Why has Qatar stopped being diplomatic?

Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, the Qatari foreign minister.
Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah, the Qatari foreign minister — Creative Commons, Marc Müller

Qatar is historically stuck between four powers from all four sides: Bahrain north, Oman south, Saudi Arabia west and Iran east. The country itself is too small to fend off a military assault from its neighbours. It is also prone to coups, including foreign-induced. To survive, it must thrive in diplomacy and keep good relationships with everybody. In the same way, it musn’t support a specific group or power to the point of polarising itself, because that would create enemies. Qataris have long been excellent diplomats, but now, they stand in the shade of troubling elements.

If diplomacy is vital for the survival of the nation, so why having created and supported Al Jazeera? As a television news network, this company holds a tremendous mediatic power. It is also widely associated with Qatar’s image and the other way round, and can thus heavily influence the country’s image. By its critical coverage of the powerful, Al Jazeera has always harmed Doha’s diplomatic efforts. Because of that, the Forgotten land of God has faced numerous diplomatic incidents. The latests include a diplomatic row with Egypt, which has jailed three Al Jazeera English journalists for 7 to 10 years on terrorism charges; and this spring’s showdown with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, who withdrew their ambassadors from Doha and called on the country to shut down Al Jazeera and to stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2004, Washington even intended to bomb their Qatari ally to get rid of the satellite channel. The network’s most influential branch, Al Jazeera English, regularly criticises the relationships of its sister Arabic-language channels with Doha (I’ll soon upload a video about that).

If the absence of polarisation is vital for national security, why support the Muslim Brotherhood and thus get enemies? This support is the other reason for the aforsaid diplomatic upheavals with Cairo, Riyad, Abu Dhabi and Manama, four governments that do not like the Brotherhood. Recently, the Kuwaiti MP Nabil Al-Fadl accused Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood of supporting the Kuwaiti opposition.

Because of its support for the Brotherhood and of Al Jazeera’s editorial policies, Qatar became at odds with Saudi Arabia. It is the only country in the region with goods reasons to invade the small peninsula: to take hold of the gas fields that could save its oil-dependent economy. So it is the country in the region it was most important to keep good relationships with.

Source (about the historical Qatari need for diplomacy): « Qatar – a modern history » by Allan Fromhertz.
Further information about the incidents between Al Jazeera and the United States: The 9/11 decade — The Image War (part 3 — the episode deals with the media and propaganda in the war on terror in general, but most of it is devoted to Al Jazeera’s specific case)

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