When Qatar Dreamt Big
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak must realize by now that he miscalculated when he reportedly uttered, “Why should I pay attention to a country with the population of a small hotel?”
A few years later Qatar boasted its diplomatic triumph by aiding the Muslim Brotherhood – the Islamist group Qatar aided during the height of the Arab Spring’s Egyptian episode. Albeit a few could envision the future initially, Qatar did not take much time to put its faith in Morsi’s party. After all, Qatar dreams big. Indeed Qatar’s vision is now paying off.
Once a tiny state described as the Gulf’s backwater has now emerged as a regional economic hub. Making best use of its massive offshore petroleum resources, Qatar has changed its desert-sandy landscapes to the home of boldly designed skyscrapers soaring towards to sky. Furthermore, the whole region has witnessed some of the biggest investments made by Qatar in promoting education. Qatari leadership has pragmatically turned Qatar into a global education destination. A couple of world’s leading universities including the some of the prestigious Ivy-league colleges find their new campuses in Qatar Education City. In addition, Qatar Foundation, which has been set up to give impetus to innovation, aims to put Qatar in the drivers seat to force changes across the region.
Qatar has revived the region’s status as leader in education and innovation rooted in ancient Muslim history. The whole world has welcomed Qatar’s visionary projects as long as it does not export radicalism and extremism. Also, secured by the American airbase, Qatar per se has nothing to worry about.
This favorable playground might have spurred adventurism in Qatari Emir’s council. In order to become a leading global actor in the international political arena, Qatar appears somewhat nosy.
When the embattled Arab leaders stricken by uprisings were relentlessly endeavoring to control the reigns of the Arab Springs, Qatar, much to the chagrin of many, came forward to aid the oppositions both in Tunisia and Egypt. Not only that, Qatar appeared as a decisive factor in toppling Gaddafi from his presidency. After achieving its goals a more confident Qatar thought it could steer the Syrian revolt and put President Bashar al-Assad out to the pasture. Having failed to broker a negotiation between the Assad administration and free Syrian Army in 2011, Qatar became more desperate to bring the Syrian conflict to an end.
The people in the region question Qatari backed Al Jazeera’s news coverage of the regional conflict. Furthermore, the Qatari media has started to offer broad coverage of the Syrian conflict since the Emirate could not bring about any solution it outlined in the Doha summit. Some in the Middle East question Qatar’s interventionism.
Countries beyond the Middle East are not happy with Qatar’s enthusiasm. Qatar’s announcement to host a Taliban office in its capital came as a surprise. Despite Qatar’s best intentions to host talks between the United States, the Taliban, and the Karzai administration, the Taliban’s unprecedented behavior provoked diplomatic tensions. Taliban raised its own flag and opened its office using the official name of Afghanistan from the Taliban era. After Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s furious reaction and the American apathy, Qatar promptly made the Taliban not to cross the line. However, that has already been delayed. In turn, it has revealed Qatar’s lack of diplomatic preparation.
Back in 2010, when Qatar was named the host of FIFA 2022, many nations found Qatar’s lobbying surprising. Even Qatar’s biggest ally, President Barack Obama, did not hesitate to say that FIFA had made “the wrong decision” in bestowing Qatar with the lucrative World Cup hosting.
Qatar has of late witnessed a transition of power even if there has been no pressure on the former Emir to step down. The new leadership in Qatar is assumed to be better versed in diplomacy and policy-making. The next few months will be telling whether Qatar is prepared to go even further in tipping the balance against Assad and be a larger power player in the region.