Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

What Tiny Qatar Stands To Gain In Libya

Another fascinating discussion on National Public Radio, which covers subjects not covered by major national news sources.

Of course, anything having to do with Qatar is of interest to us, as we lived there for four years during a time of breathtaking and exhilarating change. It is astounding, and wonderful, to us, that Qatar defies the lethargy and inertia of the Gulf Countries, and has transformed itself into a major influence, in spite of its smaller size, and even smaller population of native Qataris. They have taken the huge influx of cash that came with the discovery of natural gas, and leveraged it into massive modernization, transformation, and influence on the international scene. It’s an amazing accomplishment.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: The Libyan rebels received decisive air support from NATO. But there was another, less publicized, smaller-scale but equally remarkable foreign involvement in support of the uprising, the involvement of Qatar, Q-A-T-A-R.

Qatar is a peninsula, a little smaller than Connecticut. It juts north into the Persian Gulf. On the south, it borders Saudi Arabia. It is rich in oil and natural gas. Its population is only about 900,000. And while it is an Arab country, a monarchy ruled by the al-Thani family, the majority of its residents are non-Arabs, non-citizens from India and Pakistan. Qatar is also home to the TV channel Al Jazeera. It will host soccer’s World Cup and it was an important player in Libya.

Ibrahim Sharqieh is deputy director of the Brookings Doha Center. Doha is the capital of Qatar. And, Ibrahim, first, what did the Qataris do in support of the Libyan rebels?

Dr. IBRAHIM SHARQIEH: That Qataris’ support to the Libyan rebels has been politically, diplomatically and militarily. We had about five Qatari fighter jets. In Qatar, we had about the training of Libyan rebels. And Qatar also played an important role in developing an Arab League support through the military intervention in Libya, which this Arab League support actually has provided the umbrella for the NATO intervention and for the military intervention and provided the legitimacy that, for example, was missing in Iraq.

SIEGEL: Why? What are the motives behind Qatar’s involvement in Libya and some of its broader ambitions in the region?

SHARQIEH: Oh, there are many theories. The one that makes the most sense in my view is that Qatar is supporting the revolution for humanitarian reasons. And in addition to this, Qatar is working and supporting the revolution is they’re strictly with its vision for its role in the region and in the world.

SIEGEL: One thing we should note, though, in this year of the Arab Spring, one thing Qatar isn’t is it isn’t a democracy. It isn’t an elected parliamentary republic.

SHARQIEH: Well, there is very high level satisfaction of the people here in the country, of the political system and of its leadership. So there haven’t been – we haven’t seen any cause for change or any protests or any different types of complaints. So the system seems to work and we seem to have a stable country. That distance itself very far away from the protests that are happening in the region.

SIEGEL: How would you describe U.S.-Qatar relations?

SHARQIEH: We know it’s a strong relationship. Qatar hosts a military base, the largest in the region here, in Al Udeid. And this has been a sophisticated policy where Qatar managed to have a good relationship between the United States and other rivals in the region, like Iran. In order to protect yourself as a small, wealthy country, some sort of striking a balance is needed and Qatar has been more influential in this crisis and other regions in Benghazi.

Going back to Libya, when you go outside the offices of the National Transition Council, you see the American flag. You see the French flag. You see the British flag, and you see also the Qatari flag.

SIEGEL: Yes. Here’s a country that aspires to a very high profile in regional affairs, but it consists of fewer than a million people. And of them only about 350,000 I read are citizens. That doesn’t sound like a country that can really be a world player, you know? It just sounds too tiny.

SHARQIEH: Well, it is too tiny but, hey, we are living in an international system that you have the means to play it right and become an important player. Qatar has invested in the right political market by mediation. Qatar was successful in the mediating an agreement between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels. Prevented a civil war almost in Lebanon, brokered peace agreements between the Palestinians, Fatah and Hamas, and also intervened in the fall in Sudan.

So, Qatar has proved to me an important, major emerging power in the region and to play it right and position itself very well in the international scene.

SIEGEL: Well, Ibrahim Sharqieh, thank you very much for talking with us about Qatar.

SHARQIEH: My pleasure. Thank you for having me, Robert.

SIEGEL: Ibrahim Sharqieh is deputy director of the Brookings Doha Center. Doha is the capital city of Qatar.

September 1, 2011 Posted by | Communication, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Interconnected, Political Issues, Qatar, Values | 2 Comments

Neighbors Key to Survival

“Americans don’t know their neighbors” my dinner guest said, in response to my asking him what surprises him most in his visit to this country. “In my country, we all know our neighbors. It’s important to know your neighbors.”

I agreed, and quoted him this article supporting his view that I heard on National Public Radio, one of those ideas I hear so often on NPR because they cover news other news sources ignore.

Below is just a portion of the story, which you can read in whole by clicking on this blue type. Even better, if you want, you can listed to the story yourself by clicking on the “Listen to the Story: All things Considered” button on this same page.

When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, one victim was political scientist Daniel Aldrich. He had just moved to New Orleans. Late one August night, there was a knock on the door.

“It was a neighbor who knew that we had no idea of the realities of the Gulf Coast life,” said Aldrich, who is now a political scientist at Purdue University in Indiana. He “knocked on our door very late at night, around midnight on Saturday night, and said, ‘Look, you’ve got small kids — you should really leave.’ ”

The knock on the door was to prove prophetic. It changed the course of Aldrich’s research and, in turn, is changing the way many experts now think about disaster preparedness.

Officials in New Orleans that Saturday night had not yet ordered an evacuation, but Aldrich trusted the neighbor who knocked on his door. He bundled his family into a car and drove to Houston.

“Without that information we never would’ve left,” Aldrich said. I think we would’ve been trapped.”

In fact, by the time people were told to leave, it was too late and thousands of people got stuck.

Because of his own experience in Katrina, Aldrich started thinking about how neighbors help one another during disasters. He decided to visit disaster sites around the world, looking for data.

Aldrich’s findings show that ambulances and firetrucks and government aid are not the principal ways most people survive during — and recover after — a disaster. His data suggest that while official help is useful — in clearing the water and getting the power back on in a place such as New Orleans after Katrina, for example — government interventions cannot bring neighborhoods back, and most emergency responders take far too long to get to the scene of a disaster to save many lives. Rather, it is the personal ties among members of a community that determine survival during a disaster, and recovery in its aftermath.

When Aldrich visited villages in India hit by the giant 2004 tsunami, he found that villagers who fared best after the disaster weren’t those with the most money, or the most power. They were people who knew lots of other people — the most socially connected individuals. In other words, if you want to predict who will do well after a disaster, you look for faces that keep showing up at all the weddings and funerals.

“Those individuals who had been more involved in local festivals, funerals and weddings, those were individuals who were tied into the community, they knew who to go to, they knew how to find someone who could help them get aid,” Aldrich says.

My visiting guest was from Lebanon, where neighbors have relied on one another for years as civil unrest rocks the country.

“I am guessing we move more often than your family and friends,” I ventured. “You are right, it is harder to establish long-lasting neighborly relations here where people come and go more often.”

Actually, we have settled in a fairly established neighborhood, where many people around us have lived for years and years, some all their lives. But we have only been here a year, and it takes time to build strong neighborly relations. But we are aware that connecting with our neighbors and staying connected is important in a part of the country vulnerable to life-threatening hurricanes and other natural emergencies.

You can listen to the entire report in 6 minutes and 3 seconds here.

September 1, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, Environment, Events, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Statistics, Survival, Values | 4 Comments