Change is afoot in the world’s richest nation, Qatar. Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and his Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, are said to be putting in place an ordered succession plan for the tiny Gulf emirate.
The transition will see them leave a stage they have dominated for nearly two decades enabling the emir’s son Crown Prince Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and younger ministers to take charge.
Rumours have been circulating for several months but in recent weeks, discreet communications have been passed on to various diplomats and leading businessmen alerting them that change is coming.
But no-one knows when or how exactly this change will take place. Those who have offered likely dates and “inside tracks” are simply guessing. And as rumours bounce around the capital city, Doha, Qatar’s ruling elite has assumed a studied and predictable public silence…
The region, once friendly and open to Qatar’s influence now views the Emirate’s intentions with suspicion, fear and even hatred. In the Gulf, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have grown distrustful of Qatar and its alliances and foreign policy initiatives. The UAE in particular has been angered by Qatar’s growing relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and has worked to try to blunt Qatari influence at every turn.
In Libya, Tunisia and Egypt the public mood has turned against Qatar, despite or perhaps because of the billions that Qatar has pumped into those North African countries. In responding to the Arab Spring, Qatar helped enable revolutions that saw three dictators fall but its continued support for Islamists has angered many…
Qatar’s main initiatives and policy tracks are more or less set in stone. The 2030 Vision, which outlines the development goals for the country, is already chaired by Tamim (with significant input from his mother Sheikha Mozah and his father the Emir) and has a clear liberalising social agenda.
Likewise the football World Cup in 2022 will require social and legal reforms in the country, most notably around workers’ rights and the construction of stadiums and new cities for its large expatriate population to live in. Qatar has invested billions of dollars already in realising these visions, and Tamim could not turn his back on these gargantuan projects even if he wanted to.
There is a sense that there is a window of opportunity in Qatar in these coming years, one that needs prayer and those who will live and work in witness in that land.
Read full news story at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22875409