Thursday, 27 June 2013

Qatar’s new, young emir won’t lose step with Washington

Doha’s bite can be felt hard in the foreign policy arena, particularly in Syria, where it has been the principle arms supplier to the Al-Qaeda-linked militants fighting Assad. How will Qatar policies shift as the Gulf’s youngest leader takes the throne?

If we judge leaders by their cutthroat survivalist credentials, Qatar’s outgoing Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani is arguably the political equivalent of Bear Grylls. The deep-pocketed monarch came to power in 1995 after overthrowing his own father in a palace coup while the latter was vacationing in Switzerland, and promptly altered the kingdom’s economic policies, giving rise to a boom in the development of natural gas and rapid economic development.

Qataris, part of a citizen population of fewer than 250,000 people, went from living in Bedouin tents scattered across the searing desert landscape to futuristic glass skyscrapers that dominate the capital, Doha, after the gas-boom; they pay no taxes and receive free or highly - subsidized social services. Qatar has amassed enormous material wealth since Hamad took the throne; its economy has grown from $8 billion in 1995 to over $174 billion, but now he’s passing the torch down to his 33-year-old son, Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, who officially inherited power on June 25.

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Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at