How Qatar is taking on the world

On Thursday evening Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who combines roles of Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister, stood with Duke of York and mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to watch inauguration of the Shard. As blue and green lasers, accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, lit up a London skyline now dominated by the 310m skyscraper, the performance was streamed live around the world. If the opening of western Europe’s tallest building, presided over by Hamad, whose country’s sovereign wealth fund owns 95 percent of the development, was a demonstration of Qatar’s rapidly growing global visibility and influence, a few days before, in an equally vast but older building, that influence was being exercised far more discreetly. The building was UN’s Palais des Nations in Geneva, where last Saturday Hamad met the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and other foreign ministers to press his country’s case for firmer international action over Syria. Both scenes underline a phenomenon: the emergence on to the world stage as a considerable diplomatic, cultural and even military player of a tiny state whose huge ambitions to spread influence around the globe are fuelled by enormous wealth and devotion to a strict interpretation of the Qur’an. That ambition is being realised, from the sports stadiums and skyscraper penthouses of western capitals to the industrial centres of China and the battlefields of Syria and Libya. A generation ago, Qatar, whose people are world’s wealthiest by virtue of its oil and natural gas reserves, barely registered on the global radar. It is a former British protectorate ruled by the al-Thani family since the 19th century; its present emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, seized power in 1995 from his father in a bloodless palace coup. Today it is difficult to avoid its money, influence. In London, the al-Thanis’ investment arm, Qatar Holdings and the Qatar Investment Authority, have been on a long shopping spree, spending more than £13bn in recent years on purchasing Chelsea Barracks, Harrods and the Olympic Village. Qatar is the largest shareholder in Barclays Bank. Its global investment strategy most recently has seen statelet aggressively pursue new openings in China. Qatar Foundation sponsors Barcelona football club, a reminder that in 10 years’ time it will play host to the World Cup. Then there is the Doha-based al-Jazeera television, considered the most important Arab news TV channel, owned by Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation, which last week claimed that it had evidence that late Palestinian leader Arafat was poisoned with polonium. The emirate also hosts Taliban and Hamas regional offices, as well as a host of international organisations, Georgetown University, the British Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, creating a space where the west rubs shoulders with the Islamic world. Indeed, until 2009 Qatar even hosted an Israeli trade centre, which closed its doors after the Israeli incursion into Gaza (…..)



Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional


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