Should we be more worried about Qatar?

In class I’ve been hearing an increasing number of vague references to the Middle East when discussing different aspects of autocratic rule and realist notions of power politics. Which is apt considering how ISIL is spreading regionally. And generally such a response is relevant considering just how strangely the lines blur in the Middle East between allies and enemies. The countries mentioned range from Iran and Iraq to Syria and Saudi Arabia and the different permutations of supporters and enemies and supporters who are rivals with your supporters is comical as many have pointed out. But there is one country that has been under the radar for quite a while that is worth mention and has recently begun to rear its head, Qatar.

In recent years Qatar has made strides in displaying their diplomatic prowess despite being a relatively benign country without a very strong military. This began with the Arab Spring, particularly when it joined NATO’s intervention in Libya in 2011. Today this very smooth diplomatic campaign continues as Qatar maintains ties and gains clout throughout the region and in the West by at least attempting to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and helping secure the release of American Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban.

The speculation behind some of the earlier activity and goodwill of Qatar included the notion that Qatar’s activism has grown based their desire to have a more positive influence in the region. First, against Qaddafi’s regime in Libya and then by sending funds to support the Free Syrian Army against Assad. Throughout the summer though this façade began to crumble as it became clear that Qatar’s influence may not be as positive or as benign as previously thought. This was first seen when they allowed the Taliban to open an office in Doha back in June and later played host to Hamas leaders Haniyeh and Mashaal during the conflict in Gaza throughout the summer.

To recount, this means that since 2008 Qatar has been involved in Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Gaza. It seems Qatar has managed to dip its fingers into a little bit of everything throughout the Middle East and North Africa. But what does this behavior mean and should we be concerned? Is this newfound activist policy Qatar has been employing as well meaning as it claims or is Qatar attempting to grow to the likes of Saudi Arabia and Iran as a regional power? And what could a a region with such strong candidates for a multipolar system mean for the future of international conflict?

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12 thoughts on “Should we be more worried about Qatar?

  1. Very interesting points, I would be inclined to believe this is Qatar trying to grow as a regional power, sort of playing as many sides as it can. We will just have to wait and see how much more involved it becomes and what other moves they make as at this point it is unclear what their true intentions are.

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  2. I agree that it seems like Qatar is trying to grow as a regional power and spread its influence in the Middle East. If this is the case I am afraid that it is only going to work against them in the long run if they don´t play their cards right. Other states might get suspiscious not knowing their true intentions. We´ve seen from history and, by applying a realist perspective, that changes in the balance of power is not very popular on the internatioal arena. Qatar´s reacent increas in activities around the area must have some sort of purpose but what it is is yet to come..

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  3. Interesting post. I think it’s important (and I applaud you for) to sort of “out” Qatar for flying under the radar. It would have been interesting if you could have touched upon how this activity has effected it in negotiations or relationships with other states, may they be Western, Middle Eastern, Central Asian ect. Just to see if their are any hints of states reacting positively or negatively to Qatar’s actions. For instance, do states feel more threatened or the need for a stronger alliance? I think that would have been a very interesting analysis, as well as a great way to weave in the material from class.

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  4. While it is true that Qatar has been dabbling in the affairs of nations in its region, I disagree that it has aspirations of becoming a regional power. My reasoning for this is that Qatar stands no chance of reaching the same level as Saudi Arabia or Iran based on its material capabilities. Becoming a regional power in the sense of multipolarity requires more than being active. There has to be a level of power and influence behind any action for it to be noteworthy.

    Compared to the regional powers in the Middle East, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Qatar is a minuscule nation. It has a population of a little over 2 million people, compared to 30 million in Saudi Arabia and 77 million in Iran. It has a significant degree of wealth, with a GDPPC far higher than those of its rivals, but wealth can only do so much in power politics. Size, resources, population, and military prowess are all elements that need to be considered, and Qatar is lacking in all aspects.

    That’s not to say that Qatar does not have aspirations to be a player in the Middle East. It certainly is making moves towards increasing its influence. But Qatar is much more comparable to Belgium or the Netherlands in Europe than it is to France or Germany. It has wealth, but a small population and a small degree of resources. It can’t compare to its larger neighbors when it comes to power. I don’t think that Qatar stands a chance of becoming a regional power, and I think that Qatar’s leaders know this. I’d attribute its recent forays into international politics to be a statement reminding the Middle East that Qatar exists and is a player, if not necessarily the strongest player.

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  5. Interesting of you to shine the spotlight on Qatar. I’ve been hearing very little about their involvement in this quagmire in comparison to countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran (which may be my own fault).

    Personally, I’ve found Turkey’s attitude to ISIS to be most interesting. The recent breaking of a ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government and the refusal of the Turkish government to view ISIS as a greater threat than the PKK are worth noting. Likewise, the US has done nothing to assist the Kurdish fighters in Kobane and the Kurds have been left to fight away ISIS on their own. This is mostly due to their political strategy of attacking key ISIS strongholds as opposed to using US air power for humanitarian means.

    Needless to say, many powers in the region have ulterior motives beyond stopping a violent extremist group. This article actually brought up some interesting points regarding Obama’s attempt to create an alliance of middle eastern states against ISIS.
    http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/the-seige-of-kobani-obamas-syrian-fiasco-at-work/?utm_source=wysija&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Mailing+List+Sunday+10+AM

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    • Thank you for your comment! When you provide a link, especially not from a news source, please provide a quick explanation of the source and what it contributes to the discussion. One important skill in blogging (and writing in general!) is to use sources critically.

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  6. This is interesting and I think you are right that Qatar is generally ignored when the middle east is discussed. I am curious to see what the motives and ultimate goals of Qatar are and how they play into the future of middle east stability. Iran has accused Qatar of funding certain separatist groups in their country and I am sure that other states have accused Qatar of doing things similar in the past. We will have to see what the future holds regarding Qatar’s role in the international system.

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  7. I feel that the more Middle Eastern countries interact with each other the better. If they are willing to work with one and other it may lead to a more stable region. Having the ability to influence their region in any positive manner is only beneficial to all. It just opens new routes of conversation, and the more people at the table talking, leaves less unknown about what countries are thinking and doing throughout the region.

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  8. Interesting post and interesting debate about Qatar itself. It is crazy though, that the country and its policies are significantly more diplomatic than many other Middle Eastern countries. It makes me wonder how and why their culture is so dramatically different, even though it was established along the same lines as many other countries in that area.

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    • I definitely agree that there must be some significant difference there and something about your post has definitely sparked my interest. Though I agree with someone’s comment above that Qatar may not be capable of reaching quite the same power as Iran or Saudi Arabia the notion that this active diplomacy is caused by a cultural difference piqued my interest. I am also a communications major and last semester I took an Intercultural communication class where we discussed how the cultures of different countries varied and how this shaped how we communicate with people from Qatar on an interpersonal level and how best to work with them. We used Hofstede’s dimensions to measure these differences but specifically regarding Middle Eastern countries outdated versions implied that Middle Eastern countries all had the same culture. (Or at least were so close culturally that they did not need to be scaled separately.) This is no longer the case but when I checked back on their website for the most current dimensions, Qatar is not a country that has been evaluated on their scale. I did try to compare other countries here: http://geert-hofstede.com/saudi-arabia.html but I suppose Qatar will have to remain a mystery. Many other Middle Eastern countries appear on this data tool so if you are interested in further research on this topic Hofstede’s dimensions are definitely worth looking over.

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  9. I really like that you bring up Qatar because they are an interesting nation to look at in the region. While this class is obviously more devoted to power politics and looking at realist approached due to its nature, I think that Qatar needs to be looked at in a more liberal internationalist perspective. Simply due to its size it will never wield as much military power as a state like Iran or Saudi Arabia however it has proven that it is willing to be a major player in international and regional affairs. While its strength may not be in size or military it has the worlds third highest natural gas reserves and according to the IMF has the worlds highest GDP per capita, beating out the next highest by more than $50,000 per capita. This has allowed it to exert its influence in much more subtle ways. it has a high level of development and as such has levels of human capital that easily beat out its regional neighbors. It’s state owned media corporation Al-Jazera is one of the largest in the world and has a massive diplomatic corps. I think Qatar will become much more important to not only regional politics but global politics as time goes on, we will especially see how they come into their own on the global stage as the 2022 FIFA world cup comes closer and international attention is focused on the small country

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