Qatar has become one of the most influential players in the Gulf region. Known for its breakneck development in infrastructure, the successful bid for the 2022 World Cup, expansive energy investments abroad and its role in supporting Islamist groups, Qatar is now an activist foreign policy player that is set to come under even more of an international spotlight in the coming years.
In a new ECFR policy brief – “Qatar’s leadership transition: like father, like son” – Andrew Hammond looks at why Qatar has defied expectations in its ties to Islamist groups and assesses the main domestic and foreign policy challenges facing Qatar under the new leadership of Tamim. Here are some of the policy predictions:
- The leadership will reorder domestic policy to more closely reflect ordinary Qatari concerns over rapid development preceding the 2022 World Cup, while pulling back on only some of the spectacle of foreign policy and overseas investment drives since 1995.
- Qatar’s vast natural gas resources will ensure it a place in the energy security of many countries for years to come.
- The leadership will continue to criticise Egypt for its security crackdown against the political Muslim Brotherhood opposition and detention of ousted president Morsi, adding to the sense of antagonism already present between Qatar and Egypt along with Egypt’s Saudi and Emirati backers.
- Qatar’s innovation in dealing with Arab politics has been to identify ‘political Islam’ movement as the political centre, as part of a wider effort to affect a new Arab renaissance. As such, it will continue to support the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, arguing that it is the only moderate Islamist force that the West can and should deal with.
- Doha will remain an “oasis of Islamism” within the Gulf and the wider Arab world, a place where Islamist parties can regularly meet and influence public discourse through Qatar’s pan-Arab media arm Al Jazeera.
“Qatar has the contacts and the sway, built up over years, with Islamist movements, and there is no sign that it will withdraw its conviction that political Islam remains at the heart of Arab politics.The new leadership intends to continue on its path of carving out a very distinct and independent political, economic, religious, and cultural identity for Qatar. The country will remain in a position to support the EU in its engagement with the Gulf and the region through its ties to Islamist movements and its relationship with the smaller Gulf states that have resisted Saudi entreaties to distance themselves from Iran.” - Andrew Hammond