From the Kuwait Times, a fascinating comparative analysis of the influence of Saudi Arabia and Qatar on Islamic countries in transitions:
Qatar losing ground to Saudi diplomacy
DUBAI: Qatar, a key supporter of Islamists who rose to power in Arab Spring countries, is losing ground in regional politics to Saudi Arabia which appears to have seized the reins on key issues, notably Egypt and Syria. The decline in Qatar’s regional diplomacy comes as its powerful emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani unexpectedly abdicated in favor of his son Tamim last month.
The wealthy Gulf state had transformed itself into a key regional player but began to retreat as heavyweight Saudi Arabia re-entered the political arena after lagging behind in the immediate period following the eruption of the Arab Spring uprisings in December 2010. The ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last week by the army and the election by the Syrian opposition of Saudi-linked Ahmad Assi Jarba as new leader stripped Qatar of strong influence in both countries.
“Qatar had tried to take a leading role in the region but overstepped its limits by openly backing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria, and other Arab Spring states,” said Kuwaiti political analyst Ayed Al-Manna. Jonathan Eyal, head of international relations at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, argued that Qatar’s regional politics have failed.
“Qatar’s Middle Eastern diplomacy now lies in ruins: it failed to produce dividends in Libya, backfired in Syria and has now collapsed in Egypt,” local Emirati daily The National quoted him on Tuesday as saying. Realizing the damaging effects of their policies, Manna noted, “the Qataris sought to cut down on their commitments” which were already affected by the emir’s abdication and the sidelining of the influential prime minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jabr Al-Thani.
As a result, “Saudi Arabia, a historical regional US ally, regained its role” in coordination with other oil-rich Gulf monarchies, said Manna. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah was the first foreign head of state to congratulate Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour, hours after he was named to replace Morsi. And on Tuesday, the kingdom pledged $5 billion in assistance to Egypt. The United Arab Emirates, which has cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood in the past few months, offered Egypt an aid package of $3 billion.
“Saudi Arabia wants to ensure stability in Arab Spring countries, regardless of its ideological interests,” said analyst Abdel Aziz Al-Sagr, head of the Gulf Research Centre. “It had supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt but reconsidered this support after the Brotherhood failed to run the country wisely,” he argued. But the Saudi researcher downplayed the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both of which have been looking to expand their influence during the Arab Spring uprisings and prevent any potential revolt against their own autocratic regimes.
“The Saudi-Qatari harmony still exists and there is no battle for influence between the two countries,” said Sager. And as proof, “Riyadh was the first to be informed of the political change in Qatar, six months before it took place. And it welcomed it.” But the two countries, whose relations have been historically tense or at least marked by mistrust, support two different approaches of political Islam that emerged strongly in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Qatar sides with political parties linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose experience was cut short despite the strong media support they enjoyed from the influential Doha-based Al-Jazeera news channel. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia promotes Salafist groups that focus less on politics and more on implementing Shariah Islamic law on daily life matters such as forcing women to wear a veil and prohibiting the mixing between sexes. Saudi King Abdullah has reiterated his country’s stance against using Islam for political purposes.
“Islam rejects divisions in the name of one party or another,” he said in a statement marking the start Wednesday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The kingdom will never accept” the presence of political parties, that “only lead to conflict and failure.” But regardless of the political agendas of Saudi Arabia or Qatar, the people who rose up during the Arab Spring revolts will have the final word on their own political futures, argued former Bahraini cabinet minister Ali Fakhro. “It is the Arab people, not Qatar nor Saudi Arabia, who will determine the political future of the region.” – AFP
Night before last, night a man was shot at the beach at 3:45 in the morning. According to the (very sketchy) details in the Pensacola News Journal, he had been having a fight with his girlfriend, had finished his fight and was then shot three times by a man he doesn’t know and who has no relationship to him. (This is what I understand from reading the paper; it doesn’t make sense to me, but it also says alcohol was involved.)
I only knew about the shooting because I saw a tiny little article about it on the AOL Local news section. When I went to look at it, it was gone.
In this morning’s paper, there is this sketchy description, and then – in several different sections – local are people quoted as saying “we’re moving on.”
OK I get it. We’re a beach community, and this is peak tourist season as folks pour in here from all the Southern states and other countries to enjoy our fabulous sugar-white sand beaches.
Before the tourists had hit the beach, the crime scene tape was down and a beach excavator had carted off the bloody sand.
I do get it. I really do. The season is short and we don’t want to be known as a beautiful beach where people can get shot. It’s a marketing problem.
There is something, however, that sticks in my craw about the swiftness of the moving on, and the barely there press coverage. A man was killed. Maybe he had been drinking. Maybe he had a fight with his girlfriend. Maybe he was at the beach very late (or very early) in the morning. None of these things seem to have anything to do with him having been shot, other than maybe being in the wrong place at the wrong time and the wrong person had a gun and shot him. It seems a little disrespectful, to me, to move on quite so swiftly. A man lost his life. We don’t know why. Maybe we could just take a little time to figure out what happened and to acknowledge his loss?
Thank you Grammy, for forwarding this article from The Telegraph. Who knew? I thought the current Emir was looking slimmer and healthier than before, but maybe he just wants a quieter, more private life, and the prince is willing to take the reins?
We watched Doha go from a sleepy little seaside capitol to a skyscraper-laced booming natural gas economy. It was an amazing time to be living in Doha. Sounds like more changes may be in store.
By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent7:00PM BST 09 Jun 2013
Senior figures in Qatar have briefed foreign counterparts that the time has come for Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, the 33-year-old crown prince to take over the leadership of the gas-rich Gulf state, the Daily Telegraph has learned.
The succession plan, which is due to be launched by the end of the month, will see Hamad bin Jassim, the prime minister and one of the biggest investors in Britain, give up his post.
Within weeks of that decision the royal court will announce that the emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, who has struggled with health problems, will cede powers to the Sandhurst-educated crown prince.
A prominent British visitor to the gas-rich Gulf state was told of the plans earlier this year and sources said other key states, including the US and Iran, have also been briefed about the succession.
“The plan is to manage a staged handover of power that allows the crown prince to come to the fore,” said one source with knowledge of the discussions. “The stakes are very high because Qatar is at forefront of events in a very sensitive region.”
Representatives of the Qatar government were not able to comment on the discussions about the emirate’s future leadership but analysts said any changes in Qatar’s leadership would have huge implications for the Middle East and Western foreign policy.
“The legacy of the emir and the prime minister has been to make Qatar a player in the world,” said Michael Stephens, a Gulf researcher at the Royal United Services Institute. “It was an outpost when they took over and now it has grown into a modern city, it is one of the biggest investors in Europe and Britain, has set up a very powerful Arab television station [Al Jazeera] and has a very prominent foreign policy. That is almost all down to the driving force of those two men.”
Sheikh Hamad, the emir, took power in a bloodless coup in 1995, taking advantage of his father’s absence on a trip to Europe. The charismatic monarch has overseen the transformation of the emirate, which lies just 21 miles from the coast of Iran. His glamorous wife Sheikha Mozah, who was last week seen at a charity function with the Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle, has been a symbol of women’s rights in the Arab world.
The resignation of Hamad bin Jassim has huge consequences for Britain even though he is staying as chief executive of the Qatar Investment Authority, an immensely well resourced sovereign wealth fund that recycles the emirate’s gas revenues.
He will continue to be the driving force behind the entity that owns Harrods and invested in prime property projects in London, including The Shard, Europe’s tallest building.
With a relatively tiny population of less than two million, Qatar is an outsized force in Middle East politics.
Although Sheikh Tamim is well known to diplomats and foreign officials, there are questions over the future direction of policies under the new leadership.
As a result of his education in Britain and Qatar’s role as the host of an American airbase, he has close links to Western militaries.
But observers point to his close alliance with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood as a potential sign that he will not be as liberal as his father and the prime minister.
The country has spent liberally on supporting Islamist movements in the Arab Spring, playing a key role in providing arms and logistics for rebels in Libya, Egypt and Syria.
Wooo HOOOO on You, Major General Abdulfattah Al-Ali!
Sometimes, when you are reading a newspaper looking for content, the most significant articles can be little small ones:
Major Al-Ali vows to redraw traffic map
KUWAIT: “I have orders from higher authorities to organize the traffic and the law will be implemented strictly, Assistant Interior Ministry Under Secretary for Traffic Affairs Major General Abdelfattah Al-Ali said. “I will change the traffic map within six months and wipe out the word wasta from the traffic dictionary ,” he added. “I have strict orders from higher authorities to organize traffic and the law will be implemented very strictly,” Major Ali said.
The Kuwait Times got his title wrong; it is Major GENERAL, not Major, LOL, that’s a big difference. It appears he has the clout – and the backing – to make a brave and steadfast stand:
“WIPE OUT THE WORD WASTA FROM THE TRAFFIC DICTIONARY”
I can hardly believe my eyes. This is going to be very painful for young Kuwait men, who have learned – from prior experience – that the rules do not apply to them. IF Major General Abdulfattah Al-Ali can maintain his strong position, there may be more young Kuwait men who live to be grown-up men, there may be fewer heart-wrenching funerals, far fewer trips to the emergency room (did you know that some of the best head-trauma physicians in the world are in the ER’s in Qatar, Kuwait, and the UAE? There’s a reason for that.) The days of seeing babies on their daddy’s laps in traffic may be over. People may actually start wearing seatbelts!
Wooo HOOO on You, Major General Abdulfattah Al-Ali. You are a brave and courageous man, with a vision for a safer future for Kuwait.