Sergio Restelli

Qatar, a small emirate with big games

Emir of Qatar: Shiekh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Source

Qatar leverages its economic advantages and its image of modernity to interact with the West while continuing to raise disturbing questions in the international geopolitical landscape, having honed its ability to seduce it through a mix of economic advantages and a sophisticated international image. Money seems to be the key to everything, a currency that buys tolerance and influence, at least superficially. Today, with Hamas’s leadership living lavish lives in Doha while calling for a global jihad and planning the murder of innocent Israeli civilians, it is important to understand Qatar’s emir, a man who has seduced everyone from the Taliban to Biden, Modi to Netanyahu.

Qatar’s corporate management of international politics is remarkable. With advertising campaigns, image of modernity and promotion of the free market, Qatar seems to be a paradigm of progress in an Islamic world often characterised by feudal structures and radical rhetoric. Behind this facade of modernity and progress however, several ambiguities persist. Even though elections are organised and women can run for office, final decisions are always in the hands of the emir.

With cameras (of Al Jazeera) and crews Qatar led the Arab Spring and the Syrian civil war. And today the only TV station delivering live the drama of Gaza, is Qatar, the voice of the Hamas terrorists.

The charities, the pious donors, the charitable funds: revolutionary and terrorist jihadism has filled its pockets and arsenal by drawing on this large anonymous bank which has served to keep in the shadows the state, the emir, the monarch thus  buying the tolerance of the fanatics with machine guns or extending their influence.

For example, many suspicions have fallen on “Qatar Charity” which has been accused of being the chief financier of al-Nusra, the Syrian version of al Qaeda. Who acted as mediator for the release of hostages held by Syrian Islamists? “Qatar charity”.

Qatar has the secret to seducing us Westerners: the economic advantages and the veneer, the image. For the emir, the world is a purchasable universe, a language that we, the west, understand very well. What could be more attractive for western consumerism than finding a country managed paternally like an international company, in the middle of the  Islamic world between feudal dynasties and religious imams? Qatar corp: a company with effective communication, free market, advertising campaigns, which organises elections where women are also candidates; but none are elected and the last word still belongs to the emir.

A Singapore with minarets. Where even Allah’s terrorists seem like harmless business partners. Everywhere you turn in these troubled times, where there is an ongoing crisis, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani pops up as your savior. Is there no stopping the civil war in Libya? Qatar is keeping the ramshackle Napoleon of Benghazi, General Haftar, on his feet after having supported Ben hadi’s Islamist militias.

Who is able to talk to the pestiferous Taliban and help them find the keys to take Kabul back twenty years later? Apparently, the emir, who offers the ceremonially composed and discreet space of Doha for talks and accords with the US.

Palestine is in flames, there is a risk of a Third World War: who can talk to everyone, Israeli government, the Hamas terrorists, Iran’s Ayatollahs and the White House? Who can call Al Sisi, the Saudi Prince Mohamed bin Salman, Khamenei, Erdogan, Biden and Abu Mazen? Always the emir Tamim bin Thani, who sponsors Paris Saint Germain and the Muslim Brotherhood-both friends.

War breaks out in Ukraine, does Europe want to switch from Russian gas? Don’t worry: the helpful Qatar is ready to help, in exchange for influence and a small surcharge. Who else managed to bring Hamas to power in Gaza with the consent of Israel itself which believed it was weakening the other Palestinians?

Guerrillas and heads of state, banks and rabble-rousers all over the planet invoke him. The scandal shaking the European Parliament is called “Qatargate”. Does former French president Sarkozy get in trouble for his election campaign’s slush funds? Qatar obviously is behind it all. The FIFA World Cup: a huge success! And yet, behind, the inevitable, human trafficking, accusations, shadows, slave workers…

Obviously everything ends in nothing. Money money always money…
The eleven thousand kilometers of surface area, in the time of the empire of the internet, Qatar has become the largest country on the planet.

It just sentenced 8 Indian former navy officers to death, with bizzarre charges of spying for Israel with no clear process. Qatar now challenges the worlds largest and most populous country, even though almost a million Indians hold Qatar together working at various levels and it supplies almost half of India’s gas.

Is Qatar becoming too arrogant? Only time will tell.

About the Author
Sergio Restelli is an Italian political advisor, author and geopolitical expert. He served in the Craxi government in the 1990's as the special assistant to the deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Martelli and worked closely with anti-mafia magistrates Falcone and Borsellino. Over the past decades he has been involved in peace building and diplomacy efforts in the Middle East and North Africa. He has written for Geopolitica and several Italian online and print media. In 2020 his first fiction "Napoli sta bene" was published.
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