Improving the stature of a country and its sustainable development should be the ultimate goal of every head of state and political leader around the world. The means to attain those goals vary from one leader to another, however, with some focusing on improving economic and political relationships and others focusing on cultural or military ones.
Qatari Prince Tamim Bin Hamad Al- Thani has taken an unorthodox route to attaining the goals of expanding the sphere of influence of his statelet far beyond its real capabilities. The end results have been disastrous for the entire region. After the coup d’état led by Tamim’s father, prince Hamad Al-Khalifa, in 1995, the country took steps to enhance its presence in the region through plots to destabilise other Arab governments. Simultaneously, it established its propaganda arm the Aljazeera TV network in 1996, which was generously funded to attain that goal. This TV network, which has changed its initial message from pan-Arab to pan-Islamist, has been the Qatari statelet’s useful tool for over two decades to attain its nefarious goals.
With the fresh Prince Tamim attaining power in Doha in 2013, some argued that he might choose a different path to that of his father, who had become a pariah in the Middle East. Much to their dismay, this fresh prince continued the path of destruction that his father had carved out in the blood of innocents across the region. Qatar’s allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood and its continuing diplomatic, financial and media support for Islamists ranging from the Muslim Brotherhood to the Islamic State (IS) group have become an open secret. Nevertheless, none of the Western powers supporting it have cared enough to hold this terrorist-financing regime responsible and force it to pay for its ill deeds.
The Qataris have greased enough palms in the West, from politicians to the media to established investment funds thorough the Qatar Investment Authority, for this to be unlikely to happen. They have purchased substantial stocks in Western corporations and banks, including in companies such as the UK’s Barclays Bank and department store Harrods and the German carmaker Volkswagen.
Qatar contributed $5.5 billion to the ill-fated Islamist regime of ousted former president Mohamed Morsi in Egypt and donated over $3 billion to the Syrian opposition and jihadists in its aim to topple the regime led by President Bashar Al-Assad in Syria. Both ventures failed to reach their goals, and it was always mad for the Qataris to think that they could have a say in Egypt’s politics and could run things in the country simply because they had helped an Islamist to power. Qatar’s having a say in the domestic affairs of Egypt would be the equivalent of the Caribbean island of Haiti having a say in United States affairs. It is a nonsensical and unattainable idea.
Prince Tamim claims that his country has an independent political stance from the rest of the Middle East and the countries of the Arab League. The truth remains that under his leadership Qatar remains a vassal state of the US and other Western powers, including in this case Turkey. These powers have military bases in Qatar, and Tamim is banking on these to protect his flimsy throne from domestic and regional threats. Some observers have mocked the Qatari military as being only the fifth-strongest military force in Qatar.
It has to be a political farce that a regime categorised as an absolute monarchy that has financed Islamist terrorist activities across the world and is known to have suppressed any dissidents at home while abusing slave labour on its soil is at the same time preaching democracy in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Tamim never ceases to play the victimisation card, claiming that his terrorist-sponsoring state is the “victim of boycotts” enforced by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, while never mentioning the fact that his country is interfering in the domestic affairs of the latter countries and even orchestrating terrorist activities within them.
His country has established a policy of shamefully endorsing violence in and even the invasions of other states, as in the case of Syria. The latest shameful Qatari stance was its rejection of moves to condemn the barbaric Turkish invasion of northern Syria and the massacres that followed, despite the fact that over 600 Kurds were killed and over 160,000 people displaced in the first week of the Turkish campaign.
Following in his father’s footsteps, the fresh prince of Doha has become a pariah in international diplomatic meetings. During his meeting with US President Donald Trump, for example, he attempted to emphasise his country’s importance to the United States and stress that it was somehow a better ally than Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Trump referred to the fact that Qatar had paid the enormous sum of $8 billion to upgrade the American airbase of Al-Udeid in Doha in order to keep the Americans interested in keeping their forces there, which in turn secures the rule of the Al-Thani family.
However, during his most recent meeting with the Qatari prince, Trump said that he would rather finish the discussions they were having then and there, rather than wait for another day, indicating that he has little time for this fresh prince. Another incident of disregard was shown when French President Emmanuel Macron reluctantly shook the hand of Tamim after the latter had delivered a speech on the UN Climate Convention in September 2019.
Prince Tamim may not realise that the likes of Trump and Macron are fully aware of the destructive role Qatar has been playing in radicalising Muslims in their countries through funding for NGOs and other institutions to spread Islamist rhetoric. Moreover, both the US and French leaders are aware that Qatar has financed around 28 different terrorist and jihadist groups across the Middle East region. It remains the hub of fugitives and wanted terrorists from the Muslim Brotherhood all the way to Al-Qaeda and IS, with members of these groups all having found shelter in the tiny statelet.
“The sinews of war are money” said the ancient Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero, and this saying can be applied to Qatar’s bizarre spending spree on military conflicts and terrorism across the region, which is now starting to affect the Qatari economy. For instance, in its strategy to buy influence in Western countries such as the US, UK, France and Italy through signing arms deals, Qatar’s attempt to buy 24 Typhoon fighters from the United Kingdom as part of a contract signed in 2017 was put on hold when it was found that the Qataris were late in paying their instalments to the British.
According to sources, Qatar is now attempting to float a loan of $4 billion to finance the Typhoon contract. If this proves anything, it shows that there is a limit to the Qatari abilities to finance the chaos that it has been instigating in the Middle East and worldwide. This is already taking its toll on the Qatari economy, especially since the facilities for the World Cup to be held in Qatar in 2020 are far from being completed.
It is becoming increasingly hard for historians to document the curious case of the Qatari state and its bizarre royal family headed by fresh prince of Doha Tamim. With a father and a mother, princess Moza, who are deeply invested in interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries in the Middle East, the Qatari Royal Family now resembles a kind of Middle Eastern Addams Family, made famous in the American TV series. They rejoice in the macabre atrocities that are taking place in the region, though they lack the humour that characterised the famous American series.
The delusions of the fresh prince of Doha will likely meet the same fate as those of his ally Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as they will bring him nothing but condemnation and make Qatar an enemy to the other countries of the Middle East.
The writer is a political analyst and author of Egypt’s Arab Spring and the Winding Road to Democracy.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 October, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.