Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Money Buys Qatar Influence and Interdependence

The tiny Gulf sheikdom of Qatar, comprised of 300,000 citizens and one million foreign workers, is increasing its financial, economic and media footprint in the United States, the Washington Post reported.

Experts say Doha does not have a unified strategy behind its expansion into America other than to create strong cultural, political and economic bonds with countries that could help protect its interests.

"You'll drive yourself mad trying to find an overarching plan behind all the Qatari moves," said author David Roberts, according to the Post.

Qatar previously invested in Britain. Europe's tallest building funded by Qatari investors is the 72-story Shard located near London Bridge. 

Qatar has a major stake in Heathrow Airport. It also owns the Harrods department store. Since 2007, Qatar has invested $33 billion in Britain, according to the Post.

Qatar has established Al Jazeera America.

The original media outlet Al Jazeera in Arabic has been influential in forming public opinion in the Middle East. 

Obviously, you won't be seeing preachers teaching the Koran and ridiculing those not of the faith on the American version.

In fact, Al Jazeera in English -- shown in Israel -- looks a lot like the BBC. (Take that any way you care to.)

In January, Qatar purchased Al Gore's Current TV for $500 million in order to secure access to cable television channels for Al Jazeera America which is now hiring hundreds of reporters.
Besides Washington, Qatar has real estate interests in Chicago's Radisson Blu Aqua hotel and it is a majority owner of Golden Pass Products, a Houston-based importer of natural gas.

Qatar Airways is a significant customer of Boeing having recently purchased 50 Boeing 777 aircraft for $19 billion. It is the second biggest airline in Mideast behind Turkish Airlines.

Through its Qatari Foundation, the sheikdom has donated $100 million to Hurricane Katrina relief and is investing $5 million to spread Arab language and culture in America, the Post reported.

Like Saudi Arabia, which is controlled by the family Saud, Qatar is a family concern. The emir— who took over in June from his father— is Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, 33, who trained at Sandhurst, Britain's Royal Military Academy.

Qatar's foreign policies are not easy to pigeonhole.

Israeli ministers have quietly visited Doha.

Since 2003 it has allowed the U.S. to station a major military base on its soil. At the same time, it is a prominent backer of the Muslim Brotherhood and a generous donor to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Qatari-supported clerics have tried to make peace between Hamas and more radical Moslems based in the Strip.

With the eruption of the Syrian civil war, Qatar broke with the Assad regime and Hezbollah, supporting the Islamic opposition including groups associated with al-Qaeda. It has now reportedly stepped back from the Syrian morass ceding its influence to Saudi Arabia.


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