Sheikh Hamad’s first and most important moves after becoming emir in 1995 was to set up the television news channel Al-Jazeera
The station has brought an unprecedented degree of integrity to Arabic news coverage, and it has also become a mouthpiece and tool of influence for Qatar. Its creation also signalled a desire for the state to become influential beyond its borders.
Qatar has helped to bring opposing sides to the table to discuss tensions in Lebanon, Darfur, Eritrea and Palestine
Qatar’s influence in the region has increased in recent years as it has built and maintained relations with leaders in the Gulf and wider Middle East. In recent years, Qatar has helped to bring opposing sides to the table to discuss tensions in Lebanon, Darfur, Eritrea and Palestine. In 2011, as Libya rose against its leader Muammar Gaddafi, Qatar sent jets to support the rebels. In Syria, Sheikh Hamad backed away from the once warm relationship he had with President Bashar al-Assad, calling for the arming of Syrian rebels and suggesting the use of military intervention to topple the leader.
Sheikh Hamad had also been building up his reputation as a negotiator in the region, brokering an accord between the sparring Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas. He persuaded the latter to move its headquarters from Damascus to Doha, where Hamas’s leader Khaled Mashaal already has a house.
However, the former emir’s choice to take sides during the Pan-Arab uprisings tarnished his reputation as a friend to all, and his son will have to work on reconciliation. Doha’s pro-Muslim Brotherhood stance and support for President Mohamed Mursi in Egypt could be seen as backing the wrong horse. And Qatar’s choice to give a home to the region’s more controversial factions, and a voice through Al-Jazeera has not played well.
On ousting Mursi, head of the army General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi paid back the loans Doha had made to Cairo, underlining Egypt’s lack of dependency on Qatar. GCC allies Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors over Qatar’s support for the Brotherhood.
Sheikh Tamim has kept his ambassadors to those countries in place, however, to show that despite the snub, he is still dedicated to diplomacy. However, he is likely to adopt a more subtle approach to it than his father took.
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