Qatar at World Cup pinnacle after years of Mideast turmoil

Qatar at World Cup pinnacle after years of Mideast turmoil

Qatar at World Cup pinnacle after years of Mideast turmoil

Hosting the World Cup is a major milestone in Qatar’s aspirations to assert itself as a major player in the Middle Eastern area, a region where its politics and its ambitious newcomers have drawn world attention and regional ire.

Qatar at World Cup pinnacle after years of Mideast turmoil

Qatar at World Cup pinnacle after years of Mideast turmoil

The rapid rise of Qatar as a leading natural gas exporter paved the way for the event and boosted the country’s international profile. Doha was able to expand its diplomatic ties with the rest of the globe and construct the stadiums that would be packed with people throughout the tournament thanks to the money it received from hosting the event.

However, this ascent has not been without mystery. Qatar’s more forceful ruler, appointed in a palace coup in 1995, exploited the country’s resources to support the Islamists who emerged stronger during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. These were the same individuals that his other Gulf Arab leaders saw as challenges to his reign. Near war broke out in 2017 as a result of a blockade of Qatar that had been going on for years by four Arab states.

Qatar certainly believes the World Cup will help strengthen its position as it balances its ties overseas to hedge against any potential risk to the nation, despite the fact that overt tensions in the area have subsided.

Gerd Nonneman, a professor of international politics and Gulf Arab studies at Georgetown University in Qatar, stated, “They know there are these possible risks; they know they are extremely susceptible.” They will do everything it takes to build a global support base, if not full-fledged allies.

Size-wise, Qatar is comparable to that of Jamaica or the U.S. state of Connecticut; geographically, it is a peninsula that protrudes into the Persian Gulf like the thumb of your hand. Bordering Saudi Arabia, a country 185 times its size, and across the Gulf from Iran, this country has a mere 60 km (37 mi) to call its own.

The world-famous Harrods department store in London, the Paris Saint-Germain soccer club, and billions of dollars’ worth of real estate in New York City are all owned by Qatar via its sovereign wealth fund. Its income stems from exports of liquefied natural gas to Asian countries including China, India, Japan, and South Korea through an offshore field it shares with Iran.

In 1997, when two huge events rocked Qatar, the faucet of riches started to pour. Doha and other Gulf Arab governments recognised the necessity for a long-term American military presence as a hedge after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the ensuing 1991 Gulf War, according to Kristian Ulrichsen, a research fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute.

The huge Al-Udeid Air Base was constructed by Qatar and is now the forward headquarters of the United States Central Command, housing roughly 8,000 American soldiers.
Second, in 1995, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani usurped control from his absent father in a bloodless coup. Later, in 1996, his cousin attempted a coup, but it was put down by Sheikh Hamad.

Al Jazeera, the satellite news network, was founded in Qatar during the reign of Sheikh Hamad and became internationally famous for broadcasting statements by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Despite the fact that it gave Arabs a new option beyond bland state-controlled TV, the United States raged against it following the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq.

Qatar was selected as the host country for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in December 2010. Only two weeks later, a fruit vendor in Tunisia lit himself on fire in protest and eventually died from his injuries, setting off the events of the Arab Spring in 2011.

A turning point in Qatar’s history. The government increased its support for Islamists around the region, notably the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, who was elected Egypt’s president following the ouster of longstanding tyrant Hosni Mubarak. Doha provided substantial finance to Syrian opposition organisations, including those that the United States ultimately labelled radicals, such as the Islamic State.

Despite its long-standing denials of backing extremists, Qatar continues to maintain links with the Palestinian terrorist organisation Hamas, which administers the Gaza Strip and serves as an intermediary between Hamas and Israel. However, experts suggest that there was an awareness that the pace of events may have been too rapid.

“They are now seeing the folly of their early and too bold… and they started readjusting it,” Nonneman added.

There was a rapid transition from spring to winter throughout the Arab world. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a military officer turned president, was installed in Egypt in July 2013 after a counterrevolution sponsored by other Gulf Arab powers.

The ruling family of Qatar recognised the need for a generational shift and installed Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Sheikh Hamad’s son, as the country’s new leader a little over a week ago.

However, anger among the Arab nations of the Gulf persisted. During a diplomatic spat with Qatar in 2014 over Doha’s alleged backing for Islamist extremists, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates all withdrew their envoys before recalling them eight months later.

However, in 2017, after then-President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, those three countries and Egypt initiated a years-long blockade of Qatar, cutting off air travel and commercial links even while building on the stadiums proceeded.

The late ruler of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, who was mediating the disagreement, said at one point that “military action” was a possibility without providing details.

The conflict was resolved as President-elect Joe Biden was about to take office, but regional tensions persist. Nonetheless, Qatar is playing host to U.S.-Taliban talks and aiding the U.S. exit from Afghanistan. The crisis in Ukraine has brought European politicians to Doha in the hopes of securing more natural gas in light of Russia’s aggression.

The focus has returned to them, Ulrichsen said. Having this information “gives them a voice in decision making.”



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Qatar at World Cup pinnacle after years of Mideast turmoil
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