On October 31st, 2018, His Excellency Dr. Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs of Qatar sat down for a conversation at the Forum on Foreign Fighters and Returnees in Doha, Qatar with Steve Clemons, Editor at Large of The Atlantic.
His Excellency Dr. Khalid spoke on the role Qatar is playing in rehabilitating former extremist fighters, the international community’s progress in regional peace building, and the stabilizing affect the defense partnership between the United States and Qatar has on the Middle East and Gulf regions.
Kristian Ulrichsen, a Baker Institute fellow and author of “The Gulf States in International Political Economy,” published an op-ed in The New York Times this week on the logic behind Qatar’s decision to leave the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, commonly known as OPEC.
According to Ulrichsen, OPEC has become mired in geopolitical disputes like the Saudi-Iranian rivalry, to the detriment of its member states and its central mission to stabilize international petrochemical markets.
Qatar has persisted in its mission to serve as a secure natural gas exporter. Qatar provides more than half of India’s natural gas imports, as well as 14-15% of China’s, Japan’s, and the UK’s, according to the MIT Observatory of Economic Complexity. Following the illegal blockade, Qatar signed long-term natural gas agreements with China, Japan, and the UK. Qatar even still provides natural gas to the United Arab Emirates through the Dolphin Pipeline, despite the blockade.
Qatar remains committed to the central mission of mission of OPEC – maintaining a stable international market for petrochemical products. Its decision to increase natural gas exports was in response to a projected increase in international demand, according to then-CEO of Qatar Petroleum, Saad Sherida Al Kaabi. Qatar Petroleum is investing $20 billion in U.S. oil and gas fields, most notably the Golden Pass LNG terminal in Texas, even though the U.S.’s LNG exports will inevitably compete against Qatar’s primary source of revenue in the global market.
Qatar’s departure from OPEC is a business decision, allowing Qatar the autonomy to develop its natural gas resources – its foremost economic strength – independent of other members’ geopolitcal agendas.
(Image Source: Darren Hillman)
Below are key excerpts from His Excellency’s conversation:
Qatar’s initiatives in building bridges to peace have seen the U.S. as a critical stakeholder:
In 2007, Qatar started interfaith dialogue between Christians, Jews, and Muslims so that co-existence could be a reality. Qatar invited many U.S. universities to join our Education City to give the region access to excellent and unrestricted education. To bring about these reforms, we invited help from experts—financial, environmental, academic, and human rights specialists.
Qatar has been a critical partner of the United States in securing peace in Afghanistan:
AL-THANI: Well, in fact, what we see in Afghanistan now for over the last few years since this office been established for the purpose of the peace talks between Taliban and the Afghan government and the U.S., there were not much progress in it. But in the recent—in the recent months, we have seen a lot of positive things.
Qatar’s Year of Culture program will see the U.S. as its marquee partner in 2021, showcasing the cultural and people-to-people ties that bind the two allied countries together:
We will have the Year of Culture between Qatar and United States in 2021, which is a showcase for this cultural exchange between the countries. We have it every year in a different country and it has been a successful model for promoting the Qatari culture and inviting the other cultures.
Outline of Qatar’s engagement-driven foreign policy that emphasizes dialogue, development, and global partnerships:
Over the past twenty years, Qatar has engaged with the world through foreign diplomacy, forged economic global partnership(s), developed human capital, invested in the region. Two decades ago, my country decided to begin a new chapter of openness. This decision shaped Qatar’s signature foreign policy of engagement, dialogue, and collaboration. This was new for the Middle East and the outreach paid off.
Outside the neighborhood, Qatar found friends, allies around the globe. Within the neighborhood, Qatar became a skilled mediator in the region largely closed off to negotiation. For example, in Lebanon we were able to help calm the sectarian fighting and fill the vacuum of power. In Sudan, we helped stop a genocide and sustain peace in Darfur. Today, we are facilitating talks between U.S., the Afghan government, and parliament.
Qatar’s liquified natural gas strategy has transformed the global energy landscape:
This engagement-driven foreign policy meant that a political partnership ran parallel to economic ones. Reciprocal investments across the globe made in numerous industry sectors meant that Qatar could partner with the global specialists who supply the world with liquefied natural gas. This was no easy task because scientists had not developed an efficient way to liquefy natural gas and to ship it.
So Qatar and experts around the world collaborated and brought the energy industry into a new era of liquefied natural gas. Simultaneously, Qatar was able to diversify its economy to move away from fossil fuel dependency. Today, Qatar supplies almost 30 percent of the world’s natural gas.
Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup will be the most environmentally-friendly rendition of the games in history:
So there is a lot of programs that are taking place within the country in order to transform our country to a more green country, more environmentally friendly, and we are experiencing this especially in the World Cup—in the World Cup Project, which will take place in 2022, and I hope all of you come there and enjoy it in Doha.
The stadiums—the way it’s built—the buildings over there, all of them they are maintaining the maximum standard of environmentally friendly. We have also—we take the same consideration on our industrials because Qatar is an industrial country as well where we have industries which are derivatives from the gas industry or from the oil industry. All of this the environment is taken into consideration.
Full Video – Council on Foreign Relations: A Conversation with Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani
The conference attracted over 300 Qatari undergraduate and graduate students from universities across the United States. QAI participated in the conference with a booth at the Exhibitor’s Hall, where conference attendees were educated on QAI’s work by staff members, recruited for internship, fellowship, and advisory board positions at QAI and at organizations throughout Washington, D.C.
In addition to Qatari students, special guests at the conference included:
- H.E. Deputy Minister of Education & Higher Education Dr. Ibrahim Bin Saleh Al Nuaimi
- H.E. Consul General of Los Angeles Khaled Al Saada
- Qatar’s U.S. Cultural Attaché Mr. Mohamed Al Hamad
The Peninsula – On November 6th, 2018, HH the Amir of Qatar inaugurated the 47th Ordinary Session of the Advisory Council, Qatar’s legislative body. HH Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani offered an optimistic, forward-looking vision of the country and its future. Below are key excerpts from the speech:
It gives me pleasure to meet with you on this auspicious annual occasion of opening a new session of your esteemed Council, marking the beginning of a new legislative term in which our constitutional institutions will proceed with assuming their responsibilities to reach the goals we have set for ourselves .
Brief review of the past year:
Since our last meeting, which took place under the circumstances that you know, Qatar’s economic invulnerability against external tremors has been boosted and our self-reliance has increased, the bonds with our allies have become stronger than before, and our relations with most of the world countries have developed.
Qatar’s national development is rooted in its character and accomplishments:
Most importantly, the Qataris have become more committed to the ethics they are famous for, and their awareness and realization of the scale of their country’s accomplishments and the importance of national sovereignty and independence of our political decision, under which these accomplishments were achieved, have been deepened.
Qatar’s economy has diversified, and has seen an impressive 4% growth rate in non-hydrocarbon sectors, as well as an 18% export increase:
A drop in our hydrocarbon GDP was coupled with about 4% growth in GDP from other sources, thus reflecting the role of economic diversification as an important growth component.
Exports increased by 18%, leading to a significant improvement in the public budget, trade balance and current account. The banking system retrieved in less than ten months the level of indicators that prevailed before the blockade, while the level of some of them became even better.
In addition, Qatar Central Bank regained its reserve level, and the Qatari Riyal has maintained its value and free circulations noteworthy that the number of factories operating in the State has increased by about 14% after the blockade, and these factories managed to achieve a great deal of self-sufficiency in some food products and consumables.
Water and food security are at the top of Qatar’s national priorities:
We are striding at a steady pace to achieve water and food security and to secure sufficient electrical energy to push forward the development drive and meet its requirements. This megaproject will increase Qatar’s electricity production by about 30% and water desalination by about 40%.
Cutting government spending has been complimented increased by private sector spending:
Government consumption expenditure this year decreased by around 20% from the previous year while household spending increased by 4%. It is expected that this policy will lead to a public budget surplus this year, and that this surplus will increase in the coming years.
Social contributions and national unity are paramount to Qatar’s success:
We have achieved great and rapid progress in nation-building, living standard and human development in health and education. We have many challenges ahead in these areas, and we have to ascertain commitment to the work ethics and the act of giving to the society. In this context, we also confirm the importance of national service and its role in building the youth of this country.
HH the Emir’s closing remarks:
In conclusion, I would like to point out that preparations for the election of the Legislative Council are underway at the level of the ministerial and experts committees.
Top Five Highlights from Amir Tamim Bin Hamad’s Speech to UNState Department Report Highlights Qatar’s Counterterrorism Efforts
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin was received in Doha, Qatar for an official visit on October 25, 2018 by HH Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, Secretary for Security Affairs Mohammed Al-Misned, Minister of Finance Ali Sharif Al Emadi for talks on enhancing bilateral security cooperation, combatting terrorism financing, and the US-Qatar economic relationship. Secretary Mnuchin was accompanied by U.S. Embassy Charge D’Affaires William Grant.
Tweet by Secretary Mnuchin:
His Excellency Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani and I discussed our US-Qatar joint commitment to counter terrorist financing.
Tweet by Secretary Mnuchin:
Great to be in #Qatar and sit down with Prime Minister @ANK_AlThani. We will continue to build our strong relationship that brings security and prosperity to both nations.
Tweet by Secretary Mnuchin:
Met with the Qatari Secretary for Security Affairs, Mohammed Al-Misned, to continue a strong partnership.
Tweet by Secretary Mnuchin:
This evening I met with my Qatari counterparts including Finance Minister Al-Emadi to discuss bilateral economic issues and the fight to prevent terrorist financing.
Tweet by Charge D’Affaires William Grant:
Honored to join meetings of Secretary .
@stevenmnuchin1 HH Sheikh . @TamimBinHamad, PM/MOI Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani & Mohammed al-Misned, Secretary to the Amir for Security Affairs US & Qatar agree on making more joint progress to control terrorism financing & on critical matters
On Monday, the famed Chatham House think tank in London hosted an on-the-record talk on Qatar’s foreign policy featuring HE Lolwah R.M. Al Khater, Spokesperson for the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Dr. Abdullah Baabood, the former Director of the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University. The event focused on Qatar’s foreign policy as a regional moderator and leader during the Arab Spring and into the current illegal blockade.
Lowlah R.M. Al Khater and Dr. Abdullah Baabood discussed the failure of many Arab governments to respond constructively to the Arab Spring. Other participants focused on misconceptions about Qatar’s relationships with Islamism and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular.
Audience questions varied, but many regarded Qatar’s relationships with its neighbors in the wake of the illegal blockade and Jamal Khashoggi crisis, as well as the future of the GCC and Yemen.
Chatham House Recording
$2.5 million of the $30 million Qatar Harvey Fund will help reopen Harris County’s Third Ward Riverside Hospital. The hospital is planned to reopen in 2021. The Qatar Harvey Fund was committed in September, 2017 following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey to the Houston, Texas area. The announcement was made at a news conference at the site of the former Riverside Hospital with a focus on having the site be redeveloped into a primary care facility with a focus on mental health.
The announcement was jointly made by H.E. Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Qatari ambassador to the United States; U.S. Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston; and Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis.
“The Qatar Harvey Fund is proud to partner with Harris County on the Riverside Hospital Project. From its very beginning, the fund’s goal has been to support long-term rebuilding efforts for families and communities most affected by Hurricane Harvey. This redevelopment and expansion will both restore a historic neighborhood institution and provide the Third Ward with much needed health services — a critical need for enduring recovery.” – H.E. Sheikh Meshal Bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatari Ambassador to the United States
The hospital was originally opened in 1918, then renamed Riverside Hospital in 1961. The hospital closed in 2015 due to financial instability. Harris County purchased the site in 2018, but it has remained vacant and in need of serious repair.
“There’s nothing like having a hospital like this in our neighborhood… It provides jobs and opportunities.” – J.A. Ward Junior, former Houston ISD teacher
Qatar’s efforts following Hurricane Harvey fall under a greater pattern of assistance that the nation has offered globally. In 2005, Qatar made a $100 million relief contribution to the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama after Hurricane Katrina. The Qatar Katrina Fund donated the $100 million in aid relief to three main aspects of reconstruction: $38.2 million to education, $34.4 million to housing, and $27.4 million to healthcare.
(Image Source: Houston Chronicle)
On Tuesday September 25, HH the Amir of Qatar, Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani gave his speech to the UN General Assembly. The speech focused on Qatar’s resilience in the face of, and continued commitment to a diplomatic resolution to the illegal blockade against Qatar.
1) The Amir pled for the international community to resolve disputes between member states through dialogue and international legal mechanisms, rather than by force:
“If the international community wants to achieve global security and stability, it should go beyond managing crises and seek comprehensive and just solutions to them in accordance with the provisions of international law and resolutions of international legitimacy, away from selectivity, double standards and policy of imposing a fait accompli by force.”
2) He condemned the illegal blockade against Qatar, saying,
“More than a year after the illegal blockade imposed on the State of Qatar, many facts were revealed about a pre-arranged campaign of incitement against it, beside the insinuation and fabrications used to create the crisis.
In the meantime, the international community recognized the falseness of the allegations that had been propagated against my country to justify the premeditated measures taken under the pretext of these invented and untrue allegations, in a flagrant violation of the international law and the basis of relations between nations, and the values and norms of our peoples.”
3) He applauded Qatar’s resilience and thriving in the face of the illegal blockade:
“… the period that followed the unjust siege has witnessed the strengthening of the status of the State of Qatar and consolidation of its role as an active partner in the regional and international arenas, and Qatar’s economy continued its growth as a proof of its vigor and consistency. The State of Qatar has also maintained its advanced and leading rankings vis-a-vis the countries of the region in global indicators, especially in the areas of human security and human development. This has strengthened the Qatari people’s faith in their potentials, values and principles, and cemented cohesion of their unity.”
4) He reiterated Qatar’s continued commitment to a diplomatic, friendly resolution to the blockade in support of not just Qatar and the blockade countries but the entire Gulf Cooperation Council:
“… we have been, and still are, positively responsive to all the appreciated efforts of brotherly and friendly nations to end this crisis through an unconditional dialogue based on mutual respect for the sovereignty of nations.
… The blockade on Qatar has harmed the reputation of the GCC countries, and the ensuing paralysis has reflected negatively on the Councils’ aspired role towards regional and global issues.
We hope that we will all transform the Council’s current plight into an opportunity for reforming it and putting forward binding mechanisms to resolve the differences among its states through intra-dialogue, to avoid any similar recurrence in the future.”
5) He reaffirmed Qatar’s commitment to cooperating with governments and international institutions to fight terrorism:
“The fight against terrorism is among the priorities of the State of Qatar’s policy at the national, regional and international levels. We have developed legislative and institutional systems, fulfilled international obligations related to the fight against terrorism and its financing, and participated in all relevant international and regional efforts.”
Qatar’s Amir 2018 Address to the UN General Assembly
(Image Source: Peninsula Quarter )
The U.S. State Department publishes an annual, Congressionally-mandated terrorism report detailing a full and complete analysis of terrorism and counterterrorism efforts relating to countries around the world.
The 2017 annual terrorism report on Qatar marks a significant achievement is U.S.-Qatar security relations, highlighting Qatar’s historic progress in combatting terrorism and terrorism finance, unprecedented cooperation with U.S. counterterrorism agencies, and regional and international efforts to counter violent extremism, in line with the U.S. military’s strategic counterterrorism objectives and strategies.
Below is an overview of key findings from the report:
The Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, of which Qatar is a founding member, has been successful in degrading the terrorist group’s foothold in the region:
“While significant terrorist activities and safe havens continued to persist in the Middle East and North Africa throughout 2017, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and its partners experienced success against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. By the year’s end, the Coalition and its partners had successfully liberated nearly all of the territory ISIS once controlled in Iraq and Syria, including the group’s so-called capital Raqqa. With the loss of territory in Iraq and Syria, however, ISIS began to convert to more insurgent tactics toward the end of 2017.”
The United States and Qatar enhanced bilateral counterterrorism cooperation through a historic July 2017 Memorandum of Understanding and a November 2017 U.S.-Qatar Counterterrorism Dialogue:
“The United States and Qatar significantly increased counterterrorism cooperation in 2017, under the Counterterrorism Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Secretary of State and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in July. In the MoU, Qatar and the United States set forth mutually accepted means of increasing information sharing, disrupting terrorism financing flows, and intensifying counterterrorism activities.
At the November 8, 2017, U.S.-Qatar Counterterrorism Dialogue, the two governments affirmed the progress made on implementing the MoU and committed to expand bilateral counterterrorism cooperation. Qatar is an active participant in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, is active in all Defeat-ISIS Coalition working groups, and has provided significant support in facilitating U.S. military operations in the region. Qatar hosts approximately 10,000 U.S. servicemen and women on two military installations critical to coalition efforts. Security services capable of monitoring and disrupting terrorist activities have maintained the status quo.”
The government of Qatar has enacted sweeping legislation to define, investigate, designate, and prosecute illegal activities related to aiding terrorist organizations, with advisory assistance from U.S. security officials:
“In July, the Qatari government promulgated Decree 11 of 2017, which amended the 2004 Law on Combating Terrorism. The amendment set out definitions of terrorism-related activities, penalties for terrorism-related offenses, and the establishment of a national designations list. In October, the U.S. government led a workshop for relevant Qatari authorities on the planned establishment of a domestic designations regime.”
Qatar’s security agencies have pursued aggressive policies to monitor and degrade terrorism capabilities within the country:
“The State Security Bureau maintains an aggressive posture toward monitoring internal extremist and terrorism-related activities. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) and Internal Security Force are well-positioned to respond to incidents with rapid reaction forces that routinely engage in structured counterterrorism training and exercises.”
Qatar’s judicial offices are playing a leading role in prosecuting suspects of terrorism-related crimes, and coordinates counterterrorism efforts with a national committee responsible for interagency cooperation on Qatar’s national counterterrorism strategy:
“The Office of Public Prosecution is tasked with prosecuting all crimes, including any related to terrorism, and plays a significant role in terrorism investigations. Qatar maintains an interagency National Anti-Terrorism Committee (NATC) composed of representatives from more than 10 government agencies. The NATC is tasked with formulating Qatar’s counterterrorism policy, ensuring interagency coordination, fulfilling Qatar’s obligations to counter terrorism under international conventions, and participating in multilateral conferences on terrorism. U.S. officials met regularly with the chairman of the NATC to discuss implementation of the counterterrorism MoU and overall counterterrorism cooperation.”
The July 2017 U.S.-Qatar Memorandum of Understanding has been a critical instrument for bilateral counterterrorism cooperation between the two allied countries:
“As a result of the counterterrorism MoU, the United States and Qatar significantly increased information sharing, including on identities of known and suspected terrorists. Aviation security information sharing also increased, as new protocols were agreed to and established. During 2017, MOI authorities cooperated with DHS officials to enhance screening capabilities of the approximately 50 million travelers that pass through Hamad International Airport each year.”
U.S. officials have been welcomed to Qatar to assist government agencies with training, advising, technical assistance, and capacity building to further enhance Qatar’s counterterrorism effectiveness:
“U.S. technical assistance to Qatari law enforcement and judicial agencies increased, a result of the counterterrorism MoU. The Departments of Justice, State, and the Treasury led a workshop on domestic designations, while the FBI provided training on watchlists and terrorism financing investigations and the Department of Justice provided two advisors for capacity building within the Office of Public Prosecution. In February 2017, the Department of State and relevant Qatar agencies established a framework for ATA program security-related training in 2017-2019.”
Qatar continues its leadership role in regional and international multilateral counterterrorism organizations, that have proved vital to curbing terrorism financing:
“Qatar is a member of the Middle East North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. In 2017, Qatar commenced preparations for the 2019 MENAFATF Mutual Evaluation, including establishing an interagency task force, formalizing cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, and intensifying coordination with U.S. counterparts. Qatar’s financial intelligence unit, the Qatar Financial Information Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group. Qatar is a member of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group and the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), a U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative announced during President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May 2017.”
In 2017, Qatar passed updated terrorism financing legislation that mandates swift and meaningful punitive action against suspected terrorism financiers:
“Decree 11 of 2017 defined terrorism financing-related activities, laid out penalties, and established a domestic designations list. Qatari legislation requires the Office of Public Prosecution to freeze the funds of individuals and organizations included on the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions list. The Qatar Central Bank works with financial institutions to confirm asset-freezing compliance with respect to these UN obligations.”
Qatar deepened cooperation with the United States on combatting terrorism financing during 2017:
“In October 2017, Qatar joined the United States and other TFTC countries in coordinated domestic designations of individuals and entities associated with AQAP and ISIS-Yemen.”
Qatar has pursued legal action against internationally-designated terrorism financiers:
“Two UN-designated financiers who were acquitted in a 2015-2016 trial were placed under arrest and imprisoned in July 2017. The Qatari Attorney General initiated proceedings to appeal the prior acquittals. Additionally, Qatari authorities also placed under arrest two other terrorism financiers previously convicted in the 2015-2016 trial.”
Qatar has reformed its regulatory regime for charitable organizations, to ensure compliance with anti-terrorism finance laws:
“In July, Qatari authorities took sweeping measures to monitor and restrict the overseas activities of Qatari charities, requiring all such activity to be conducted via one of the two approved charities. Authorities also significantly increased procedures to monitor private donations. The sector is overseen by the Regulatory Authority for Charitable Activities, in coordination with the Central Bank and law enforcement agencies.”
Qatar has invested heavily in education to prevent extremist ideology from manifesting in its own borders and through international educational initiatives:
“The core of Qatar’s CVE strategy remained intensive investment in education through the 45 entities comprising the Qatar Foundation. This includes Qatar campuses of six U.S. universities, as well as through its national university and the public K-12 school system. The government is undertaking a review of its K-12 education system and sought the input of U.S. academic institutions. The growing Qatar Foundation school system follows an International Baccalaureate curriculum, which is grounded in liberal education principles.
Qatar Foundation International (QFI), headquartered in Washington, DC, remained a primary vehicle for Qatar’s international CVE activities. QFI’s Education Above All initiative provided educational opportunities to communities stricken by poverty or crisis, primarily in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East – impacting an estimated 10 million children worldwide since 2013. Reach Out to Asia provided access to education for youth in that region. QFI’s Al Fakhoora initiative provided scholarships to Palestinian and Syrian youth. These and other QFI initiatives are designed to facilitate understanding and education, and deter isolationist, xenophobic, and extremist thought and ideology.
Qatar continued its robust financial support for the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, and in December hosted its seventh annual Board Meeting. Qatar continued to fund the Education for Justice Initiative, a CVE program focused on crime prevention and criminal justice implemented by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.”
(Image Source: State Department)