Qatar knows only checkbook diplomacy

  • تميم وترامب

Qatar uses its wealth to gain access to the United States, said the Media Line.

This week, Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, met with US President Donald Trump to ink deals with American companies worth billions. The meeting highlights how Qatar uses its wealth to influence the United States.

'How many leaders besides Qatar spend a day in the White House? You don’t walk around there unless you’ve got what people want,' Michael Stephens, a research fellow for Middle East studies and head of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in Qatar, told The Media Line.

This is part of the Gulf state’s global strategy of investing and spending money in foreign countries, for example in Russia and Malaysia.

Last year, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman was named chairman of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), a sovereign wealth fund. Stephens contends that this indicates these two fields are intrinsically intertwined.

'Their foreign policy is their economic policy,' he said.

According to Stephens, Qatar plays this way not only because it is profitable and grants it access it would not otherwise have, but so that other countries will view it as an important global player.

'Qatar [does this to build its] brand as an actor on the world stage so that people will take notice. They want people to take notice and take [the Qataris’] preferences seriously,' he added.

Doha also uses the tactic of investing and spending money in foreign countries to ensure its security. Stephens argues that when Qatar does this, those countries have a stake in Qatar.

'They’re trying to defend themselves the only way a small country with wealth can do it. They are trading investment and capital flows, not just oil, for security,' he said.

According to Robert Mogielnicki, a resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, the invest-and-spend tactic is particularly effective with President Trump.

'There is no quicker path to gaining favor with the Trump Administration than to buy American. The Qataris have followed this strategy by finalizing a series of energy, defense and aircraft agreements with US companies,' he told The Media Line.

Mogielnicki explained that earlier this year, the QIA announced it planned to increase investment in the US by $15 billion, to $45 billion, over the next two years.

Not long ago, President Trump called Qatar a 'funder of terrorism.' Today, though, the US sees it as a crucial partner in containing Iran due to Tehran’s attempt to expand its regional influence.

Qatar is also crucial for the US militarily, as it is home to the Al Udeid Air Base and hosts the forward headquarters of US Central Command, which Ulrichsen calls the 'most important US base in the region.'

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