The Big Pharaoh
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Thursday, April 29, 2004

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The son who wants it both ways

In 1995, the son of the Qatari emir carried out a bloodless coup against his father and seized control of the country. The domestic and foreign policy of Qatar were changed dramatically ever since. I will deal with Qatar’s foreign policy since Al-Jazeerah is a major player in the international relations of Qatar.

The new Qatari emir divided his foreign policy into objectives. The first is to get closer and closer to the West. On the other hand, the second objective was to compete with Saudi Arabia for the “leadership” of the Arab masses. Qatar now has very strong relations with the US and Europe. It hosts the largest US base in the region and it seems that the emir is proud of that. Surprisingly, Qatar also forged warm economic relations with Israel.

To neutralize such policies, the new emir launched Al-Jazeerah channel to be the “free mouth piece” of all Arabs, whether they are government officials or their dissidents. That provoked many Arab nations especially Saudi Arabia who launched Al-Arabiya channel as an answer to Al-Jazeerah that interviewed Saudi dissidents on a constant bases. What is so weird is that Qatar allows its channel to embarrass any Arab nation except itself! Mamoun Fandi, the famous Egyptian liberal thinker, said in a recent interview “Al Jazeerah has a program where they interview former political leaders who tell the behind the scenes stories of what happened during their time, I’ll congratulate Al-Jazeerah if it interviewed a former Qatari politicians who would tell us about the son vs dad coup!” Fandi went on to add that Muslim Brotherhood members constitute 60% of Al-Jazeerah’s staff (Ahmed Mansour, who was dispatched to Fallujah, is a well known Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood member).

What would make a country that hosts the largest US base in the Middle East a host to a channel that is dedicated to failing the US and its allies with every possible means? The answer lies in the answer to this question: what would you do if you discovered that there is rust on your metal table? You would put a certain cover on the table. That’s right. Al-Jazeerah is Qatar’s cover to its unbelievable warm relations with the US and Israel. It is also Qatar’s own tool in making that tiny nation a strategic roaring lion in the Gulf area and a fierce competitor of Saudi Arabia.

I want to hear it in Arabic.

General John Abizaid, commander of the US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, is an Arabic speaker of Lebanese decent. I am wondering why I’ve never heard him speaking in Arabic in those Baghdad press briefings. I can’t believe the US army missed and continue to miss such an opportunity.


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