The State of Qatar (a.k.a. Saudi Arabia's little brother) is a country on a peninsula (and possibly a future island ) located in the Persian Gulf to the east of Saudi Arabia. The country offers yet another example of a resource-rich Gulf Arab monarchy which exerts tremendous influence on the regional turmoil and is hopelessly mired with domestic issues of human rights and other political nutjobbery. The capital city, Doha, a town akin to Dubai, used to be a desert nowhere merely 20 years ago and suddenly came to experience exponential growth, becoming a regional logistics and financial center, and holding sporting events and whatnot.
Qatar, famed for having too much cash in the ass, has a GDP per capita of $129,360, the highest in the world. This is due to its territory sitting on top of the world's third-largest natural-gas reserves and some oil reserves as well. However, there's also some simple math involved here: the country's population includes a whopping 88% foreign labor (imported from South and Southeast Asia and from its poor Arab neighbors).[note 1] The treatment of these workers is so bad, with many being abused by their employers, underpaid or not paid at all, forced into severe debt, and often living in migrant camps with poor conditions away from the rest of Qatar, that many human rights activists consider Qatar an apartheid state. This makes the number of Qatari citizens just 313,000, who are exempt from low-skill jobs and covered by free healthcare and education. All the floating money is considered spent on the FIFA corruption scandal (see below), on the military budget, and on destabilizing the regional geopolitics by funding the Muslim Brotherhood and arms-supplies to the jihadists in the Syrian Civil War.
Qatar also has a reputation as a safe haven of the Wahhabi strain of Salafism, which is the majority religion among the citizens. Strict Sharia provides the main source of Qatari legislation, which features hudud criminal codes, including stoning as a legal punishment, and the death penalty for apostasy or for homosexuality.
All in all, these quaint local manifestations of traditional culture make Qatar eerily similar to Saudi Arabia, but the two countries are actually hostile toward each other, most likely because both are way too full of egos. The two countries are undergoing a diplomatic crisis, accusing each other of being a terrorist-sponsoring state. The dispute has evolved to include regional hyenas like the Ayatollah's Iran and Erdogan's Turkey, becoming nothing but a disturbance to the already precarious regional geopolitics.
2017-2021 diplomatic crisis
Qatar has been involved in a highly publicized diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and its sidekicks, including the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. The crisis began by the latter severing diplomatic and trade relations in June 2017,[note 2] which was unprecedented and it surprised many analysts as it escalated way too quickly. No one knows the truth behind the scene of the conflict. One thing for sure, the consequence, whether it was calculated or not, is dire and has the potential to dynamically alter the scenario of the dirty Middle Eastern geopolitical game. The pretext was that Qatari state TV's news ticker showed quotes supposedly from the Qatari emir praising Iran and trash-talking Arab Gulf leaders; US intel concluded that the UAE hacked Qatar's state TV and planted the fake quotes. Despite this news, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia still got away with it because Trump.
Diplomatic tension between Qatar and Saudi Arabia is not new, and this is due to Qatar's selfish ambition to be more independent in order to keep the royal family in power. But the '17 crisis was effectively a "Brexit referendum" on this relationship. One indirect catalysis is the Arab Spring, in which Qatar, which favors change, supported the Islamists taking over the coups, and Saudi Arabia, which favors the status quo, opposed it by propping up the despots.[note 3] During this time, Qatar aided the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) by accepting the asylum applications of its members. Al Jazeera, being Qatar's official mouthpiece, cheered the coups like no other. On the contrary, Saudi Arabia, which was a backer of the MB for half a century, designated it as a terrorist organization in 2014. The sidekicks also followed its lead.
In April 2017, Qatar struck in a deal with Shiite militants in Iraq who took Qatari royals as hostages. Qatar, in exchange, released royals and humanitarian aid passing through the area, paid $700 million to a Shiite militia which infuriated the Saudis and the UAE. Shortly after, the Qatari government web site was hacked and the fake official statement which gave approval of Iran was released, and it became a casus belli for diplomatic sanctions. The hacking was considered an ongoing attempt between Qatar and the Saudi coalition to forestall each other, but Russian hackers were also accused.
The implications, besides the annoyance of innocent bystanders who had to cancel their transit flights through Doha, have been huge. The proxy war between Qatar and Saudi Arabia led to the ascendance of hyenas and jackals like Iran and Turkey within the Middle Eastern geopolitical arena. Qatar, which used to be rather neutral in terms of the Saudi-Iran proxy war, began publicly approaching Iran as they provided diplomatic and humanitarian support. "Sultan" Erdogan's Turkey, which has been independent and looking for chances to expand its Ottoman ambitions, announced humanitarian and diplomatic support. It has also deployed additional military troops to a Turkish base in Qatar. The crisis also led to the exposure of the vulnerability and limit of Saudi potentiality. Led by young prince Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi coalition has consolidated its alliance by gathering several other Sunni Muslim states, and unleashed the utmost fury by pulling off the maximum effort they could do short of exercising military force to compel Qatar. This, however, didn't bear any fruit as Qatar didn't compromise on any demand posed by the Saudis. In effect, Saudi Arabia gave its arch-rival more strategic opportunities, created discord among the supposed "Sunni Muslim bloc", annoyed its boss in the White House for benefiting Russia and Iran which seek friction between U.S. allies, and exposed the limit of its diplomatic potential by being unable to compel its tiny little neighbor.
By 2021 the diplomatic crisis was mostly resolved without Qatar meeting any of the demands of the other nations. It has led to the whole thing being seen as a failure by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as Qatar actually developed closer ties to Turkey and Iran (which the other nations wanted to not happen) and the country being considered economically and militarily stronger and more autonomous than it was before the crisis.
2022 FIFA thing
The now-disgraced ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his cabal actually chose Qatar as the 2022 host of the FIFA World Cup. Qatar had never qualified for the World Cup before, and due to its lack of large football stadiums had to build 7 of the 8 required. The ridiculousness of this choice and the absence of re-selection cannot be overemphasized, considering that the FIFA evaluation report prior to the selection pointed out the possible health risk for the players and supporters. There are also countless countries, broadcasting networks, entities, and individuals bribed or accused of bribery including:
- Jack Warner former FIFA president (and his family)
- Michel Platini former UEFA president (and his son)
- Nicolas Leoz former CONMEBOL president
- Julio Grondona former FIFA vice-president
- Nicolas Sarkozy former president of France
- French firms including Airbus and Veolia
- Owner of Paris Saint-Germain F.C.
- Thai soccer association and its leading energy company
- Chung Mong-joon former president of South Korean soccer association
An investigation by The Guardian in 2013 claimed that migrant workers are effectively treated as slaves by denying them food and water, and by not paying them on time or at all. It also claimed that 4,000 migrant workers have died since 2010. The Wall Street Journal has also claimed that 1,200 workers died in 2015, but the number and the actual conditions are disputed, with the BBC claiming it includes migrants working outside of World Cup venues and non-construction workers. Also the BBC cited a claim by the Indian government official which stated that the death rate of Indian worker in Qatar is lower than in India. Qatar agreed to improve the conditions of workers barely in late 2017. According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, an estimated 30,300 people are enslaved in modern day Qatar, or 1.36% of the population.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned crisis between the Saudi gang has been somewhat disturbing the prospect of holding the World Cup. This is due to Saudi, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain having effectively cut off the only land border, and some sea and air routes. FIFA however, is not anticipating on finding a "plan B".
It's not just FIFA, though. The IAAF also chose Doha to host the World Athletics Championships in 2019, which visibly had an extremely low attendance. IAAF president Sebastian Coe decided to blame the media for reporting what they could actually see.
During the tournament itself (which was unusually held in the northern hemisphere winter months, due to Qatar's oppressive summertime heat, disrupting European football season schedules) several controversies arose that often generated more headlines than the actual games itself. In particular, Qatar security and officials (along with in some cases FIFA itself), demonstrating that they had absolutely no knowledge of the Streisand Effect, cracked down on any modest symbolism players, fans, and reporters used to express solidarity with LGBT people, such as depictions of rainbow colors of any kind, or "OneLove" armbands. In addition, Qatar controversially decided to ban beer sales within their stadiums, in accordance with Qatar's alcohol-forbidding Islamic culture. (Of course, also in accordance with Qatar culture, those in the expensive luxury suites in the stadiums were able to buy beer, sommelier-selected wines, and fine liquor, without any problems whatsoever.)
Comparison with Saudi Arabia
- Both are Wahhabi
- Both support overseas jihadism
- Both conduct modern-day slavery and human trafficking
- Both are sitting on top of the endless reserves of fossil fuels
- Both implement strict Sharia with hudud criminal code
- Both are iconoclast
- Both compete for dick-measuring contest by spending money on building unoccupied skyscrapers (bonus: UAE too)
- Both are invaluable assets for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Qatar hosts the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East, while Saudi Arabia holds a Special Relationship with the U.S.
- Both are precious customers of the international military-industrial complex
- Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization with a worldwide network. Saudi Arabia and its puppets (UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, etc.) designate it a terrorist organization.
- Qatar has better (albeit it's a low bar) conditions on women's rights, with the highest female labor participation rate in the Arab world. It also doesn't mandate women covering up in headscarves or abayas.
- Qatar has much closer ties with Turkey (and harbors a Turkish overseas military base), and has approached Iran recently. Saudi Arabia is neutral on Turkey and hates Iran more than Israel.
- Qatar has trade relations with Israel, while Saudi Arabia doesn't. However, Israel backs the Saudis in the ongoing diplomatic crisis.
- Qatar allows selling alcohol in five-star hotels
- Qatar has a much better airline.
- Al Jazeera — Funded by Qatar. The Arabic version is literally the spokesperson of the Qatari emir. The English version is OK.
- In 2017, the residents included 650,000 Indians, 350,000 Nepalis, 280,000 Bangladeshis, 260,000 Filipinos, 200,000 Egyptians, 145,000 Sri Lankans, 125,000 Pakistanis and many, many more.
- Ironically, it was during the month of Ramadan.
- However, Saudi Arabia is not anti-Islamist by nature, as its support of jihadism dwarfs Qatar's. Saudi Arabia mostly supported jihadists who were fighting Shi'a regimes, like in the Syrian Civil War.
- "Indices & Data | Human Development Reports". United Nations Development Programme. 14 March 2013. Archived from the original on 12 January 2013.
- "Population of Qatar by nationality – 2017 report".
- Qatar treatment of workers branded ‘apartheid’, Daniel Shane, Arabian Business 17 March 2014
- Kim Sengupta (12 May 2015). "Turkey and Saudi Arabia alarm the West by backing Islamist extremists the Americans had bombed in Syria". The Independent.
- "Tiny Qatar's growing global clout". BBC. 30 April 2011.
- See the Wikipedia article on stoning.
- "The Permanent Constitution of the State of Qatar". Government of Qatar. Archived from en the original on 6 October 2014.
- Bartz, Diane (16 July 2017). "UAE arranged for hacking of Qatar government sites, sparking diplomatic row: Washington Post". Reuters.
- Fisher, Max (13 June 2017). "How the Saudi-Qatar Rivalry, Now Combusting, Reshaped the Middle East". The New York Times.
- Eric Trager, The Muslim Brotherhood Is the Root of the Qatar Crisis, The Atlantic (July 2, 2017).
- Mintz, John; Farah, Douglas (10 September 2004). "In Search of Friends Among The Foes U.S. Hopes to Work With Diverse Group". The Washington Post.
- "Hack, fake story expose real tensions between Qatar, Gulf". Fox News. 23 May 2017.
- Evan Perez & Shimon Prokupecz (6 June 2017). "US suspects Russian hackers planted fake news behind Qatar crisis". CNN.
- "Qatar To Reinstate Ambassador To Iran Amid Gulf Crisis". 24 August 2017.
- "Turkish parliament approves troop deployment to Qatar". Al Jazeera. 8 June 2017. Archived from the original on 11 June 2017.
- Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates Pay High Price For Botched Attack On Qatar. Forbes. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
- See the Wikipedia article on Qatar at the FIFA World Cup.
- World Cup 2022: A guide to the eight World Cup stadiums in Qatar, BBC Sport, April 1, 2022
- 2022 FIFA World Cup Bid Evaluation Report.
- Qatar World Cup 2022 investigation: former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner and family paid millions. Telegraph. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
- Michel Platini: fall of a smooth operator who thought he played by different rules. The Guardian. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
- Fifa trial leaves questions over 2022 Qatar World Cup. The Guardian. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
- Fifa official took bribes to back Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid, court hears. The Guardian. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
- Nicolas Sarkozy 'under scrutiny as part of French probe into Qatar World Cup scandal'. The Independent. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
- Neymar, PSG and the Qatar World Cup. Al Ahram. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
- Qatar World Cup 2022: the Thai gas deal struck shortly before the vote. Daily Telegraph. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
- Former administrator Chung to appeal FIFA ban: report. Reuters. Retrieve February 26, 2018.
- Booth, Robert. "Qatar World Cup construction 'will leave 4,000 migrant workers dead'". The Guardian.
- Jones, Rory; Parasie, Nicolas (4 June 2015). "Blatter's Resignation Raises Concerns About Qatar's FIFA World Cup Prospects". The Wall Street Journal.
- Stephenson, Wesley (6 June 2015). "Have 1,200 World Cup workers really died in Qatar?". BBC.
- "Qatar World Cup workers' rights to improve with end of kafala system, claims union". The Guardian. 25 October 2017.
- Kevin Bales, et al. "Qatar". The Minderoo Foundation Pty Ltd. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
- Block, Josh. The other reason to isolate Qatar: Its appalling human-rights record. June 13, 2017. http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/don-forget-qatar-appalling-human-rights-record-article-1.3244628
- Rafizadeh, Majid. U.S. Should Host 2022 World Cup, Not Qatar. June 26, 2017. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/us-should-host-2022-world-cup-not-qatar_us_594eee86e4b0326c0a8d0909
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 October 2017.
- Sean Ingle, "Dire in Doha: World Championships 'catastrophe' leaves athletics reeling," The Guardian, Sep. 30, 2019, accessed Oct. 4, 2019.
- [Sean Ingle, "Seb Coe hits out at BBC and Gabby Logan over Doha coverage," The Guardian, Oct. 2, 2019, accessed Oct. 4, 2019.]
- "Why Qatar is a controversial host for the World Cup" by Becky Sullivan, NPR, 2022 November 18
- "Fifa and Qatar in urgent talks after Wales rainbow hats confiscated" by Sean Ingle, Guardian, 2022 November 22
- ‘We are very frustrated’: World Cup teams in Qatar ax pro-LGBTQ armbands after FIFA threat" by Natasha Turak, CNBC, 2022 November 21
- "High-rolling World Cup fans will get alcohol at stadiums" by Graham Dunbar, AP News, 2022 November 18
- Bill Crane (20 April 2015). Gravediggers of the Gulf. Jacobin.
- Qatar hosts largest U.S. military base in the Middle East. CNN. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
- Labor force participation rate, female (% of female population ages 15+) (modeled ILO estimate)
- President Erdoğan visits Turkey military base in Qatar. Hurryet Daily News. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
- Alex Delmar-Morgan (7 January 2012). "Qatar, Unveiling Tensions, Suspends Sale of Alcohol". Wall Street Journal.