Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani is stepping aside after 18 years in charge. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani will now take the helm of the tiny nation, whose oil and gas wealth has altered the course of events across the Middle East and projected Qatar onto the international stage.
The decision of the emir to hand over power to Sheikh Tamim, the new emir, has been a long time in the making, it has been signalled, the emir has been talking about it in Washington…
The outgoing emir announced he was stepping down in a nationwide televised address.
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani took over in a bloodless coup in 1995 while his father was abroad. He said he wanted to use Qatar’s wealth to modernise the barren peninsular. He also set about putting Qatar on the map.
He helped to establish Al Jazeera, the Arab world’s first satellite news channel, and launched a brand new global airline from scratch. Qatar and its emir slowly emerged as important players on the diplomatic stage, helping to mediate conflicts in Sudan, Lebanon and Gaza.
Qatar also played a pivotal role in the Arab Spring, supporting the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and now backing the opposition in Syria.
Sheikh Tamim was educated in the UK, at Sherborne public school and Sandhurst Military Academy. He is the fourth son of Sheikh Hamad and was appointed heir apparent in 2003. He has taken an increasingly active role in Qatar’s foreign affairs, while his father groomed him to take over.
But what message is the emirate sending to the region, and the wider world? And what lies ahead for one of the world’s most politically ambitious nations?
Inside Story, with presenter Ghida Fakhry, is joined by Hassan al-Ansari, editor-in-chief of the Qatar Tribune newspaper, and former director of the Gulf Studies Center; Ian Black, the Middle East editor of the Guardian newspaper, and Blake Hounshell, the deputy editor of Politico magazine.
“I strongly doubt that there was any American pressure about internal Qatari politics, I do know that there was some unhappiness in the White House about Qatar’s role in Syria and allegations that Qatar has been dealing with ‘jihadi’ groups, sending weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra, specifically in Syria, I don’t know the truth of these allegations, but my understanding that when the emir came to Washington recently that was very much a subject of discussion …”
-Blake Hounshell, the deputy editor of Politico magazine