An article in the Wall Street Journal overviewed the ways in which Qatar has adjusted and, indeed, thrived in the face of the illegal blockade facing the country. By establishing new trade routes, Qatar has robustly demonstrated that it will not be coerced by economic pressure from the siege nations.
“What happened to us is something that we don’t want to happen to another country… it will be very dangerous for the region if aggressive acts like this become the new norm.” -Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al Thani, director of the Qatari Government Communications Office
The article illustrates how the blockade is more likely to backfire the longer it is in place. Qatar has been forced to deepen its trade routes with nations beyond the siege countries, and as those adjustments become the new normal, they will only further reduce the amount of leverage the siege countries have over Qatar in the future.
“These trade links sooner rather than later will become stable and normal, and this may affect the geopolitics of the region in the future.” -Nader Kabbani, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center
The blockade has accelerated certain political and economic reforms Qatar planned. The reforms are welcome news for Qatari residents, citizens, and businesspeople, but are not linked specifically to the demands of the blockading countries.
Since June, the emirate has abolished visa requirements for 80 nationalities, moved to establish permanent-residency rights for foreigners, and is setting up free economic zones. There are even plans for holding elections to a new legislature.
Rather than scaring international companies out of doing work with Qatar, the diplomatic siege has inadvertently led to a surge in business penetration in Qatar.
Because of severed air links, multinational companies can no longer fly executives on daytrips to Doha from the Gulf’s regional hub of Dubai… This has led many international companies to establish branches in Doha, leading to a 70% rise in the number of firms operating under QTF licenses.
The article cited a recent report by the International Monetary Fund that notes how the diplomatic blockade has “acted as a catalyst for enhancing domestic food production and reducing reliance on a small group of countries.”
Qatar’s Defense Forces recently hosted a two-day defense and security expo in Doha on March 12-13, 2018. The Doha International Defense & Maritime Expo (DIMDEX) hosted an estimated 180 defense contractors and companies from 60 countries. The expo, launched in 2008 is the largest event devoted exclusively to maritime security in the Middle East and North Africa. The event was attended by ministers from Greece, Mongolia, India, Turkey, and various other nations.
At the event, Qatar’s Defense Minister and Deputy President, Dr. Khalid bin Mohammad Al-Attiyah, spoke on Qatar’s Diplomatic Strategy regarding the GCC blockade, Al-Udeid Air Base (Base of US CENTCOM), and Qatar’s efforts to modernize and develop its defense forces.
In regards to the GCC Blockade:
“These days we don’t have time to bother with what they are doing…we are focusing on our countries development and prosperity.”
A Change in Strategic Calculation:
“We have a traditional ally and friend, for example, with the US and our relationship with Turkey also goes way back…It’s a pity with what’s happening in the GCC and we were ambushed on one day, but this is distracting us and our allies from countering terrorism in the region.”
Resolving the GCC Crisis:
“The government of Qatar believes the only way is dialogue. We are open to negotiate anything, but it has to be with respect to every countries sovereignty.”
“The relation between Qatar and the US is very old relation and a strategic one. The things we do in all aspects, not only in terms of military, show the depth of that relation. Our improvements to Al-Udeid Airbase is not to seduce or entice the US…but we are only building facilities in order to make the families of those stationed at the base better.”
A full recording of the Defense Ministers remarks is given below.
On International Women’s Day, the United Nations Women for Peace Association (UNWFPA) awarded the Al Jazeera Media Network its inaugural “Awareness Award”. The award was given to the network for its crucial role in shedding light on women’s issues around the globe.
The award announcement was followed by a panel discussion with prominent journalists and media executives.
The president of UNWFPA, Barbara Winston, stated:
“In our inaugural year of the UNWFPA Awareness Award, it is my distinct pleasure to give the award to Al Jazeera for their extensive work on women’s and girls’ issues across the planet. The programming on Al Jazeera on women’s and girls’ issues is exemplary and we’re happy for the work that Al Jazeera has done and continues to do. Often going into dangerous war zones to get their stories, Al Jazeera journalists, many of whom are women themselves, risk their lives to bring to the world the stories that matter.”
The award was accepted by Al Jazeera’s Washington correspondent Patty Culhane and the co-host of Al-Jazeera’s “The Stream”, Malika Bilal. Al Jazeera’s Executive Director of Global Brand and Communications, Abdulla Al Najjar stated:
“Throughout its history, Al Jazeera has been committed to covering issues that affect women from all backgrounds, faiths and regions of the world. Women are so often victims of violence, abuse and persecution, and media needs to be courageous in covering their stories. We are very grateful to the UNWFPA for this honor, and are committed to continuing telling women’s stories from around the globe.”
Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, addressed the 37th regular session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva addressing the blockade imposed on Qatar and human rights violations in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta.
He called, “upon the Human Rights Council and all its mechanism bodies to take up their responsibilities and stop the unilateral measures taken by some states against the population of Qatar and put an end to this racist course of action.”
The dispute between Qatar and regional states began in June of last year over unfounded allegations of supporting “terrorism.” In November 2017, the UNHCR released a report addressing the human cost of the blockade. The report concluded that the blockade violates human rights.
The FM stated that, “Victims must be compensated and perpetrators be held accountable.”
FM Sheikh Mohammed also called on the international community to end the violence and killing of civilians in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta. As of Feb. 18, the day bombardment began, 550 civilians have been killed so far.
The FM specifically stated that, “There is a legal and moral responsibility of the international community to find a solution of the Syrian conflict based on the UN resolutions.”
Munich Security Conference 2018 – HH The Emir of Qatar’s Opening Statement
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, addressed a distinguished audience of global leaders and organizations in Munich. At the Munich Security Conference, the Emir addressed several issues that have the potential to threaten both regional security in the Middle East and international security as a whole:
He stressed that although the battle against ISIS in Iraq and Syria is coming to an end, “the real battle, laying the foundation for peaceful coexistence, has yet to begin.”
Sheikh Tamim praised the model of conflict resolution pursued by European nations through the European Union:
He specifically stated that, “We can mirror efforts of the European Union, its ability to find common ground to rebuild and prosper.” The emir stressed the need for a regional organization in the Middle East that has the capacity to work through fundamental differences in order to alleviate the suffering of peoples that currently exists in countries such as Yemen and Syria.
The emir specifically stressed that extremist ideologies are not specific to the Middle East or any one particular religion. He stated that a continued pattern of state failures has perpetuated the injustices and suffering of peoples in the region. This, the Emir stated, has laid the groundwork for extremism in the region and has allowed it to flourish.
Additionally, the emir praised his nation’s resilience in the face of “a futile crisis manufactured by [regional] neighbors, some of whom are major regional players, once believed to be stabilizing factors on the world stage.”
He added that, “by diffusing the impact of the illegal and aggressive measures imposed on [his] people, Qatar preserved its sovereignty.” He stressed that even small states, employing diplomacy and economic planning, can counter external pressures from larger states.
The Emir stressed that in the face of regional tensions with neighboring GCC countries, Qatar has maintained its initial stance of pursuing diplomacy rather than pursuing reactionary counter measures. He stated that despite the intensity of regional pressure and a complete naval, air, and land blockade the state of Qatar has not missed one shipment of its primary export, Liquefied Natural Gas.
CNN compiled a list of the ten best things to do and see at Souq Waqif, in central Doha, Qatar.
This labyrinth bazaar, whose name translates to “standing market,” is the Qatari capital’s oldest souq and a major tourist destination on its own.Its covered passageways are stuffed with dozens of tiny stores showcasing their wares piled high along the market’s mud-coated stone walls.If you stroll around its narrow lanes when you travel here, you’ll find everything from garments to spices, perfumes to diamonds, scented oils to falcons — and much more.Not just a thriving marketplace, Souq Waqif is also home to a wide range of traditional-style restaurants and casual cafés which offer a diverse variety of local and regional flavors.There are also shisha lounges and charming antique stores, as well as art galleries and luxurious boutique hotels.A melting pot for locals and foreigners, this is the place to browse and explore, barter and shop, relax and mingle.
Check out the rest of the Souq’s many offerings at CNN
Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy is hosting a football tournament on February 17th at the Powerleague Trafford Sportsdome in Manchester in celebration of Qatar National Sports Day.
The aim of the event is to spread further awareness regarding regarding the 2022 FIFA World Cup and to support Qatari students studying abroad in the United Kingdom.
We’re happy to be in the UK 🇬🇧 this week, where we’ll be celebrating #NationalSportsDay with Qatari students based in Britain and hosting information sessions about #Qatar2022 ⚽✨ pic.twitter.com/4TLWat7oCp
— Road to 2022 (@roadto2022) February 12, 2018
Qatar’s Ambassador to the United States, Sheikh Meshal Hamad Al-Thani shared his views on the John Fredericks Show live from the Embassy of Qatar in Washington D.C.
The ambassador discussed and highlighted several key views regarding the bilateral relationship between Qatar and the United States. The ambassador stated that he wanted to celebrate the 45 years of relations that the two states enjoy and expressed his desire to strengthen the three main pillars of the relationship: Military Cooperation, Economic Interests, and Shared Political and Cultural Values.
Additional topics that Ambassador Al-Thani was asked about dealt with the origin of the current political conflict between Qatar and other GCC nations and the way forward. The ambassador stated that Qatar is willing to come to the negotiating table and desires to deescalate the situation, given that the nation’s independence is non-negotiable. He highlighted that unity within the GCC was paramount in combatting terrorism and ensuring continued stability within the region.
The main topic discussed regarding military cooperation was the recent Strategic Dialogue that was hosted by both Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Mattis, along with their Qatari counterparts, Foreign Minister Abdulrahman Al-Thani and Defense Minister Khalid Al-Attiyah.
The ambassador highlighted the fact that 11,000 U.S. soldiers were stationed in the largest foreign American military base (Al-Udeid military base) that is home to US CENTCOM headquarters. Following Saudi requests to have the previous military base moved in 2003, Qatar gladly opened its doors and took part in funding the creation of the base. The ambassador also stated that in response to President Trump’s desire for allies to share the burden, Qatar has decided to expand the military base and continues to actively conduct counter terrorism operations in conjunction with American personnel.
Ambassador Al Thani highlighted the government of Qatar’s commitment to invest $45 billion in America’s infrastructure, firms, and jobs and shared recent economic developments between the two states. He highlighted the recent $80 billion agreement between Boeing and Qatar Airways to acquire additional civilian aircraft to be used by the airline. Furthermore, he shared the nation’s desire to acquire an additional twenty-four F-15’s for the Qatari Air Force. This past June, Qatar and the U.S. signed a $12 billion agreement that would provide 72 of the aircraft to the Qatari military.
Shared Political & Cultural Values
John Fredrick highlighted the fact that major American universities (Georgetown, Cornell, North Western, Texas A & M, et. al.) were present in Qatar and that a majority of the American population was not aware of this aspect. The ambassador responded that Qatar admires and shares American values and because of this chose to partner with American universities in order to promote American culture, both domestically and within the region.
The ambassador stressed that American values regarding education are crucial in combatting extremism. He highlighted the fact that admission to these universities is not only reserved for Qatari’s and American’s, but open to any resident of the region.
On Wednesday, February 14th 2018, Qatar pledged to $1 billion in reconstruction aid to Iraq at the Kuwait International Conference of Iraq Reconstruction and Development in Kuwait City. The Conference of Iraq’s friends and allies, hosted by Kuwait, the World Bank, and the European Union, garnered over $30 billion in reconstruction aid, loans, and direct investments:
A total $30 billion in pledges were made Wednesday at a donor conference for Iraq’s reconstruction after the country’s devastating war with the Islamic State group
Kuwait’s Emir, Sheikh Sabah declared Iraq’s peaceful reconstruction a priority for the region:
This large assembly of international communities that are here today is reflective of the large loss that Iraq withstood in facing terrorism,” Sheikh Sabah said. “Iraq cannot commence the mission of rebuilding itself without support, which is why we are all here today from all around the world, to stand by Iraq’s side.”
Iraq has been devastated by a years-long fight against violent extremism within its borders:
Of the money needed, Iraqi officials estimate that $17 billion alone needs to go toward rebuilding homes, the biggest single line item offered Monday, on the first day of meetings. The United Nations estimates 40,000 homes need to be rebuilt in Mosul alone.
The war against the Islamic State group displaced more than 5 million people in Iraq, only half of whom have returned to their hometowns.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi urged all his country’s neighbors to contribute:
“We need to rely on all our neighbors and friends to help Iraq invest in its future,” he said.
Qatari Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad bin Abdullah Al Mahmoud and Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker toured the Boeing facility in Charleston, South Carolina on Friday, February 2nd. Boeing CEO Kevin McAllister spoke highly of Boeing’s partnership with Qatar Airways, citing the tens of thousands of American jobs created based on Qatar Airways’ purchases from Boeing:
Qatar has had major military and commercial contracts with Boeing since 2006 when Qatar Airways bought 22 Boeing 777 planes. The relationship has deepened – Qatar Airways now has 30 Boeing 787-9s on order and in late 2017 the Qatari military placed a $6.2 billion order for 36 Boeing F-15s. These procurements are a major boon to the U.S. economy in areas like South Carolina, where Boeing has a 787 factory with 6,800 employees and contractors.
Qatar has also expressed interest in broader investments in South Carolina. Coinciding with the Deputy Prime Minister and Qatar Airways CEO’s visit, the Qatar Investment Authority CEO Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Thani met with Governor Henry McMaster and Senator Lindsey Graham to discuss possible Qatari investments in real estate, infrastructure, energy, and elsewhere in South Carolina.