By Abdullah Khurram for Gulf State Analytics
Qatar is a unique state given its massive natural resource wealth, a result of its position as the world’s top producer and exporter of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), and its small indigenous population of 300,000. This unique resource-to-population ratio significantly minimizes the potential for a revolt against the ruling monarchy. This, in addition to the political vacuum in the Middle East – resulting from declining U.S. influence and the weakening of the Arab world’s traditional heavyweights immersed in their own domestic conflicts – has positioned Qatar to expand its strategic influence beyond the Persian Gulf.
The massive expansion of Qatar Airways has already made the emirate a major international travel hub. Al-Jazeera undoubtedly stands as the most influential Arab media outlet with an annual budget surpassing USD 600 million. Furthermore, as the first Middle Eastern nation to be the designated host of the World Cup, Qatar is pouring massive financial resources into the construction and preparation for the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
Despite such remarkable achievements, Qatar’s relationship with many Middle Eastern powers has deteriorated in recent years. Doha’s alleged support for certain regional actors has prompted officials in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the UAE to issue harsh rhetoric condemning the emirate’s foreign policy, which is generally perceived by these governments as destabilizing.
In light of Qatar becoming somewhat isolated, there is speculation that the new Emir, who inherited the throne in 2013, will take actions to restore Qatar’s image as a neutral power concentrated on mediating resolutions in conflicts rather than supporting sides in them. However, it remains to be seen if Qatar can successfully alter the image that it has built for itself since the Arab Spring revolts broke out in 2011.
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