Qatar: a new Game of Thrones edition?

Posted: Ali Acikgoz Date: 2013-07-23 01:23

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Doha © Wikimedia Commons

Middle eastern and world politics received word that a “palace coup” took place in Doha, Qatar on 25/06/2013 (Coup count: 1). Emir of the country, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, abdicated and passed the rule to his younger son Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

The former emir had brought major changes to Qatar’s internal and external policies, after he took the power from his father Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad with  in 1995 (Coup count: 2). Sheikh Khalifa gained access to office after his very own palace coup against his own family members (Coup count: 3). The most recent coup (Coup Nr. 1) points to serious maneuvers in middle eastern power games by different actors.

Although one can argue that the recurring coups are pointing towards a tradition of access to throne via intrigue, latest “palace coup” illustrates a different picture. Sheikh Hamad made remarks on abdicating the throne to his heir a short time before the passage of power took place. The former emir was a game changer as he increased the role of Qatar in middle eastern politics and world economy. Soon after his rise to power Al Jazeera network was established and Qatar became one of the financial participants in western stock markets using her wealth accumulated through Qatar’s vast natural gas reserves. During the Iraq War, Qatar was an important center of the U.S. military operations as she hosted American command staff. Al Jazeera itself was an influential actor during this period as served as a media hub reacting to the larger Arabic-speaking communities of the globe. Qatar grew stronger as an actor in her region and used “softer” means of politics to pursue her goals.

Al Jazeera English Newsdesk © Wikimedia Commons

Al Jazeera English Newsdesk © Wikimedia Commons

After the “Arab Spring” sparked throughout Africa and Middle East, Al Jazeera championed the ”cause” and Qatar herself became an active actor in the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. Soon the Qatari government continued its efforts to carry the “Spring” to more places via backing up the Syrian rebels against Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, and the Muslim Brotherhood and newly elected president Morsi in Egypt. Soon, unfortunately for Qatar, Syrian opposition failed to bring the Al-Assad government down, and Morsi failed his quest to strengthen Egyptian economy. Qatar was actively supporting the Morsi government with financial aid, yet it proved inefficient as Morsi lost his seat with a coup by Egyptian Army on 3rd of July.

The abdication that brought the new emir Sheikh Tamim, was also part of a series of “reforms” to provide the younger generations with more responsibility and power in Qatar’s politics, along with readjustments on governmental bodies to provide more representation for its populace. However, the future might be darker and full of more terrors (or terrorists, depending on where you stand) than the Qatari policymakers expect. The abdication was ill-timed for Qatar as Morsi lost his seat a week after the new emir had sat on the throne and provided him more problems. Qatar needs more funds as she is going to host FIFA World Cup 2020 and has also put it candidacy for future Olympic Games. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia and her allies provided the new government installed in Egypt with much needed funds and morale support. Al Jazeera  engaged in a media war with Saudi-based Al Arabiya network. The two channels focus their coverage in accordance with their position in Egyptian coup.

Qatar might have changed the rules of her own political game as the former emir abdicated from throne instead of going down with another palace coup, however Qatar’s position in Middle East and the globe as an actor provides new difficulties for the new ruler of the country. The Syrian conflict is persisting and armed attacks between different camps in Egypt are taking more tolls by the day. The media and propaganda wars escalate and new problems loom over the horizon. The “Arab Spring” is still roaming free and the summer is coming.

Note: All the joking aside, the recurring coups and connections to other actors in its foreign policy made it easy to draw analogies with a widely popular tv show.