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Qatar, Middle East 'Market Maker'

Qatar is modeling its foreign policy on a dream to become the Belgium of a Muslim Brotherhood league of states.
Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani (R) stands next to his son Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani before the Emir Cup final match between Al-Sadd and Al-Rayyan at Khalifa stadium in Doha May 18, 2013. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad (QATAR - Tags: SPORT SOCCER ROYALS POLITICS) - RTXZRXO
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To understand Qatar is to understand angst. The leadership in Qatar’s first order of business, after Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani deposed his father to take the throne in 1995, was to ensure its sovereignty both domestically and internationally. After many years of following the Saudi narrative, the new emir decided to pursue a different set of policies that would ensure the recognition of this new chapter. To complicate matters further, Qatar’s main gas field was one it had to share with Iran, a country that didn’t always see eye-to-eye with Saudi Arabia, to say the least. Qatar was stuck between a rock and a hard place. It had to pursue bold and radical tactics to ensure its survival. Like many city-states with indefensible borders and a negligible defense force facing existential threats, Qatar decided to become indispensable to everyone.

To achieve this, it embarked on all kinds of projects … and there was initial success. The cultural and educational projects — the foundation, the museums, the film commission and festival and the universities — were meant to present Qatar as the Arab world’s beckoning beacon of enlightenment. Its cash-backed political reconciliatory projects in Lebanon, Palestine and Sudan served as a portfolio of temporarily bought allies — pricing those acquisitions is a whole other matter. Its economic aid to and investment in Europe was meant to frame it as a financial savior. Its sport-hosting projects, such as the Asian Games and World Cup, were meant to increase the recognition of Qatar in the international community and the global consumer audience.

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