oil sheikdoms to distance themselves from the US and become even more supportive of the enemies of Israel in Israel's local environment. I also wonder whether Al-Jazeera is feeding a change in attitudes that will eventually bite the Qatari rulers.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 July 30 08:46 PM  Civilizations Clash Of


Comments
John S Bolton said at July 31, 2006 12:59 AM:

These are shaky circumstances for a royal family which has bribed the US military into defending their thrones with a multibillion dollar base in a quite prime location.
Never should a moslem regime be regarded as an ally, though.
They will always betray.
Their willingness to fund terrorists, shows the machiavellian calculations superimposed on a basic moslem affinity and loyalty.


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