Qatar, the New Arabs.

29 06 2013

The transfer of power from Sheik Hamad to his crown prince Sheik Tamim last week marks the first time in modern history perhaps in the entire history of Arab monarchies when a sitting Amir, Caliphate, a king, or president for life, stepped down and handed over the reign of power to his son.

A transfer of power took place, not under threat of a military coupe, not under the threat of bad health, certainly not under the threat of a revolting ruling family or under massive street uprising. Sheik Hamad planned this entire hand over, not three months ago, but three years ago, choosing the time and the place for such an orderly transfer of power from one generation to another. Qatar is setting the future for the New Arabs.

Such a move is not only surprising but unknown and certainly set a precedent in the Arab world even when ailing heads of states or presidents cling to power more than they cling to life, chose not to hand over power to a vice president, if they have one or to a crown prince. The Amir of Qatar broke the role. Who knows may be more Arab heads of states can take a note from such groundbreaking precedent, certainly a first.

Qatar these days is under lots of criticism mainly from “Arab nationalists” because of its role in support of the Syrian revolution and its supports of Arabs uprising against long term corrupting dictatorship. However such criticism goes beyond Qatar support for the Arab Spring. It is envy at best.

It goes to its smart, deliberate and well managed financial and investment policy and how it is emerging as the “smartest” among the Arab world. However the Qataris have to be very careful knowing America’s and western financial institutions long history of fraud, and fleecing foreign investors.

Those critical of the Qatar role in support of the Syrian revolution forget that Qatar was one of the largest investor in Syria and in support of Bashar regime; investments in major infrastructures far exceeding any investment by Iran, Bahsar key ally in his war against Syria and the Syrian people.

Bashar Assad angry at Aljazeera coverage of the Syrian uprising threatened Qatar with the loss of its more than $6 billions in Syria. Qatar chose the side of the people only after Assad sent his tanks and jets to bomb, kill and destroy, but not before.

The criticism for Qatar also goes beyond the Middle East and extend to France, where Qatar in recent years have invested more than $10 billions of dollars in France, buying prime real estate, manufacturing even sports. The investment in France is minor when compared to the $44 billions (2012) investment made by Qatar Investment Authority in counties like Germany, US, UK, Singapore, Switzerland, Malaysia, China including many Arab countries.

Such investments in France is so minor when compared to foreign investments made by countries like UK, Netherland, China, France and Germany in countries around the world, with the US receiving more than $ 2.26 Trillions in 2011, with UK leading the investors in the US with $441 billions, Japan with $289 billions, Dutch with $240 billions, Germany with $215 billions, Switzerland with $ 212 billions and Canada with $211 billions, France $ 199 Billions and Luxemburg with $190 billions. Only Arab investments become an issue.

In France, Qatar investment of few billions ruffled some feathers especially among some French journalists who believe that Qatar is using its investment to buy power and influence in France. Journalists Christian Chesnot and George Malbrunt recently published a book “ Qatar Les secrets due coffer-fort” or “ Qatar secrete safe” criticizing such investments as suspect. It is clear, when it comes to investments, Arab investments is always suspect, other investments are not, even drug money does not come under such scrutiny as Arab investments.

Many distracters are also speculating, even defaming Qatar emerging influence around the world way beyond its small size and locations with its over $200 billions sovereign funds, and its sponsorship of Aljazeera which is emerging, only in few years as the leading credible media and news network around the world with broadcasting centers in Kuala Lumpur, Doha, London and Washington and soon Aljazeera America.

Certainly Aljazeera is in a class of itself way ahead of many well-established media in news coverage, diversity of its program, and special and in-depth reports all without being a Fox News or CNN, with voices and opinions never allowed or heard in main stream media.

Qatar does not exercise its power and influence in creating problems rather to heal many of the regional conflicts, which caused so many innocent lives in Darfur, in Lebanon, in Palestine, and in Afghanistan. Qatar exercises its power and influence for the good.

Qatar is not the first ‘small city-state” to emerge as a powerful state with world influence. Paul Salem director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Doha compared Qatar to that of Venice during the European Renaissance. Qatar did not seek power and influence, it only filled a vacuum and there is nothing wrong with that. Indeed Qatar is a role model for the New Arabs.

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