Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Qatar, the Gulf and Emir Tamim | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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File picture shows Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani standing next to his son Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Doha (Reuters Photo)

I would not be being honest if, in the wake of Sheikh Tamim becoming Emir, I described Qatar’s future as being a period of either continuity or change. Will the country continue to travel in the same direction, and at the same pace as it did under his father, Sheikh Hamad, with the same conditions and the same figures? The truth is, we do not know.

What is certain is that Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa chose Sheikh Tamim to be the crown prince, and he has bequeathed to him that which is most precious to him—the governance of Qatar. Sheikh Hamad willingly decided to hand over the leadership of the country, and made preparations for a successful transition. This is why we expect an era of continuity, and we expect that Tamim’s Qatar will be similar to that of Hamad.

Over the past 17 years, Qatar proved to us that a nation’s determination is not measured by its size or population. Rather, it is measured by that nation’s ability to make decisions and facilitate change. At the same time, however, it transpired that working alone in this brutal world is an extremely dangerous adventure for countries. It struggled in the raging sea of politics as a result of its choices and decisions; there were some very tough years for Qatar and for everyone. We have no right to say whether a country’s policies are right or wrong because they are adopted according to the country’s circumstances, interests and aspirations.

What does deserve to be said about the past, and what we can say about the future, is that teamwork and cooperation in the Gulf is an option for Qatar. Together, the Gulf countries represent real force—capable of altering the region and affecting world decisions that involve them. Even powerful Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia know that the combination of Gulf countries projects a much larger influence than that which can possibly be attained by itself.

There are Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and, of course, Iran. Thorny issues linked to these four countries have an effect on security in the Gulf. The situation in Yemen represents that best political success. If it weren’t for the collective work of the Gulf states, we might have faced another civil war in which thousands of people could have died, resulting in cycles of vengeance that might have destabilized the region for years to come.

Much of this collective action concerns the Gulf’s treatment of countries that are allied with the Iranian axis in Syria and Lebanon. Qatar is an important country in all regional issues, but collective work does not decrease the value or sovereignty of any country—each has the absolute ability to veto decisions and each has a voice, just like Saudi Arabia.

Sheikh Tamim has inherited some thorny issues from his father. Qatar plays an important role in these issues—one that could positively change our region; it may push the region towards stability. Qatar contributed to the toppling of an evil regime in Libya. It then realized that toppling a regime like Gaddafi’s is easier than building an alternative regime. For reasons like this, superpowers such as the United States spend a lot of time and effort trying to convince dozens of countries to cooperate with it on any political or military effort in the region.

Sheikh Tamim was handed the governance of Qatar as a modern and effective state that has political and economic power. It is a partner in regional and Arab causes. All Qatar needs to do is remain in the same collective Gulf boat, because whatever Qatar decides—anywhere in our world—affects the rest of the Gulf countries. Everyone appreciates Sheikh Hamad’s achievements in modernizing Qatar, leading its huge development, and granting women a very progressive role in the country.