How did the enigmatic gas-rich Gulf nation Qatar get such an outsized role in major conflicts throughout the Middle East? We read about its involvement in everything from negotiating the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan to seeking a release of hostages in Gaza and to expediting humanitarian aid to the Palestinians stuck in the war. As a friend of Iran and a rival of American allies like the UAE and Saudi Arabia and a major funder of Hamas, how has Qatar become a trustworthy intermediary in disputes where hostile nations will not negotiate directly with each other? How did it become so important? Where do its interests lie?
Qatar has increasingly made global headlines since former Amir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani came to power in 1995 and ushered in changes that saw Qatar make large economic gains, create the media network Al-Jazeera, and become an active player in regional mediations. In 2022, now under the leadership of Amir Tamim bin Hamad, Qatar became the first Arab country to host the FIFA Men’s World Cup. That same year, the United States designated Qatar as a major non-NATO ally. However, the World Cup was also followed closely with reports on human rights and migrant worker abuses by organizations such as Amnesty International, which Qatar struggles to continue to address. Meanwhile, Qatari aid has been a key fund in Gaza, including for direct aid to poor families and civil servants coordinated through Israel and the UN. They have also hosted Hamas leadership in Qatar, in part contributing their ability to now act as mediator for the release of hostages. What motivates them to take such an active role, and how should we interpret such diverse interests? As a leading media voice via Al-Jazeera, how should we approach their framing of the stories?