July 3, 2015
Qatar Changes Course – Hussein Ibish
For the past 20 years Qatar has tried to leverage its vast energy wealth to build and project its influence throughout the Middle East. Now, however, a rapprochement between Qatar and its former rival, Saudi Arabia, marks a generational shift in strategic thinking. Qatar’s regional strategy has focused on promoting Muslim Brotherhood parties throughout the Arab world, as reflected in the state-owned Al Jazeera television news network, as well as in Doha’s financial support for Brotherhood groups, including Hamas in Gaza. But this approach provoked tensions with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both of which declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
After reaching an agreement with the Saudis in November 2014, Qatar has notably reduced its support for Hamas, and there has been an exodus of Brotherhood leaders from Doha. At the same time, Qatar is by far the most generous donor country investing in Gaza’s reconstruction. This has contributed to a thaw in relations with Israel, which cautiously welcomes Qatar’s investments in Gaza and its efforts to broker a long-term cease-fire. In March, Qatar’s representative in Gaza, Mohammed al-Emadi, praised Israel for facilitating Gaza reconstruction.
With Tehran and Washington moving toward a nuclear agreement, if not a broader rapprochement, Qatar’s interest lies in closer ties with Gulf Cooperation Council allies, rather than going it alone. The writer is a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. (New York Times)