Saturday 21 January 2012 - 08:18

Qatar building a brand in ME?

Story Code : 131982
Qatar building a brand in ME?
In a bold but, as some would like to call, not necessarily calculated move, Doha has asked for the intervention of Arab forces to quell the situation in Syria. The idea that has no supporters among the Syrian public, even among a portion of Assad opposition, as the country's foreign minister Walid Al-Muallem says.

Something that can well be suspected at this juncture is whether the call for sending troops is coming from Doha itself or is it coming from elsewhere, parties who do not wish to be at the forefront of war with another Arab state but would like to have a hand in shaping a post-Assad Syria the way it accommodates them better.

Qatar, after all, has once openly backed a military intervention in Libya by its “almost limitless cash” and fighter jets and intelligence work it provided for NATO and assistance to the now not very much favored revolutionaries' leader Abdel Hakim Belhadj.

It seems likely at this stage that the tiny Persian Gulf country is willing to upgrade its role by one notch and make a war commencer. Given sending troops to Bahrain by some Arab states last year, without asking the UN first, did not raise many eyebrows among themselves, gives Qatar more comfort in thinking that nothing major will happen if this time Doha takes the lead in invading another Arab state.

But why would a small Arab country with almost 300,000 citizens that is apparently the richest in the World by some observations (with a income per capita of more than USD 90,000) bother to entangle itself in issues that at times take its King as far as Nouakchott in Mauritania to deliver a 'few words of advice'!?

Truth is that countries like Qatar have long been waiting for an opportunity to re-establish themselves in the world public opinion. A transformation perhaps from just a small Arab oil nation to an international player, peace broker, kingmaker or whatever they desire to be recognized as.

The other underlying reason is the rivalry it seemingly has with the Arab World's powerhouse, Saudi Arabia. The Bahrain troop deployment by Riyadh, as mentioned, gives Doha some leeway to shift gear and overtake via its Syria bids.

On the other hand, the two kingdoms have time and again accused one another of plotting to overthrow the ruling system of the other country; a role that has worried the Saudis, given Qatar's media activities that many consider as a big boost to the toppling of the Arab despots in their nations' uprising.

However, despite being rivals, the two, allegedly, seem to agree on the fact that their safe passage in Damascus is through fortifying Al-Qaeda elements and Salafists inside and outside Syria. Bear in mind that the recent major bombings in Syria that killed more than 70 and injured hundreds is blamed on such groups.

Another argument as to why Qatar is becoming what it is trying to turn into, which seems to be very much the case recently, can be viewed through its relations, secret, open and revealed, with Israel. Meeting with Israel's top officials and inviting Israeli sports teams to Doha and, no question, hoisting Israel's flag in the Qatari location of these sports events tell of a new era of Doha-Tel Aviv relations.

However, economic relations that Qatar's king, at least on the surface, has on mind with Israel might well one day result in Israeli espionage elements infiltrating not only his kingdom's intelligence apparatus, thus affecting in some ways Doha's future international ambitions, but letting Israel come closer to the heart of the region's security, specially that of the Persian Gulf. A concern that seems justified given the United States major air bases in Qatar.

As mentioned, Doha seems busy re-creating itself as a new world player. Hosting the soccer World cup in 2022 (regardless of the controversies surrounding the issue), posing like an Arab population liberator and openly portraying itself as fund provider (of astronomical amount) for toppling the not so long ago friendly regimes, together with its massive media work are Qatar's 21st century tools to emerge as, wrong or right, a brand it sees itself capable of becoming.

But as modern-thinking and democratic-looking as Qatar wants to be perceived, one has to remember how the current King Hamad himself came to power in 1995. He plotted a coup against his own father!

Although he tends to refer to that as “Qatar's uprising”, the fact of the matter is that his critics described what happened in 95 as anything but uprising.

Meanwhile, observing how Doha behaves today, especially with regards to Libya and now Syria, however speaking of a profound change the country's international standing is experiencing, begs the question of how can a system, itself not democratically chosen, uphold democracy and liberation the way it does?

Following the recent positions expressed by Qatar regarding sending troops to Syria, one can easily guess the extent of the bad terms that exist between the two sides. Some observers say the Qatari king must somehow be sure of Syrian President Assad's toppling to have spoken in such terms. The fact of the matter, however, is that if Assad stays in power, Qatar has guaranteed a relatively strong arch enemy in the region.

Perhaps Qatari officials are counting on assistance from extra regional powers, parties that have obviously assured Doha of their backing, if things get out of hand.

Yet, having watched the turn of events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, there should exist serious concern and doubt in Doha about this foreign support. The same powers had said many times to the Bin Ali, Gaddafi and Mubarak regimes that they would be more than happy to offer their support at difficult times.

What happened in reality is no secret today.