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Post time 2011-9-5 09:18:25 |Display all floors
The Qatar Model: A New Way Forward for the Middle East?

Obscured by the WikiLeaks revelations and controversies reverberating in Arab capitals is a bit of news arguably far more important than the latest embarrassment for Arab leaders. On December 2nd, the tiny, oil-rich Gulf state of Qatar managed to win the coveted 2022 World Cup bid, beating out the United States and Australia in one of the more unlikely upsets in recent sports history. The New York Times' Nate Silver called the decision "astonishing," others were simply confused. It was both a brave and risky move for the FIFA committee. For Qatar, however, and the broader Middle East, it has the potential to be a game-changer.

Arab countries are not accustomed to victory in the global arena. The past few years in particular have been, by even the region's high standards, depressing. Whether civil conflict in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories, or the political deterioration of Egypt, the region has at times appeared to be in free fall.

But not in Qatar. The World Cup is just the latest success in an impressive run for the Qataris, who currently enjoy the world's highest GDP per capita as well as its fastest growth rates. More importantly, the win is a vindication of Qatar's odd, and often creative, foreign policy.

In 1995, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani deposed his father in a bloodless coup, becoming the new Emir. Under his leadership, Qatar made a strategic decision to distinguish itself from its competitors in the Gulf, particularly Dubai and Saudi Arabia. The country, home to less than 300,000 citizens, has since become an increasingly influential player on the regional and international stages. The revenue generated by Qatar's deep oil reserves of course helps. But it is the use of this revenue that has set Qatar apart. Rather than spending it on costly weapons systems - Qatar's military expenditures are quite low by Gulf standards - the country has focused its attention elsewhere. Qatar is already home to "Education City," which hosts campuses for Georgetown, Northwestern, and other top American universities. One of the world's largest collections of modern Arab art is set to open by the end of the year. The Qatar-based Al Jazeera, one of the region's freer and most widely watched news networks, projects the country's influence around the world.

Meanwhile, the region's pro-Western pillars, such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, are declining both in spite of and because of their closeness to the United States. As the State Department cables released by Wikileaks have shown, these countries are crippled by the wide gap between leaders and their citizens. The former go along with American policy, whether on the Arab-Israeli peace process, Iran's nuclear ambitions, or counterterrorism, while the latter decry Western influence and sympathize with Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran. And managing the divide is not getting any easier: in several Arab countries, U.S. favorability ratings are lower under President Obama than they were in the final years of the Bush administration.

By contrast, Qatar has steered a middle path, hosting the largest pre-positioning U.S. military base in the world, while still managing cordial, and increasingly close, relations with Iran. As we saw with the 2008 Doha Agreement, in which Qatar brokered peace between the Lebanese government and the Hizbollah-led opposition, when you have leverage with both sides, it's easier to strike a deal. Qatar has also mediated between the Palestinians, Yemenis, and Sudanese, with varying degrees of success.

Could this be the new model for the Middle East? Qatar's independent and assertive policies defy easy characterization within any of the region's camps. And, now, the World Cup gives Qatar an internal deadline to build, expand, and project influence well beyond what its size would suggest. The country already plans to invest nearly $100 billion in infrastructure in the coming years, including $35 billion for a metro and rail system, as well as the longest oversea bridge in the world, connecting it to Bahrain.

But Qatar's ambitions for greater influence come at a cost, and many are watching the country's emergence with wariness. Because it is home to Al Jazeera - as well as a number of prominent political exiles - Qatar has had strained ties with some of its neighbors. Neither is the country very popular in Washington, particularly after signing defense cooperation agreements with Iran.

To be friends with both sides - to host a major U.S. military base while simultaneously holding joint training exercises with Iranian frontier guards - is a difficult balancing act during an ostensible Arab cold war. It helps that Qatar is less dependent on foreign assistance than, say, Egypt, long the world's second largest recipient of American aid. Because it enjoys the protection that comes with having U.S. Central Command on its territory, Qatar is less concerned with the sort of controversial arms deals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates signed recently with the United States. Meanwhile, with a small population and minimal internal opposition, a few creative, ambitious leaders can, on their own, decisively shift direction on foreign policy. Fifteen years ago, few knew where Qatar was and fewer cared. The country's leaders had almost nothing to lose and a great deal to gain.

By virtue of their traditional weight and influence, countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been cautious, status quo actors. Adventurous foreign policymaking, for them, is a risky proposition. Domestic factors matter as well; Bahrain and Kuwait are similarly small but have been plagued by political gridlock and sectarian tensions.

All of this makes it difficult for countries to follow Qatar's path. Qatar, however, is not entirely alone. Turkey is another rising power that has learned many of the same lessons. Traditionally part of the U.S. orbit - and the only Middle Eastern country that has any meaningful military cooperation with Israel - Turkey has studiously built up a reservoir of goodwill with Syria, Hamas, and, perhaps most importantly, the Arab public, much of which views Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan with far more respect and admiration than it views its own leaders.

The rise of both Qatar and Turkey comes at opportune time. In the wake of WikiLeaks, Arab leaders are questioning whether the United States can remain the sole arbiter of the Middle East. Most governments in the region have been content to either embrace or defy U.S. dominance, while others, particularly Qatar, have found success by working with all of the regional actors from Washington to Tehran. Everyone likes a winner and the winners - this time at least - are charting a different course.

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Post time 2011-9-5 09:19:35 |Display all floors

Qatar to Reap Rewards From Its Rebel Aid


As Libya's rebels mounted what they hoped was a final assault on Tripoli in their battle against Col. Moammar Gadhafi, they directed much gratitude in their six-months-long battle to one tiny, Gulf Arab state: Qatar.
After leading the region in training, equipping, and funding Libya's opposition, Qatar is now best-poised to help mediate a political transition and employ some of its companies and expertise in a post-Gadhafi Libya, officials and analysts say.

One of the Libyan opposition leaders, Mahmoud Jibril, on Tuesday thanked Qatar for supporting the rebels despite enduring "all the doubts and threats." Another top opposition figure, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, told Qatar's state news agency the country "played a leading and decisive role since the outbreak of the revolution."

Mr. Jibril spoke from the Qatari capital, Doha, which has served as a defacto operational base for the Libyan opposition in the Gulf.

Small but wealthy, gas-rich Qatar is now reaping a foreign-policy success from its early support for Libya's rebels—roughly a month into their uprising—carving an outsized role for itself in the Arab Spring in contrast to conservative Gulf monarchies invested in stability. Though Col. Gadhafi had alienated some of the Gulf's sheiks, Qatar tried in recent years to forge warm business relations in Libya.

In Doha, Libyan opposition leaders meeting with Arab and allied officials on Wednesday will kick-start talks on releasing some of the tens of billions of dollars locked up in Libyan frozen assets, with the rebels seeking $5 billion for the short-to-medium term. The meeting will also involve the logistics of a political transition, rebel officials said. There will be a followup meeting in Istanbul and other meetings elsewhere.

During the conflict, Qatar took a leading diplomatic role in trying to hasten the Gadhafi regime's collapse, as it sought advice this month from Shokri Ghanem, Libya's former oil chief, and Moussa Koussa, the former foreign minister, said people familiar with the matter.

Qatar has also been spearheading talks on the option of a peacekeeping force for Libya's transition process. The country has said it would be willing to contribute troops to the mission, a move likely to be welcomed by Western nations wary of contributing soldiers, a senior European diplomat said.

"Out of all the Arab countries, the rebels trust the Qataris more than anyone else," said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center. "I assume you will have a divided political arena in Libya in the coming months, once the rebels realize they don't have as much in common as they thought they had, and the Qataris could play a positive role in that."

Qatar has built a track-record as a neutral arbiter in some of the Middle East's most heated conflicts, from political stalemates in Lebanon to rebel talks in Yemen. It has managed to play off sides in the struggle for regional dominance, staying a friend of Iran—with whom it shares the world's biggest gas field—while hosting the U.S.'s major air base in the Gulf.

"Having close military relations with both sides of the Arab cold war—that's pretty remarkable," Mr. Hamid said. "No one else plays that balancing act."

Much of that creative foreign policy has drawn the ire of Saudi Arabia, a larger and more powerful Gulf state, for whom Qatar's rise to global prominence has been more of an annoyance than a threat. In March, Qatar fell in line with the Gulf Cooperation Council's move to send Saudi troops into Bahrain to defend that monarchy against a rebellion.

But Qatar also took the lead on Libya's uprising, even after the council, the collective bloc of Gulf states, provided the Arab political cover for Western military intervention. It was the first Arab country to send its jets to Libya, to recognize the rebels' National Transitional Council, or NTC, and to market crude oil produced in rebel-controlled fields. It provided the rebels with uniforms and helped them get a television station on air.

At some risk, Al Jazeera, a pan-Arabic broadcaster backed by Qatar's royal family, has also served as a voice for protesters across the Arab world, while becoming a focal point of discontent for governments facing protests. An Al Jazeera camera-man was killed in an ambush near Benghazi and several of the station's journalists attacked in March.

Qatar is likely to keep a role in oil trading in Libya, having already helped the rebels sell cargoes of crude and delivered petroleum products to them in Benghazi, energy analysts say. It may also use its expertise as the world's biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas to help overhaul a small LNG plant in Brega.

Libya's rebel government, too, could be looking to leverage its ties with other Gulf countries that supported their plight, analysts say, especially as Libyan officials had often looked to the Gulf for examples of how to diversify oil-reliant economies and invest wealth.

"It's not a single country that's helping—the NTC is working now with all of its international partners," said Aref Ali Nayed, the Libyan ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, another Gulf country that took the lead in approving a no-fly zone over Libya and sending in humanitarian aid. "The Libyan people are very proud people, they will never forget their friends," Mr. Nayed said.

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Post time 2011-9-5 09:24:13 |Display all floors

Libya TV from Doha Qatar

“For the first time in its history, Libya has its own independent satellite channel. A group of Libyans from abroad and inside the country is setting up the new station to broadcast news and commentary about Libya for a Libyan audience, with the aim of countering Libyan state propaganda and promoting dialogue about the country’s future after Muammar al-Gaddafi, the brutal leader whose four-plus decades in power appear to be drawing to a rapid close.” -Reuters

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Post time 2011-9-5 09:24:43 |Display all floors
Qatar and Al Jazeera.

the future of Arab world.
the rise of the Arab world.

good for the whole world.

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Post time 2011-9-5 09:27:30 |Display all floors

Qatar pledges $400-500 mln to new revolutionary fund

Qatar has pledged $400-500 million  for a fund to help the cash-strapped Libyan revolutionary movement,  Qatari Prime Minister Hammad bin Jassim al-Thani said today in Rome.

Kuwait is putting in $180 million.

A NATO-backed coalition against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi today announced the creation of a special fund to help the cash-strapped revolutionary movement.

“I welcome the announcement… of the establishment of a special fund – known as the Temporary Financial Mechanism – that will permit funds to be channelled effectively and transparently to the Interim National Council,” said Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini of the fund this morning.

Italian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maurizio Massari had said that the meeting was unlikely to come up with a sum of money. “This is not a pledging conference. There will not be an envelope,” he told reporters in Rome. Qatar and Kuwait’s pledges have however given the Benghazi-based National Transition Council cause for optimism. The NTC is seeking to raise $3 billion to cover ongoing costs.

But efforts to unblock Libyan state assets frozen in overseas accounts or to allow the rebels to get past U.N. sanctions that prevent their selling oil on international markets have been held up so far.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she hoped to change the law to allow it to use some of the more than $30 billion of frozen Libyan assets in the United States to help the Libyan people. “I’m pleased to announce that the Obama Administration, working with Congress, has decided to pursue legislation that would enable the U.S. to tap some portion of those assets owned by Gaddafi and the Libyan government in the United States, so we can make those funds available to help the Libyan people,” she said.

But there was a cautious response from Britain, which said it had no plans to contribute to the fund set up for the rebels because it had already made a “very substantial” contribution to humanitarian assistance.

France said it was evaluating its contribution to the fund, which should be operational within weeks.

Today’s meeting of the so-called Libya Contact Group brought together foreign ministers from countries including France, Britain, the United States, Italy and Qatar as well as representatives of the Arab League and the African Union.

Ali Tarhouni, who heads the NTC’s finance committee, said earlier this week that the revolutionaries were spending between 50 million to 100 million Libyan dinars ($43 million-86 million) per day. “The liquidity that we have domestically most likely will carry us at this rate for three weeks or at the most four weeks,” Tarhouni said.

“I need about $2-3 billion and we are hoping to get most or all of this,” Tarhouni told reporters in the eastern liberated  stronghold of Benghazi. “That will last me for three months.”

Qatar Premier and Foreign Minister Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al-Thani (C) poses during the family photo at Farnesina in Rome, Italy 05 May 2011. Minister from NATO coalition countries are in Rome to attend the Contact Group on Libya meetings

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Post time 2011-9-5 09:30:38 |Display all floors
Al Jazeera, they have the best documentaries in the world.

revolutionaries are very surprised Aziz criticise Nato bombing of Gadafi.

only enemies of moslims, enemies of Arabs.

only those who like to see moslims and Arabs dead and weak will want to criticise Nato bombing of  Gadafi.

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Post time 2011-9-5 09:44:44 |Display all floors
Gaddafi was a notorious and fearful character to the Arabb leader.

It was best time for a tiny country to take a bold step to extend help for rebels of Libye.
I think the Libye trouble now comes  withing the Arabs political affairs.Let them  handle their regional problem within themselves

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