Explainer: Qatar’s history and politics before the FIFA World Cup

Explainer: Qatar’s history and politics before the FIFA World Cup

Qatar will be on the world stage like never before, as the small, energy-rich nation hosts the 2022 FIFA World Cup later this month.

The country, located on a thumb-shaped peninsula that stretches into the Persian Gulf, has seen a rise in international stature as Doha has used massive offshore natural gas fields to make its country one of the world’s richest per capita.

It used that money to host the tournament, as well as build the Arab world’s most famous satellite news channel, Al Jazeera, build a large military base that would host American forces and become a reliable interlocutor to the West – even with the Taliban. .

Here’s more to know about Qatar ahead of the World Cup.

Qatar’s position in the world

Qatar, which is pronounced like saying the word “qati'” with a soft “r”, is located in the Arabian Peninsula and shares a land border with Saudi Arabia. It’s also near the island of Bahrain, as well as the United Arab Emirates, home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It lies across the Persian Gulf from Iran and shares a huge offshore natural gas field. Qatar is about twice the size of the US state of Delaware. The majority of its 2.9 million residents live around the capital, Doha, on its east coast. Qatar is a mainly flat desert country, with summer temperatures exceeding 40°C (104°F) with high humidity.

Governance in Qatar

Qatar is an authoritarian state supervised by its ruling Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Sheikh Tamim, 42, took power in June 2013 when his father stepped down. The prince has absolute power in the country, although the 45-seat council advises. As in other Gulf Arab states, political parties are banned. The right to form unions and strike remains severely limited. There are no independent human rights organizations operating in the country. Only about 10% of its population are citizens with wide-ranging government benefits from cradle to grave. Naturalization is rare.

Qatar History

The Al Thani family has ruled Qatar since 1847, although it was initially under the Ottoman Empire and then the British Empire. Qatar became an independent country in 1971 when the British left the region. Oil exports began after World War II, although it would take until 1997 before Qatar began shipping LNG to the world. This new money supported Qatar’s regional ambitions. She founded the Al Jazeera satellite news network, which brought an Arab perspective to the media that helped fuel the 2011 Arab Spring protests. She also launched Qatar Airways, a major airline for east-west travel.

International Politics in Qatar

Qatar follows a highly conservative form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, although unlike neighboring Saudi Arabia, foreigners can drink alcohol. Her faith guides her policies. Qatar supported Islamists in the 2011 Arab Spring, including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, as well as those who revolted against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Al Jazeera is notorious for publishing statements from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Qatar also acted as a mediator for the armed Hamas movement, as well as a host for the negotiations between the United States and the Taliban that led to America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. Its support for the Islamists led, in part, to boycotts of Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates over the years. That boycott only ended when President Joe Biden was getting ready to enter the White House.

The military importance of the State of Qatar

After allowing Western forces to be stationed in Qatar during the 1991 Gulf War, the country built the massive Al Udeid Air Base for more than $1 billion. US forces began secretly using the base after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan. The use of the base became known to the public during a trip to the Middle East by Vice President Dick Cheney in March 2002, although sensitivity about the US presence there persisted for years. Then America moved the forward headquarters of the US Army Central Command to Al Udeid in 2003 and conducted air operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, including during the rise of the Islamic State and the evacuation of Kabul in 2021. It hosts about 8,000 Americans. forces today. Turkey also maintains a military base in Qatar.


Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

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