Qatar is one of the smallest of the Arab counties and one of the richest countries in the world. Yet what it lacks in size it makes up in its abundance of oil, natural gas, and chutzpah.
Chutzpah for the uninitiated is a Yiddish word deriving from Hebrew meaning “insolence” or “audacity.” It is the quality of audacity for good or for bad. In the business world the word typically means having unusual amount of courage or ardor. And of that, Qatar has plenty.
The tiny emirate in the Arabian or Persian Gulf has not shied away from international politics and multinational intrigue because of its size. Quite to the contrary, the emirate launched itself headfirst into the quagmire of intricacies that is Middle East politics.
It appeared, on the surface at least, by the support the emir was giving Islamist groups that Qatar was squarely in the Muslim Brotherhood camp.
Qatar supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. It supported Hamas in Gaza. It supported Sunni elements fighting in Syria to oust President Bashar Assad. It financed the building of mosques in as far away places as Astana, the capital of oil rich Kazakhstan –before the former Soviet Socialist Republic discovered oil and became rich in its own right.
It offered a safe haven to radical preachers such as the Egyptian Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most radical Islamist theologians. Qaradawi is best known for his television broadcast on al-Jazeera, “al-Shari’a wa el Hayath,” which has an audience estimated to be around 60 million viewers world-wide.”
Qatar was long deemed to be squarely in the camp of the jihadist, Muslim Brotherhood, takfiri alliance, set to bring about the return of the caliphate and impose shari’a, or Islamic law, upon the world.
But then something changed although the Qataris deny any change in policy. First, the obvious: the country’s ruler, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani, who has been in power since 1995, stepped down and handed power to his son, Sheikh Tamim, making him the youngest Arab leader at 33 years of age.
There has been no real explanation for this unexpected move, an unprecedented move in the Arab world.
Last weekend the coalition of Syrian rebel groups opposed to the regime in Damascus met in Istanbul to elect a new leader. It was a tight race between the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate and the secularists. The secularists won and voted Ahmad Jarba into the position.
Qatar issued a statement through its official news agency, QNA, “welcoming the election” and called on “all members of the coalition and Syrian opposition to work together with the new leadership.”
Then when the Egyptian military ousted President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, the emir of Qatar sent a congratulatory note to Egypt’ s president Aldi Mansour.
Qatar was alone among Gulf Arab states in celebrating the 2011 Arab Spring revolt that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak, a foe of Iran and a long-time ally of the hereditary states that sit on nearly a quarter of the world’s oil reserves.
Now there are reports – unconfirmed – that Qatar has expelled Shiekh Qaradawi and ordered the closure of all Muslim Brotherhood offices in the country. There has been no confirmation of this report, but if true, this represents a major shift in foreign and domestic policy from this oil and gas rich country in the Arabian Gulf.
If true, this is one more set back for the Islamists who in recent months, weeks, and days have suffered a number of major setbacks.
While it may be still far too early to claim any sort of definite setback for the Islamist radicals, consider the following:
1. The sudden defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Only a year ago they had succeeded in winning the presidency in a well run and fair election.
2. The French military intervention in Mali last January when Islamist groups loyal to al-Qaida practically took control of the country in an armed coup. French troops were dispatched ands forced the Islamists out.
3. The Islamists in Syria are taking heavy losses. Those include jihadi volunteers from around the world who are drawn to Syria to fight on the side of the Sunni opposition.
4. New laws and regulations being enacted in Europe and the United States to prevent Islamists to hide behind laws while they support, incite and encourage terrorism against the very West where they chose to reside.
One of the first people to feel the impact of these new regulations is the radical and militant cleric Abu Qatada. A resident of the United Kingdom for the past 20 years, the Jordanian-born Palestinian Omar Othman, was deported back to Jordan to stand trial.
Abu Qatada first came to the attention of the authorities in 2001 when he was first arrested over alleged terror connections in 2001 and the UK has been battling to deport him for eight years.
Piece all these events together and new a pattern begins to emerge.