For decades, the Taliban, dissidents, African rebel commanders, and exiles of every stripe have been allowed into the country.
As it welcomes over a million soccer fans from around the world for the World Cup, the tiny emirate is getting more scrutiny.
The quest for global influence is wide and deep in Qatar. Flush with gas billions, the country has sought mediation conflicts far away, but it has also caused diplomatic conflict back home. Three Gulf Arab neighbors, along with Egypt, severed ties with Doha in 2017, accusing it of financing terrorism and harboring fugitive dissidents.
There’s no doubt that Qatar has pursued contrarian policies despite denying the charges.
The country has a big role to play in diplomacy.
Washington gave the go-ahead for the Taliban to open a political office in the Persian Gulf state. The stylish capital was where the insurgency made their home. As American diplomats and Taliban officials sought to end America’s longest war, Doha played host to them and its close ties with the group proved crucial. Last year, as the United States rushed to get out of Afghanistan, Qatar stepped up once more. It was praised by President Joe Biden, who said it received nearly half of all Afghan and American evacuees. The new rulers of Afghanistan have a key role to play in their relationship with the West.
REFUGE FOR ISLAMISTS
In contrast to its Gulf Arab neighbors, Qatar is sympathetic to political Islam. In the early days of the Arab Spring, it bet on fundamentalists in the region. The former president of Egypt, who was democratically elected but divisive, was backed by the Al Jazeera satellite news network. Mohammed Morsi’s supporters were given sanctuary by Qatar after the military ousted him. The wars in Libya and Syria were sparked by powerful Islamist militias. That led to accusations that Qatar was funding terrorists. The West has used Doha’s ties with militant groups to negotiate hostage releases in countries such as Syria. While it has a reputation of being a safe haven for Islamic extremists, it has also seen violence in the past. A car bomb killed the former Chechen leader in 2004.
ISRAEL & THE PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, has a base in Qatari Arabia. The rivalry between the two Palestinian groups, Hamas and Fatah, was broken after the 2007 split. In order to provide badly needed aid to impoverished, blockaded Gaza, Qatar has low-level ties with Israel. Fuel, civil servants’ salaries, and cash to needy families are some of the things that have been done with the money from the Qataris. The cease-fires between Israel and Hamas that have restored calm after four wars, as well as countless smaller skirmishes, have been helped by the key role played by Qatar.
The African nation of Chad is struggling with the aftermath of the killing of its long-time President, who had ruled the country since 1990. The son of Deby is now the leader. Ahead of national reconciliation talks, Chad signed a pledge in August with over 40 rebel groups. Concord in Chad, the main rebel group in the country, did not sign the pledge. It is not clear if the pledge will be enough as the 18-month transition from military rule to democracy ends. Last year, Qatar helped broker an end to a diplomatic standoff between the two countries, which were at odds over a number of issues, including oil in the Indian Ocean.
Iran and Qatar share a massive offshore natural gas field in the Persian Gulf. Good relations need to be maintained with the Islamic Republic. The U.S. and Oman have always had an indirect relationship. Iran and the US held indirect talks over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal. Top officials from both countries have telephone conversations during the nuclear negotiations. Al Jazeera covers Iran in a sympathetic way. The main headquarters of the U.S. are hosted by Qatar, which has beefed up its own military. The military has a central Command.
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