Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What is Qatar doing in Syria?

Qatar's emir is putting his money where his mouth is, and Syria's opposition fighters are reaping the benefits

Michael Stephens for Open Democracy
, part of the Guardian Comment Network, Wednesday 8 August 2012

".....So here is my guess. The emir wants to secure a legacy for himself as the man who took the Arab world into a more activist phase of multilateral action. As the man who pushed a lethargic, divided region to stand up and solve Arab problems with Arab action, backed by the use of force for those who don't seem to get the message. A certain Mr Gaddafi and Mr Assad being the primary targets who needed "education".

For what it's worth, I do believe that Qatar sees both the Syrian and Libyan interventions in a moral light. Many Qataris are deeply angry that Syrians are being shot and shelled by their own government and don't possess the means to defend themselves. While I cannot speak for the emir, this is certainly a factor in the thinking of Sheikh Hamad.

There are some who think Qatar has bitten off more than it can chew. A tiny state whose entire civil service numbers less than the staff of Saudi Arabia's interior ministry cannot surely be expected to make the correct strategic calculations in such a complex and violent conflict. But persevere it has, and now Qatar is deeply engaged on a number of fronts, supporting disparate groups comprising the Free Syrian Army along with its Turkish and Saudi allies.

It is a dangerous task and, as I have previously warned, the winds of the Syrian conflict may yet blow back upon Qatar. But for Sheikh Hamad the expense is worth it in the long run, for what will emerge from all Qatar's activism is a more decisive Arab arena, shorn of the weaknesses and divisions that have so long plagued it.

Will the emir's dream become a reality? Who knows, but for now the man is putting his money where his mouth is, and opposition fighters in Syria are receiving the benefits."

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