To: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
From: Chad Meyer, Country Desk Officer for Qatar
Re: Recommended U.S. Foreign Policy towards Qatar
Date: October 22, 2012
Overview of Qatar
Qatar is a peninsula located in the Persian Gulf. This small country used to be known as a pearling state and has grown into one of the largest oil and natural gas producers in the world. The government is a monarchy and has been ruled by the Al Thani family since the mid 1800’s. The current Emir is HAMAD bin Khalifa Al Thani who took power from his father in 1995. The previous Emir was crippling the economy by siphoning off oil revenues; HAMAD overthrew his father in a ...view middle of the document...
Oil and gas account for more the 50% of their GDP, over 85% of export earnings, and 70% of government revenues. Qatar is also fortunate enough to hold the world’s second lowest unemployment rate, 0.4%, making them a strong partner for the future. Natural gas has become a top priority of the country and the government is looking for new ways to invest in this market.
Doha, the capital city of Qatar, is the home-base for Al-Jazeera. This media outlet has only increased Qatar’s image in the Middle East and around the world. It has spawned many different channels for different places in the region and has been awarded for covering events like the war in Afghanistan and the Egyptian protests. You have called Al-Jazeera less opinion driven than American journalism.
While being located in a region of unrest due to pleas of freedom from the people in surrounding countries, Qatar has faced little civil unhappiness. Qatar has been the subject of terrorist statements due to serving as a host to USCENTCOM, the United States Central Command agency, and supporting U.S. regional initiatives. The country is stable at this point and there are no immediate threats to national security.
The military is small due to the country’s population but seems to be a priority to the Emir. There are currently 11,800 active personnel, 30 battle tanks, and 18 fighter aircraft. In July, $3.5 billion were spent upgrading the Qatari helicopter fleet. 22 Sikorsky Seahawks and 12 Black Hawks were purchased from us, the U.S., to bolster their anti-submarine and maritime patrol force. The Defense Security Agency has said the sale of these helicopters will provide more protection for the United State while, also, improving foreign relations with a friendly country the continues to play an important role in the Middle East.
Qatar looks to be a big player in the future of the Middle East because of relationships with many countries, some of whom are not aligned with the U.S. This week, Qatar’s Emir flew to Gaza and gave the country $400 million (US) to repair a failing infrastructure, and to also make a political statement. A UN report from August of this year said that a 141 mile-long strip in Gaza will be unlivable due the country’s economy and out-of-control poverty levels. Sheikh Hamad’s visit is the first since 2007 of any head of state. The country has been cut off from the West and Israel because of Hamas rule. Hamas is recognized as a terrorist group by the U.S. and has Taliban alliances. In a public statement, the Emir proposed that Hamas and Fatah, the ruling party of the West Bank and preferred party because of their more moderate stance, begin steps toward reconciliation. This is a move worth watching from the U.S. and NATO perspective. If the intentions are to bring the sides together, then the U.S. may have found a partner in creating peace in a region that has been dominated by war for centuries. If the intentions are not peace...