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Qatar’s radical Islamists support jeopardizes its future — analyst

17:35 | 02.12.2014 | Analytic

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2 December 2014. PenzaNews. Qatar’s support of radical Islamist groups endangered the country’s prosperity, writes Edward Stevenson, journalist, policy and economy researcher, in his article titled “Qatar and the need for a longer-term strategy” published in foreign media.

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He recalls that Qatar moved away from its traditional role as a mediator in its foreign relations soon after the beginning of mass protests in North Africa and the Middle East.

As a result, according to the political analyst, a paradox took place: a rich country that adopted Sunni Islam that advocates subservience to rulers as its state religion began actively supporting extremist groups.

“They are supportive of the US-led efforts to tackle extremism in the Middle East, arguably going further than any other regional partner by providing the Americans with a military base through which to launch operations, whilst at the same time financing and assisting some of the main proponents of this extremism,” Edward Stevenson stresses.

In his opinion, Qatar, a small state of only 11.5 sq. km, began providing help to radical Islamists in attempt to expand its influence in the region and avert the possibility of being dominated by the neighbors.

“This became most apparent in 2011 with the onset of the Arab Spring, which provided Doha with the perfect opportunity to attempt a more interventionist approach,” the journalist thinks.

At the same time, he notes that these actions were presented as acts of support to brotherly Arabs stepping up against the yoke of autocracy and tyranny. Under this pretext, Doha began funding and arming populist movements in several countries, such as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and others.

“In reality Qatar’s involvement in the conflicts was a calculated attempt to identify and back the eventual winners with the hope of securing influence and leverage in these newly ‘democratized’ states,” the political analyst stresses.

In his opinion, Qatar chose Islamists because they were better organized and therefore had more chances to exploit public discontent to gain power, but made no detailed research of their group objectives and ideologies.

However, as Edward Stevenson presumes, Qatar itself was well protected from the wave of public discontent in the region, and the risk of a revolution is minuscule even now: the people of Qatar, benefiting from the highest GDP per capita in the world, became too rich to protest.

At the same time, he thinks the Qatar authorities were far-sighted enough to see the danger a disenfranchised minority may pose to the state, and took timely efforts to improve the social standing of Shia Muslims. According to the journalist, this was the step that helped avoid the Iraq-style instability in the country.

Discussing the external policy situation, Edward Stevenson notes that the countries of the Middle East were put in disbelief and even in shock by Doha’s support of anti-government groups, while several Arabic countries held a deep grudge against Qatar after the latter’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Libya.

“The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members and, in particular, Saudi Arabia believe that they represent a serious threat to their legitimacy. One only need look at the speed and scale of the GCC response to the downfall of the Morsi Government in Egypt, which saw them provide massive budgetary support for the subsequent military administration,” the author stresses.

At the same time, as Edward Stevenson recalls, Qatar failed to consolidate on the successes of its campaign to fund opposition forces. In his opinion, it required a perfect and thoroughly coordinated combination of external diplomacy and control over transitory states. However, Doha, over-reliant on its financial power, did not have enough political influence to capitalize on the situation.

At the end of the day, from the journalist’s point of view, Qatar’s actions not only contributed to the chaos and instability in the region, but also put the country at a disadvantage. Among other things, their support of the Muslim Brotherhood led to a diplomatic breakup with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, and significantly worsened relations with other GCC countries.

“Qatar is now faced with the prospect of international purgatory. Having failed in its efforts to re-position itself on the international stage, it has also done damage to itself as an effective mediator,” Edward Stevenson writes.

He also suspects that loss of international trust is much more of a threat to Qatar at present than a lack of power in geopolitical conflicts.

According to him, the situation in Ukraine led to significant changes in energy area that may significantly undermine the economy of Qatar that heavily relies on energy exports.

In Edward Stevenson’s opinion, these changes increased the importance of the Qatar Investment Authority that made several big investments in profitable assets all over Europe.

“It would be naive to think that Western leaders are not aware of the glaringly obvious fact that they are simultaneously financing organizations that would happily destroy these very same landmarks and anything else synonymous with Western entrepreneurship and ingenuity,” he writes.

Meanwhile, as the political analyst points out, Europe became much less reluctant to use sanctions even when it means dealing damage to itself, which became especially apparent during the Ukrainian conflict and diplomatic struggle with Russia.

“If the activities of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund were to be restricted, this would become a serious problem,” Edward Stevenson concludes.

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