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Monday, September 30, 2013

Turkish and Egyptian ultras fight for their existence

 Besiktas fans invade the pitch

By James M. Dorsey

Much like the Muslim Brotherhood, militant soccer fans in Egypt and Turkey are fighting for their existence.

Turkish police raided the homes of and arrested 72 militant supporters of Istanbul’s top clubs – Besiktas JK, Fenerbahce FC and Galatasaray SK -- after a derby between Besiktas and Galatasary was abandoned because fans invade the pitch. Penalizing Besiktas, the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) ordered the club to play its next four games behind closed doors.

Critics of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suspect that his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) engineered the incident in a bid to further repress Besiktas’ popular militant fan group, Carsi that played a key role in mass anti-government protests earlier this year. They point to the fact security was lax at the match and that a youth leader of the AKP boasted on Facebook how he had obtained a free ticket to the Besiktas Galatasary derby and was one of the first to invade the pitch.

Turkish journalist Mehmet Baransu moreover documented links between 1453 Kartallari (1453 Eagles), a rival conservative Besiktas support group named in commemoration of the year that Ottoman Sultan Fatih the Conqueror drove the Byzantines out of Constantinople, and the AKP. 1453 members reportedly shouted ‘God is Great’ and attacked Carsi supporters during the pitch invasion.

The incident has strengthened the government’s hands in discussion with world soccer governor FIFA and European soccer body UEFA over the replacement of private security companies with regular police in stadia. FIFA and UEFA as of matter of principle favor a low key police presence in stadia. The move is part of an effort by Mr. Erdogan to gain control of and depoliticize Turkish soccer and criminalize fan groups in response to the key role they played in mass anti-government protests in June. Carsi lead the unification of Istanbul’s rival fan groups who constituted the front line in confrontations with the police.

The government has since banned the chanting of political slogans during matches and has said it was monitoring the communications of militant fans. It further is enforcing Breathalyzer tests at matches and demanding that clubs oblige spectators to sign a statement pledging to abide by the ban before they enter a stadium.

Fans have defied the ban by chanting during matches “Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance," a reference to Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square, which was the focal point of the protests sparked by plans to turn Gezi Park which abuts the square into a shopping mall.

Strengthening the government’s campaign, Besiktas president Fikret Orman criticized the performance of a private security firm hired for ten matches in Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium because the club’s own facility is under renovation. “Private security does not run away from the fans, they chase them. What we witnessed amounted to a comedy,” Mr. Orman said. He said that fans had entered the stadium without tickets. Up to 10,000 were believed to have entered the already packed stadium illegally.

Sports and youth ministry official Mehmet Baykan said “three entry points were broken into, the power supply to the turnstiles and eight ticket readers were sabotaged. 65 people have been caught with equipment which could have been used to cut the cables."

Aware that the protests had reduced Istanbul’s chance of winning the hosting of the 2020 Olympic Games despite long being a frontrunner, government officials prepared the ground for blaming the activists for the Turkish capital’s loss. The protests were a major reason why the International Olympic Committee awarded the tournament earlier this month to Tokyo. Turkish EU minister Egemen Bagis warned that “those who protested at Taksim's Gezi Park tried twice to drop Istanbul’s candidacy off the candidates list, but they failed. If Istanbul loses, it will be because of them.’’ Mr. Bagis’ comment was in response the anti-government protests and a report by Turkish activists, architects and urban planners calling on the IOC not to award the games to Istanbul.

“Prosecutors and courts continue to use terrorism laws to prosecute and prolong incarceration of thousands of Kurdish political activists, human rights defenders, students, journalists and trade unionists… Free speech and media remain restricted and there have been serious violations of fair trial rights. Great obstacles remain in securing justice for victims of abuses by police, military and state officials. … Press members are fired, contracts of academicians who supported Gezi are not renewed, film stars are searched for narcotics, and students are arbitrarily detained… The powers of the Chambers of Engineers and Architects were curbed. This was a reprisal for their role” in the protests the report said.

The report noted that police had used tear gas and water cannons earlier this year during protests at the opening of the Mediterranean Games in Mersin in southeastern Turkey. It asserted that 80 percent of the tickets for the event were awarded to government loyalists rather than to the public to prevent potential protests against Mr. Erdogan who was scheduled to attend the opening. Mr. Erdogan was booed during the 2010 World Basketball Championship finals in Istanbul and the 2011 opening of the Turk Telekom Arena stadium in the Turkish capital.

In a similar development, Egyptian officials are discussing how to deal with the ultras, militant soccer fans who played a key role in the toppling in 2011 of President Hosni Mubarak as well as in post-Mubarak protests against the military. State-owned Al Ahram newspaper, long a mouthpiece for the government, recently asked: “Will the Ultras be shown the red card after crossing the red line? Are they digging their own grave? … Football Ultras of soccer powerhouse Egyptian clubs Ahli and Zamalek have become a dangerous phenomenon… These days the Ultras are a symbol of destruction, attacking the opposition and sometimes their own kind,” the paper said.

The paper’s focus on the Ultras follows a series of incidents in which supporters of storied Cairo clubs Al Ahli SC and Al Zamalek SC attacked their clubs and players, demanding resignation of company officials. Zamalek chairman Mamdouh Abbas rejected the calls for him to step down, saying that he would only leave his post if club members adopted a motion of confidence, not in response to the “terror of the Ultras”. Abbas urged the military-backed government to take action against the Ultras White Knights (UWK), the militant Zamalek support group, whom he denounced as sports terrorists.

UWK buries one of their own

Thousands of Zamalek fans last week buried one of their members killed by security forces while trying to storm the club’s headquarters. The attempted storming occurred after Zamalek lost an African Championship match to its rival Al Ahli. ”The safe exit of the club’s board of directors after the blood of fans has been shed became impossible,” the UWK said in a statement. At the same time relations deteriorated between Ultras Ahlawy, the Al Ahli support group, and players who rejected conciliatory gestures by the fans.

Relations have long been strained between the ultras and players because the militants see them as mercenaries who play for the highest-paying club and resent the fact that they largely remained at best aloof during the anti-Mubarak protests because of the perks the regime granted them. Five Al Ahli players - Ahmed Fathi, Sherif Ikrami, Abdallah Al-Said, Shehab Ahmed and Sherif Abdel-Fadil —recently launched a campaign against the ultras following failed attempts in the past to moderate fan militancy. Relations improved briefly last year after 74 Ahli supporters died in a politically-loaded brawl in the stadium of Port Said. The players’ current campaign portrays the ultras as a threat to their safety and security.

The players as well as club officials charge that the ultras’ militancy is hurting them economically at a time that clubs are struggling financially as a result of reduced sponsorship, advertising and ticket sales because league matches have been suspended for much of the almost three years since the anti-Mubarak protests erupted. Professional soccer matches are scheduled to resume in October.

Arrest of UWK militant

In a frontal attack on the ultras who pride themselves on their financial independence, officials of Al Ahli and Zamalek suggested that they were being funded by third parties and challenged them to make their finances public. “Now it is not only firecrackers but also bird shot that is being used in attacking us. They don’t spend money on tickets anymore but spend it to destroy the club,” Mr. Abbas said. Al Ahram noted that the ultras “spend much money on their trips buying tickets and firecrackers and other tools to support the teams. Their social background doesn’t show that they have that kind of money. Their main income comes from selling T-shirts.”

Major General Talaat Tantawi, a retired military officer-turned security consultant, charged that the ultras much like their counterparts in Argentina were being manipulated by groups seeking to exploit their popularity.  “It is so easy to penetrate these groups and make use of their enthusiasm and youth. They have become easy targets to achieve political goals and to distract them from focusing on their main vision and mission which was supporting sports. Others joined in and became Ultras and are acting as we see now,” Mr. Tantawi said ignoring the fact that the ultras were politicized and steeled in years of confrontations with security forces during the Mubarak era.

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Harsh Qatari labor conditions move center stage as FIFA debates World Cup

By James M. Dorsey

Controversy over conditions for unskilled and semi-skilled workers in Qatar involved in the construction of World Cup-related infrastructure as well as for flight attendants of Qatar Airways, the 2022 tournament’s likely official carrier, has moved center stage as world soccer body FIFA prepares to debate next week the Gulf state’s hosting of the 2022 soccer tournament.

FIFA’s focus is on whether to move the tournament from summer to winter because of Qatar’s harsh summer temperatures that can exceed 40 degrees Celsius. FIFA however will find it difficult to maintain a narrow concern for the welfare of players with no regard to the army of workers involved in constructing billions of dollars in World Cup-related infrastructure. Beyond reputational damage, the debate over workers’ rights and conditions increases the risk of FIFA being pushed to entertain depriving Qatar of its hosting rights, a move that would be perceived by much of the Muslim world as anti-Arab and anti-Muslim.

International trade unions have for the past three years threatened a boycott of the World Cup if Qatar failed to improve labor conditions and accept workers’ rights to form independent trade unions and collectively bargain. The issue has taken on added urgency with a report in The Guardian that asserts that 44 workers had died in work-related incidents between June 4 and August 8 and that workers had not been paid, had their passports confiscated by employers, been denied access to free drinking water in the desert heat, and that 30 Nepalese had sought refuge at their embassy in Doha to escape the brutal labor conditions.

Adding to Qatar’s problems, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITWF) lambasted this week Qatar Airways, the country’s national carrier, as well as United Arab Emirates carriers Emirates and Ettihad for prohibiting employees from organizing and demanding better working conditions. ITWF said it would lobby the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is meeting in Canada to take action against the Gulf carriers. The union objects to stipulations in Qatar Airways contracts that oblige employees to obtain company permission before changing their marital status and entitle it to fire women employees as soon as they become aware of a pregnancy.

Union objections on the grounds that Qatar bans independent labor organizations forced the Gulf state earlier this year to withdraw its proposal to move ICAO headquarters from Montreal to Doha. Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker was quoted by Arabian Business as saying at the time: “If you did not have unions you wouldn’t have this jobless problem in the western world… It is caused by unions making companies and institutions uncompetitive and bringing them to a position of not being efficient. If you go and ask the politicians in most of the countries in the western world they would love to have the system we have: where the workers have rights through the law but they do not have rights through striking and undermining successful institutions that provide jobs to their knees.”

Qatar Airways was last year the target of an online call for a boycott by hundreds of Qataris who objected to its employment policies as well as the fact that it operates a shop in Doha that sells alcohol and pork to foreigners.

Qatar has responded to international criticism of its labor conditions by seeking to improve working and living conditions, including stricter enforcement of timely payment of wages, limiting the number of workers permitted to live in one room, planning a city for foreign workers who account for 94 percent of the Qatari workforce and enhancing leisure opportunities, including the creation of a soccer league for foreign workers.

The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee that is responsible for organizing the World Cup issued a Workers’ Charter earlier this year that pledged to meet international standards with the exception of the right to independent trade unions and collective bargaining. Qatar Foundation, the institution that funds educational and social projects, is working on a similar charter. It is also looking at streamlining recruitment to cut out middlemen and agents that charge onerous rates and are responsible for workers’ huge debt burden.

In a response to The Guardian story, the 2022 committee said: “Like everyone viewing the video and images, and reading the accompanying texts, we are appalled by the findings presented in The Guardian's report. There is no excuse for any worker in Qatar, or anywhere else, to be treated in this manner. The health, safety, well-being and dignity of every worker that contributes to staging the 2022 FIFA World Cup is of the utmost importance to our committee and we are committed to ensuring that the event serves as a catalyst toward creating sustainable improvements to the lives of all workers in Qatar.”

Qatari executives note that one offset of the awarding of the World Cup is the fact that workers’ rights and working conditions are on the table and that steps are being taken to address the situation. “While construction on work relating directly to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar has not yet commenced, we have always believed that hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar could be the catalyst for positive change, particularly for accelerating human and social development in Qatar,” the 2022 committee said. The committee said the government was investigating companies identified in The Guardian report.

Qatar has so far however refrained from steps to abolish the onerous Kafala or sponsorship system that makes employees virtually beholden to their employers a step that could convince trade unions and human rights activists that it is serious about reform. The Guardian report signals that on many of the issues such as timely payment, return of passports after completion of immigration procedures and access to water, Qatar is lagging in enforcement rather than in legislation and regulation.

The unanswered question is why Qatar has failed to tackle the Kafala system head on and allowed it to fester. Writing in Open Democracy, Michael Stephens, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Qatar, noted that a majority of Qataris acknowledge that their country’s labor system is in desperate need of reform. Kafala, moreover, is disliked not only by employees but also by many employers because it makes them liable for whatever the worker does during and outside of working hours. Mr. Stephens argues that authorities understand the need for change but are not giving it the priority required to stop further damage to Qatar’s reputation.

Yet, at the same time, he concedes that conservative forces and at least some business circles oppose abolishing kafala. “Business interests are often the hindrance, and the young Emir, like his father will need to work hard to combat those companies, including many western entities that accept and propagate the system that stands against the interests of a majority of the country, local and foreign alike,” Mr. Stephens wrote referring to 33-year old Sheikh Tamim bin Khalifa Al Thani who became emir in June after his father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, abdicated.

A recent study by researchers of Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar concluded that the cost of maintaining the labor system went beyond reputational damage. The researchers concluded that Qatar would be near the top of the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI) if adjustments were made for the country’s large population of migrant workers. With other words, the system undercuts Qatar’s soft power effort designed to project the Gulf state as a cutting edge, 21st century knowledge-based society.

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Turkish soccer pitches re-emerge as political battlefields

By James M. Dorsey

Turkish soccer pitches have reasserted themselves as political battlefields following the death of a protester and the emergence of pro-government football support groups in the wake of mass anti-government demonstrations in June.

The revival of the soccer battlefield signals the initial failure of government attempts to regain political control of the pitch by imposing restrictions on political expression during matches, tacitly supporting  pro-government support groups, legal actions against anti-government fans and a public affairs campaign that projects protest as a precursor of terrorism.

Clashes during an Istanbul derby this weekend between rival fan groups as well as with the police cemented soccer’s role in Turkey’s political power struggles, fuelled suggestions that the government was employing its football support groups to create pretexts for further measures against Carsi, the militant left wing fan group of storied Istanbul club Besiktas JK and strengthened allegations that its rival Galatasaray FC may have played a murky role in a match-fixing scandal.

Police arrested 68 fans this weekend after supporters stormed the pitch during the extension of a home match between Besiktas and Galatasaray. The detainees were later released after being slapped with a one-year ban on attending soccer matches. The clashes erupted after a referee handed a red card to Galatasaray player Felipe Melo and ordered Besiktas coach Slaven Bilic off the field. In response, fans stormed the pitch.

Members of 1453 Kartallari (1453 Eagles), a religious Galatasary support group named in commemoration of the year that Ottoman Sultan Fatih the Conqueror drove the Byzantines out of Constantinople, shouted ‘God is Great,’ and attacked Carsi supporters, who played a key role in the Gezi Park protests in June against Islamist prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 1453 is believed to have ties with Mr. Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). 1453 spokesman Fırat Aydınus denied that his group had links to the AKP, but conceded that none of its members were arrested in connection with the clashes.

"These events were orchestrated. Melo is not the reason, he was only the means [of provocation]," Carsi said on Twitter. Opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tannkulu has asked Mr. Erdogan to advise parliament whether his government was waging a campaign of intimidation against Carsi.

The incident in Istanbul’s overcrowded Ataturk Olympic Stadium followed on the heels of last week’s anti-government protests in Kadikoy on the Asian side of Istanbul which is home to Fenerbahce, Turkey’s most popular club. Fenerbahce fans led the protests that were sparked by claims that a police tear-gas canister had killed 22-year-old Ahmet Atakan during demonstrations in early September in the southeastern city of Hatay.

The clashes during the Besiktas Galatasaray match served to widen the gap between Besiktas’s pro-government management and its anti-government fans, 20 of which were indicted earlier on charges of being members of an illegal organization for their alleged role in the protests in June against government plans to replace Gezi Park on Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square with a shopping mall. The 20 face up to 15 years in prison under Turkey’s draconic laws against organized crime. The government has denounced protesters, including members of Carsi who united rival soccer fan groups in confronting law enforcement.

Interior minister Muammar Guler said the government would prosecute whoever had been caught on security cameras in the stadium. Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc warned that "radical measures will have to be taken to ensure that such events do not occur again."

The government last month banned the shouting of political slogans in stadia and ordered clubs to force spectators to sign a statement that they would abide by the ban. Soccer fans said the clubs had found it difficult to impose the signing of the pledge.

Government plans to replace private security companies with police in stadia have been stalled by opposition by European soccer body UEFA and world soccer governor FIFA who are against an overbearing police presence in stadia. The government insisted however that plainclothes policemen would mingle with militant fans during matches and that their activities on social media would be monitored. Fans demonstratively violate the ban by chanting political slogans in the 34th minute of this season’s matches. Istanbul license plates start with 34.

Critics charge that the ban targets opponents of Mr. Erdogan, a former semi-professional soccer player, who dons the scarf of Kasimpasa SK, the local Istanbul club in the neighborhood where the prime minister grew up, during pro-government rallies. Kasimpasa named its stadium after Mr. Erdogan. Mr. Erdogan often likes to address crowds in stadia which government officials argue does not violate the ban that applies only to matches, not to stadia in general.

With its own stadium being renovated, Besiktas is playing in a twist of irony its home matches in Kasimpasa’ Recep Tayyip Erdogan Stadium. Carsi members unleashed a torrent of anti-government slogans in their opening match in the stadium, prompting state-owned and pro-government television channels to mute the sound of the protests. “We stand for fairness and justice. Nothing will stop us from upholding our principles,” said a Carsi member.

The government’s restrictive measures were accompanied by a campaign by the Anti-Terrorism Office and the police warning that protests were the first step towards terrorism. They issued a 55-second video featuring a young woman demonstrator-turned suicide bomber warned the public that “our youth, who are the guarantors of our future, can start with small demonstrations of resistance that appear to be innocent, and after a short period of time, can engage without a blink in actions that may take the lives of dozens of innocent people.” Throughout the video, the words ‘before it is too late’ are displayed.

Scores of fans believed to be members of 1453 scaled barricades and stadium walls to attend the Besiktas Galatasaray match. Recently amended Turkish Football Federation regulations bar supporters of a visiting team from entering the host stadium during a derby. “We have to learn that football is a game. When I came here and saw the crowd, I got goose bumps. Let’s turn football into a festival,” said TFF vice chairman Ufuk Ozerten after last weekend’s derby.

Political scientist Dogu Ergil, speaking to Zaman newspaper that is owned by Mr. Erdogan’s Islamist rival, self-exiled preacher Fethullalh Gulen, said mounting tension on the pitch was the result of delays in deepening Turkish democracy. "Society is frustrated due to the arrested development of democracy, and frustration triggers violence. Since there are no other outlets to express one's frustration, this is what happens," Mr. Ergil said.

He said successive governments, including that of Mr. Erdogan, approached democracy as a form of tutelage rather than a participatory system. "Whichever group dominates the state, it puts this system of tutelage to work. But democracy is a culture of compromise, and imposing one's opinions on others leads to frustration …  Governments in Turkey are not here to govern but to give orders," Mr. Ergil said, pointing to the ban on political slogans in stadia.

Mr. Ergil used Mr. Erdogan’s intervention last year to ensure that those implicated in a massive match fixing scandal that constituted the backdrop to a power struggle between the prime minister and Mr. Gulen would be treated leniently as an example. "There are no rules in Turkey. There is only [government] power. And things transpire the way they want them to,” Mr. Ergil said.

Koray Caliskan, a political scientist at İstanbul's Bosporus University added that Mr. Erdogan defines democracy as a ‘ballotocracy,’ a system in which the winning party caters to its followers with no regard for other segments of society. “Erdogan criminalizes every act. He accused Kurds on a hunger strike of eating kebabs; he demeaned those who protested at Gezi as thugs. He treats legitimate and democratic protests as a crime. Non-political spheres are politicized as democracy weakens, People first take to the streets, and then when that is suppressed, to the stadiums," Mr. Caliskan said.

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Decision to change date of Qatari World Cup risks political and legal rows

By James M. Dorsey

A pending decision in early October by world soccer body FIFA on whether to move the Qatar 2022 World Cup from summer to winter threatens to open debate on whether to deprive the Gulf state of its right to host one of the world’s two largest sporting events and could spark allegations of an anti-Arab bias.

The debate about the Qatari World Cup also focuses the spotlight on the incestuous relationship between politics and sports, a relationship that FIFA president Sepp Blatter in a rare acknowledgement, confirmed by charging that politics had prompted the eight European members of his 24-member executive committee to deliver eight of the 14 votes cast in favor of Qatar. The acknowledgement highlights the need to end denial of a fact of life and move to some form of governance of the relationship between sports and politics.

The debates have intensified as the FIFA executive committee prepares to discuss on October 3 and 4 a shifting the Qatari World Cup to winter because of searing summer temperatures in the Gulf state that exceed 40 degrees Celsius could affect the health and performance of players. Arsene Wenger, the storied manager of British Premier League club Arsenal, in a reflection of opposition by European clubs to a change of date, urged FIFA to stand by its original decision about but expressed concern about the impact of extreme heat on fans rather than players.

The debate about the timing of the tournament preempts a litmus test of cooling technology Qatar, the first Middle Eastern and Muslim state to be awarded World Cup hosting rights, says would make the holding the tournament in the summer feasible despite the heat. The technology which has been applied in small spaces is expected to be tested when Qatar completes in 2015/6 the first of up to nine stadia.

Potential legal challenges to any change of debate as well as a row between Mr. Blatter and the head of UEFA, the European soccer body, Michel Platini, a potential challenger to Mr. Blatter’s presidency in FIFA’s next presidential election scheduled for 2015, risk strengthening calls for a change of venue. Mr. Platini has backed calls for a shift from summer to winter.

Frank Lowy, head of the Australian Football Federation, one of several bidders defeated by Qatar, warned that a shift from summer to winter would be “tantamount to changing the rules after the contest is over." Mr. Lowy vowed to take legal action to reclaim taxpayers' money spent on the failed Australian bid would have been wasted if the federation had been campaign conducted under false pretenses.

FIFA’s corporate sponsors as well as broadcasters who bought rights for billions of dollars potentially could also seek legal redress. Fox TV together with Spanish language broadcaster Telemundo paid $1 billion for US television rights, a sum far higher than what they would have paid the United States’ National Football League. The two tournaments could overlap if the timing of the World Cup is changed.

Complicating the controversy over Qatar’s is Mr. Blatter’s assertion that European members of the FIFA executive committee had voted in favor of Qatar as a result of political pressure. In response, Mr. Platini, whose son is legal counsel for state-owned Qatar Sports Investments, became the first member to disclose that he had voted in favor of the Gulf state. Mr. Platini denied that his decision had been politically motivated.

Mr. Platini’s denial rang hollow given that his vote is widely believed to have been part of a three-way deal with Nicolas Sarkozy when he was president of France and former Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

As part of the deal QSI acquired Paris St. Germain (PSG), Mr. Sarkozy’s favorite team and pledged to step up already substantial investments in France. Qatar’s state-owned Al Jazeera television network would gaining rights to France’s Ligue 1 in another element of the deal that was forged over lunch at the Elysée Palace.

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Qatar’s ambassador to France, Mohamed Al Kuwari, explained at the time Qatar’s interest in France by saying that “you invest in France, you build partnerships and you go elsewhere, to Africa, to Asia. We are looking for strong partners like Total, Vinci, Veolia.” Moreover, he said, France, like Qatar charts its own course internationally. It “has an independent policy, plays an important role in the world, diplomatically and politically,” he said.

The World Cup so far has failed to pay Qatar the reputational dividend it had expected. Legal challenges and calls for depriving it of its hosting right could cause it further damage at a time that international trade unions and human rights groups are exploiting the tournament to pressure the Gulf state to substantially alter a migrant labor system they denounce as modern slavery. Foreign labor constitutes 94 percent of the Qatari labor force and a majority of the population.

The risk of reputational damage and a rift over perceived anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias is magnified in Qatar’s case by the fact that its sports investment strategy is key to its defense and security policy. Qatar, no matter how many sophisticated weapons it purchases, will never be able to defend itself. The 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait taught it two lessons. For one, big brother Saudi Arabia, unable to ensure its own defense, was an unreliable guarantor that depends on a US defense umbrella. Confidence in the reliability of the United States has however been called into question by the United States’ economic problems, its reluctance to engage militarily post-Iraq and Afghanistan and its likely emergence within a decade as the world’s largest oil exporter. Equally important, the international coalition that came to Kuwait’s aid demonstrated that soft power and embedment in the global community at multiple levels earns one friends when in need.

For Qatar, the message was clear. It vested its soft power in sports and particularly soccer even if it was a late convert to the beautiful game. Qataris first saw British oil workers in the 1940s play what they thought was an odd but amusing spectacle.  “We had no idea of sports like that … But we used to enjoy watching the strange spectacle,” recalled Ibrahim al-Muhannadi, a government official and member of the Qatar Olympic Committee.

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Middle Eastern investors target lower tier European clubs

By James M. Dorsey

Middle Eastern investors have adopted a new strategy of buying low and selling high with a series of acquisitions of second and third tier European soccer clubs.

In the most recent acquisition, Saudi Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad, the billionaire former president of Saudi Arabia's most successful club Al Hilal and founder and chairman of the publicly-listed Saudi Paper Manufacturing Group, the largest paper tissue manufacturer in the Middle East, bought a 50 per cent stake in Sheffield United with the aim of helping the club graduate from the third league to England’s Premier League.
"This is the best way to make profit if the club rises to League One and then the premiership," the prince, the first member of the Saudi ruling family to invest in a foreign soccer team, said.

Prince Abdullah’s statement echoed earlier remarks by Bahraini investors who late last year bought storied second tier English club Leeds United for $82.5 million. GFH Capital was the first Islamic finance institution to acquire a European soccer club.

‘Sport is one area where there haven’t been many Islamic investments – certainly not to the degree of a full takeover by an Islamic investment firm – but we saw a huge opportunity there … Ultimately, we’re a bank and we’re here to make money for investors … Leeds is one of the very few clubs in the Championship that has a real possibility of becoming a self-sustaining investment, and we really want to get the club into that position,” said. David Haigh, deputy CEO of Bahrain-based Gulf Finance House Capital, David Haigh, deputy CEO of Bahrain-based Gulf Finance House Capital,

Since acquiring the club less than a year ago, GFH Capital has sold more than half of its holding to other Middle Eastern investors.

“I see Leeds as a sleeping giant and the more I am involved, the more I appreciate that. There were many clubs available for sale in the Championship, but Leeds have a different reputation and because of this potential that we were attracted,” said Salah Nooruddin, Bahrain-based businessman, who became chairman of Leeds after buying a 3.3 percent stake in the club from GFH Capital.

GFH’s acquisition of Leeds initially raised questions because of the group’s mixed investment track record and negative experiences of other clubs such as Portsmouth SC, Swiss Super League club Servette FC, Austria’s Admira Wacker and Spain’s Malaga CF that have suffered from and at times seen their problems aggravated by acquisitions by Middle Eastern commoners or lesser members of ruling families whose takeovers proved to be whimsical rather than strategic.

GHF’s close ties to the minority Sunni Muslim Bahraini ruling family that two years ago brutally crushed a popular uprising by the island’s majority Shia Muslim population raised questions whether the Leeds acquisition was partially intended to shore up Bahrain’s tarnished image.

Human Rights Watch charged last month that the acquisition in 2010 of Manchester City by a senior member of the ruling family of the United Arab Emirates, who has proven to be a serious and committed investor, served to launder the country’s image.

The acquisition of European clubs by nations with a record of suppressing opposition and violating human rights prompted former English Football Association chairman Lord Triesman to call for making a country’s human rights record one of the criteria for establishing whether a state entity or member of a ruling family passes the "fit and proper person test" for ownership of a Premier League club. Lord Triesman’s criteria would not apply to GFH which is not a state-owned entity.

The focus on the UAE followed the mass trial this summer of 94 people of which 69 were sentenced to lengthy prison terms on charges of being members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Human rights activists condemned the trial as unfair and a violation of due process. They asserted that the defendants had been denied legal assistance while being held incommunicado, allegedly tortured and were not given the right to appeal. Responding to the criticism, the UAE justice ministry implicitly did not rule out torture, arguing that alleged victims should have reported abuse to the police.

Qatar, which like the UAE has proven to be a solid investor because it too sees its soccer investments as strategic and key to the enhancement of its soft power in a bid to compensate for the fact that it will never have the military muscle to defend itself without external help, has learnt that reputational risk is the downside of involvement in soccer.

Qatar’s winning of the right to host the 2022 World Cup remains controversial almost three years after world soccer body FIFA awarded it the tournament. Weeks before FIFA’s executive committee meets to decide whether to move the competition from summer to winter because of the Gulf state’s searing summer temperatures, Qatar finds itself fending off demands that it be deprived of its hosting rights. Qatar has been further in the firing line because of labor rights and questions about gay rights during the tournament.

While Qatar has put itself in a class of its own by going beyond acquisitions to develop a fully-fledged sports sector and industry of its own, it too is looking at less flashy targets in Europe. After winning the World Cup hosting, purchasing Paris St. Germain, sponsoring Barcelona FC and acquiring rights to major leagues for its state-owned Al Jazeera television network, Qatar last year acquired Belgium’s second division KAS Eupen.

The acquisition by Qatar's Aspire Zone Foundation (AZF) differs from those by Prince Abdullah and GFH Capital by virtue of the fact that it is part of a grander strategy designed to make the Gulf state a key node in world soccer. The acquisition is intended to further the sport academy’s Football Dreams program, which scouts potential talent among adolescents in developing African nations as well as Vietnam, Thailand, Guatemala and Paraguay.

"We travel through these countries all year round with coaches and volunteers, organize matches, and provide the players with apparel. We then stage a final match in each country, with an international final held in Qatar," said ATZ director general Ivan Bravo. Mr. Bravo. Football Dreams graduates would be placed with Eupen.

"Graduates will come to Doha and work with Qatari players. We wanted to do something that could help develop Qatari athletes. The idea is to find talented football players around the world that would help Qatari players become better players," Mr. Bravo said.

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Saudi Arabia mulls granting women access to stadia

Source: Al Arabiya

By James M. Dorsey

Saudi Arabia’s secretive ruling family is mulling allowing women to attend soccer matches. No Saudi official has suggested that the controversial issue is under discussion but if past experience is any indication, a series of statements and denials suggests that a debate is underway.

The debate would be a revival of closed door discussions that has been waged on and off for the past two years. Attempting to assess debates within the secretive family is not dissimilar to Kremlinology, the speculative science analysts developed in an effort to understand the inner workings of the Soviet leadership.

Granting women sporting rights in the kingdom that in most parts of the world would be taken for granted takes on added significance with the Saudi Football Federation’s recent suggestion that the kingdom will compete against the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Thailand and Iran for the right to host the 2019 Asia Cup; hints that Saudi Arabia may field a serious candidate for next year’s election of a new head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the acquisition by Saudi Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad  of a 50 percent stake in third tier English cub Sheffield United.

The moves that would that would project Saudi Arabia on the global soccer map are not without risk as Qatar and Abu Dhabi have learnt the hard way. Qatar had expected to be cheered when it won the hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup, but has since had to deal with a barrage of criticism, negative publicity and demands that the tournament’s venue be moved. Recent improvements in the material conditions of foreign labor, who constitute a majority of the Gulf state’s population, are the result of a threat by international trade unions and human rights groups to boycott the World Cup and companies involved in the construction of infrastructure related to the tournament if Qatar fails to adhere to international labor standards.

Human Rights Watch last month accused the UAE of using its ownership of English Premier League club Manchester City and move into the United States’ Major League Soccer to polish an image increasingly tarnished by autocratic and counterrevolutionary policies, including the recent sentencing of scores of dissidents on charges of plotting to overthrow the government and UAE support for the military coup that ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi.

A country that is developing its first national sports plan for men only; lacks physical education for girls in public schools; forces women’s soccer clubs to operate in a legal and social nether land; bans women from driving, travelling without authorization from a male relative and working in a host of professions; and when it was forced last year by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to field women athletes chose two minor expatriates, Saudi Arabia is particularly vulnerable to criticism.

In minor concessions, Saudi Arabia’s religious police said earlier this year that women would be allowed to ride bikes and motorbikes in recreational areas provided that they were properly dressed and accompanied by a male relative. Authorities also announced that they would allow girl’s physical education in private schools as long as it was in line with Islamic law.

Saudi Football Federation (SFF) president Ahmed Eid Alharbi, a storied former goalkeeper who became the kingdom’s first elected sports official after his predecessor, a member of the ruling family, was forced under fan pressure to step down, has hinted at the economic impact of allowing women to attend soccer matches would have.

He said earlier this year that the creation of facilities for women would increase capacity at stadiums by 15 percent. Alharbi said the Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium in Jeddah would be the first to accommodate up to 32,000 women followed by the King Abdullah City stadium in the capital in 2014. Saudi Arabia, which enforces strict gender segregation, first announced in 2012 plans to upgrade the Jeddah stadium to enable women to enter.

Alharbi later qualified his remarks by saying that the decision to lift the ban on women was not his. “A decision like this is a sovereign decision. Neither I nor SAFF can make it. Only the political leadership in this country can make that decision,” he said.

Prospects for women’s attendance were further thrown into doubt in the past week when Prince Nawaf bin Faisal, the head of the youth welfare authority who resigned as head of the national soccer body, and the SFF denied that women would be granted access to the King Fahad Stadium in Riyadh during last week’s friendly against New Zealand. The denial was issued after the stadium’s manager, Sulaiman al-Yousef, manager of King Fahad Stadium, announced that foreign women and children would be permitted to watch the match. A picture on the website of the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television network of a few women and children in the stadium appeared to counter the denial.

It would not be the first time that Saudi Arabia succumbed to pressure. Protests by Sweden in 2006 in advance of a friendly in Riyadh persuaded the kingdom to allow Swedish women to attend separated from men by seating them in areas reserved for the media

The debate about women’s access to soccer matches is being waged against the backdrop of a series of anti-government incidents in the wake of last year’s resignation of Prince Nawaf. A Facebook page entitled Nasrawi Revolution demanded the resignation of Prince Faisal bin Turki, the owner of storied Riyadh club Al Nasser FC and a burly nephew of King Abdullah who sports a mustache and chin hair. A You Tube video captured Prince Faisal seemingly being pelted and chanted against as he rushed off the soccer pitch after rudely shoving a security official aside.

“Everything is upside down. Revolution is possible. There is change, but it is slow. It has to be fast. Nobody knows what will happen,” said a Saudi sports journalist referring to broader discontent in the kingdom that goes far beyond soccer.

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Wahhabism vs. Wahhabism: Qatar Challenges Saudi Arabia (Part 1)

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No. 262

Wahhabism vs. Wahhabism:
Qatar Challenges Saudi Arabia

James M. Dorsey

S. Rajaratnam School of International
Studies Singapore

06 September 2013

About RSIS

The S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) was
established in January 2007 as an autonomous School within
the Nanyang Technological University. Known earlier as
the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies when it was
established in July 1996, RSIS’ mission is to be a leading
research and graduate teaching institution in strategic and
international affairs in the Asia Pacific. To accomplish this
mission, it will:

·                     Provide a rigorous professional graduate education
             with a strong practical emphasis,
·                    Conduct policy-relevant research in defence,
             national security, international relations, strategic studies
             and diplomacy,
·                     Foster a global network of like-minded professional schools.


RSIS offers a challenging graduate education in international
affairs, taught by an international faculty of leading thinkers and
practitioners. The Master of Science (M.Sc.) degree
programmes in Strategic Studies, International Relations and
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on the Asia Pacific, the professional practice of international
affairs, and the cultivation of academic depth. Thus far,
students from more than 50 countries have successfully
completed one of these programmes. In 2010, a Double
Masters Programme with Warwick University was also launched,
with students required to spend the first year at Warwick and the
second year at RSIS.

A small but select Ph.D. programme caters to advanced
students who are supervised by faculty members with matching


Research takes place within RSIS’ six components: the Institute
of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS, 1996), the International
Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research
(ICPVTR, 2004), the Centre of Excellence for National Security
(CENS, 2006), the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies
(Centre for NTS Studies, 2008); the Temasek Foundation Centre
for Trade & Negotiations (TFCTN, 2008); and the Centre for
Multilateralism Studies (CMS, 2011). The focus of research
is on issues relating to the security and stability of the
Asia Pacific region and their implications for Singapore and
other countries in the region.

The school has four professorships that bring distinguished
scholars and practitioners to teach and to conduct research
at the school. They are the S. Rajaratnam Professorship in
Strategic Studies, the Ngee Ann Kongsi Professorship in
International Relations, the NTUC Professorship in
International Economic Relations and the Bakrie Professorship
in Southeast Asia Policy.


Collaboration with other professional schools of
international affairs to form a global network of excellence is
a RSIS priority. RSIS maintains links with other like-minded
schools so as to enrich its research and teaching activities as
well as adopt the best practices of successful schools.


Qatar, a tiny energy-rich state in terms of territory and
population, has exploded on to the world map as a major
rival to the region’s behemoth, Saudi Arabia. By projecting
itself through an activist foreign policy, an acclaimed and
at times controversial global broadcaster, an airline that has
turned it into a transportation hub and a host of mega
sporting events, Qatar has sought to develop the soft power
needed to compensate for its inability to ensure its security,
safety and defence militarily. In doing so, it has demonstrated
that size no longer necessarily is the determining factor for a
state’s ability to enhance its influence and power. Its challenge
to Saudi Arabia is magnified by the fact that it alongside the
kingdom is the world’s only state that adheres to Wahhabism,
an austere interpretation in Islam. Qatari conservatism is
however everything but a mirror image of Saudi Arabia’s stark
way of life with its powerful, conservative clergy, absolute
gender segregation; total ban on alcohol and houses of
worship for adherents of other religions, and refusal to
accommodate alternative lifestyles or religious practices.
Qatar’s alternative adaptation of Wahhabism coupled with
its lack of an indigenous clergy and long-standing relationship
with the Muslim Brotherhood, the region’s only organised
opposition force, complicate its relationship with Saudi Arabia
and elevate it to a potentially serious threat.


James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School
of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in
Singapore, co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the
University of Würzburg in Germany, and the author of the blog,
paper was presented at the Gulf Research Meeting in Cambridge,
UK, in July 2013.

Wahhabism vs. Wahhabism: Qatar Challenges Saudi
As Saudi Arabia seeks to inoculate itself against the push for
greater freedom, transparency and accountability sweeping
the Middle East and North Africa, a major challenge to the
kingdom’s puritan interpretation of Islam sits on its doorstep:
Qatar, the only other country whose native population is
Wahhabi and that adheres to the Wahhabi creed. It is a
challenge that is rooted in historical tensions that go back to
Qatari efforts in the nineteenth century to carve out an
identity of its own. It also stems from long-standing
differences in religious interpretations that are traceable to
Qatar’s geography, patterns of trade and history; and a
partially deliberate failure to groom a class of popular
Muslim legal scholars of its own. More recently, Qatar’s
development of an activist foreign policy promoting
Islamist-led political change in the Middle East and North
Africa as well as a soft power strategy designed to
reduce its dependence on a Saudi defence umbrella was
prompted by a perception that it no longer can assume
that the kingdom would be able to effectively protect
it. Although long existent, the challenge has never been as
stark as it is now, at a time of massive change in the region.
The differences are being fought out in Syria and Arab
nations who, have in recent years, toppled their autocratic
leaders, Egypt being one of the first and foremost.

While the differences in social, foreign and security policies
cannot be hidden, Qatar, which hosts the largest U.S. military
base in the Middle East, and Saudi Arabia have nevertheless
moved in recent years from a cold war to a modicum of
good neighbourly relations and cooperation with clearly defined
albeit unspoken red lines to outright proxy confrontation. In the
process, Qatar has emerged as living proof that Wahhabism,
the puritan version of Islam developed by the eighteenth
century preacher, Mohammed Abdul Wahhab, that dictates
life in Saudi Arabia since its creation, can be somewhat
orward and outward looking rather than repressive and
restrictive. It is a testimony that is by definition subversive and
is likely to serve much more than the case of freewheeling
Dubai as an inspiration for conservative Saudi society that
acknowledges its roots but in which various social groups
are increasingly voicing their desire for change. The subversive
nature of Qatar’s approach is symbolized by its long-standing,
deep-seated ties to the Muslim Brotherhood that faces one
of its most serious litmus tests at a time of the ascension of
a new emir and a successful Saudi counter-revolutionary
campaign that helped topple the government of Egyptian
President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013, and that same
month, curtailed Qatari influence within the rebel movement
opposed to embattled Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

Everything but a mirror image
A multi-domed, sand-coloured, architectural marvel, Doha’s
newest and biggest mosque, symbolizes Qatar’s complex
and volatile relationship with Saudi Arabia as well as its bold
soft power policy designed to propel it to the cutting edge
of the twenty first century. It is not the mosque itself
that has raised eyebrows but its naming after an eighteenth
century warrior priest, Sheikh Mohammed Abdul Wahhab,
the founder of Islam’s most puritan sect.

The naming of the mosque that overlooks the Qatar Sports
Club in Doha’s Jubailat district was intended to pacify more
traditional segments of Qatari society as well as Saudi Arabia,
which sees the tiny Gulf state, the only other country whose
native population is Wahhabi, as a troublesome and
dangerous gadfly on its doorstep challenging its puritan
interpretation of Islam as well as its counterrevolutionary
strategy in the Middle East and North Africa. Qatar’s social
revolution in the past two decades challenges Saudi efforts
to maintain as much as possible of its status quo while
impregnating itself against the push for greater freedom,
transparency and accountability sweeping the region. By
naming the mosque after Abdul Wahhab, Qatar reaffirmed
its adherence to the Wahhabi creed that goes back to
nineteenth century Saudi support and the ultimate rise to
dominance of the Al Thani clan, the country’s hereditary
monarchs until today who account for an estimated twenty
per cent of the population.[1]

Yet, despite being a traditional Gulf state, Qatari conservatism
is everything but a mirror image of Saudi Arabia’s stark way
of life with its powerful, conservative clergy, absolute gender
segregation; total ban on alcohol and houses of worship for
adherents of other religions, and refusal to accommodate
alternative lifestyles or religious practices. Qataris
privately distinguish between their “Wahhabism of the sea”
as opposed to Saudi Arabia’s “Wahhabism of the land,”
a reference to the fact that the Saudi government has less
control of an empowered clergy compared to Qatar that
has no indigenous clergy with a social base to speak of; a
Saudi history of tribal strife over oases as opposed to one
of communal life in Qatar, and Qatar’s outward looking
maritime trade history. Political scientists Birol Baskan and
Steven Wright argue that on a political level, Qatar has a
secular character similar to Turkey and in sharp contrast
to Saudi Arabia, which they attribute to Qatar’s lack of a
class of Muslim legal scholars.[2] The absence of scholars
was in part a reflection of Qatari ambivalence towards
Wahhabism that it viewed as both an opportunity and a
threat: on the one hand it served as a tool to legitimise
domestic rule, on the other it was a potential monkey
wrench Saudi Arabia could employ to assert control. Opting
to generate a clerical class of its own would have enhanced
the threat because Qatar would have been dependent on
Saudi clergymen to develop its own. That would have
produced a clergy steeped in the kingdom’s austere theology
and inspired by its history of political power-sharing that
would have advocated a Saudi-style, state-defined form of
political Islam.

By steering clear of the grooming of an indigenous
clergy of their own, Qatari leaders ensured that they
had greater ensuring that they did not
have to give a clergy a say in political and social
affairs. As a result, Qatar lacks the institutions that often
hold the kingdom back. In contrast to Saudi Arabia,
Qatari rulers do not derive their legitimacy from a clerical
class. Qatar’s College of Sharia (Islamic Law) was established
only in 1973 and the majority of its students remain
women who become teachers or employees of the
endowments ministry rather than clergymen.[3] Similarly,
Qatar does not have a religious force that polices public
morality. Nor are any of its families known for producing
religious scholars. Qatari religious schools are run by the
ministry of education not as in the Saudi kingdom by the
religious affairs authority. They are staffed by expatriates
rather than Qataris and attended by less than one per
cent of the total student body and only ten per cent of those
are Qatari nationals.[4] Similarly, Qatari religious authority is
not institutionally vested. Qatar has for example no Grand
Mufti as does Saudi Arabia and various other Arab nations; it
only created a ministry of Islamic Affairs and Endowments
22 years after achieving independence.

The lack of influential native religious scholars allowed Qatar
to advance women in society, and enable them to drive and
travel independently; permit non-Muslims to consume alcohol
and pork; sponsor Western arts like the Tribeca Film
Festival; develop world-class art museums; host the Al Jazeera
television network that revolutionized the region’s controlled
media landscape and has become one of the world’s foremost
global broadcasters;, and prepare to accommodate Western
soccer fans with un-Islamic practices during the 2022 World
Cup. The absence of an indigenous clerical class risked enhancing
the influence of Saudi and other foreign scholars, particularly
among more conservative segments of Qatari society.

In doing so, Qatar projects to young Saudis and others a vision
of a less restrictive and less choking conservative Wahhabi
society that grants individuals irrespective of gender a greater
degree of control over their lives. Qatari women, in the mid-
1990s, were like in Saudi Arabia: banned from driving, voting
or holding government jobs. Today, they occupy prominent
positions in multiple sectors of society in what effectively
amounted to a social revolution. It’s a picture that juxtaposes
starkly with that of its only Wahhabi brother. In doing so,
Qatar threw down a gauntlet for the kingdom’s interpretation
of nominally shared religious and cultural beliefs. "I consider
myself a good Wahhabi and can still be modern, understanding
Islam in an open way. We take into account the changes in the
world and do not have the closed-minded mentality as
they do in Saudi Arabia,” Abdelhameed Al Ansari, the dean of
Qatar University's College of Sharia, a leader of the paradigm
shift, told The Wall Street Journal in 2002.[5] Twenty years earlier
Al Ansari was denounced as an "apostate" by Qatar's Saudi-trained
chief religious judge for advocating women’s rights. "All those
people who attacked me, most of them have died, and the rest keep
quiet," Al Ansari said.

Qatar’s long-standing projection of an alternative is particularly
sensitive at a time that Saudi Arabia is implicitly debating the very
fundaments of the social and political arrangements that the Qataris
call into question. The kingdom’s conservative ulema and Salafis
worry that key members of the ruling family, including King
Abdullah; his son, Prince Mutaib, who heads the National Guard; and
Prince Turki al-Faisal, former head of intelligence and ambassador
to the United States and Britain, are toying with the idea of a
separation of state and religion in a state that was founded on a pact
between the ruling Al-Sauds and the clergy and sees itself as the
model of Islamic rule. The clergy voiced its concern in the spring of
2013 in a meeting with the king two days after Prince Mutaib
declared that “religion (should) not enter into politics.” Prince Turki
first hinted at possible separation 11 years ago when he cited verse
4:59 of the Quran: “O you who have believed, obey God and obey the
Messenger and those in authority among you.” Prince Turki
suggested that the verse referred exclusively to temporal authority
rather than both religious and political authority. Responding to
Prince Mutaib in a tweet, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz al-Tarifi
warned that “whoever says there is no relationship between religion
and politics worships two gods, one in the heavens and one on earth.”[6]

To be sure, Qatar’s greater liberalism hardly means freedoms
as defined in Western societies. Qatar’s former emir, Hamad
bin Khalifa Al Thani, who abdicated in June 2013 in favour
of his son, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Khalifa, silenced
opposition to reforms. Sheikh Hamad, for example, arrested in
1998 the religious scholar, Abdulrahman al Nuaimi, who
criticized his advancement of women rights. Al Nuaimi was
released three years later on condition that he no longer would
speak out publicly. Qatari poet Muhammad Ibn al-Dheeb al-
Ajami, was sentenced in November 2011 to life in prison in
what legal and human rights activists said was a “grossly unfair
trial that flagrantly violates the right to free expression” on
charges of “inciting the overthrow of the ruling regime.” His
sentence was subsequently reduced to 15 years in prison. Al-
Ajami’s crime appeared to be a poem that he wrote, as
well as his earlier recitation of poems that included passages
disparaging senior members of Qatar’s ruling family. The
poem was entitled “Tunisian Jasmine”. It celebrated the
overthrow of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. A draft
media law approved by the Qatari cabinet would prohibit
publishing or broadcasting information that would “throw
relations between the state and the Arab and friendly states into
confusion” or “abuse the regime or offend the ruling family or
cause serious harm to the national or higher interests of the
state.” Violators would face stiff financial penalties of up to
one million Qatari riyals (US $275,000).[7] In a rare public
criticism, Qatari journalists demanded in June 2013 greater
freedoms and criticized the absence of a media law and press

Ring-fencing the Gulf
With the reforms and their implicit challenge to the kingdom
notwithstanding, Qatar shares with Saudi Arabia a firm will to
ring-fence the Gulf against the popular uprisings in other parts of
the Middle East and North Africa. The two countries’ diverging
world views have however manifested themselves in differing
approaches towards the popular revolts and protests sweeping
the region. While Saudi Arabia has adjusted to regional change
on a reactive case-by-case basis by recently launching a
successful counter-revolutionary effort in Egypt and trying to
counter the Brotherhood’s influence among Syria rebels, Qatar
has sought to embrace it head on as long as it is not at home or
in its Gulf neighbourhood. For that reason, Qatar supported the
dispatch to Bahrain in 2011 of a Saudi-led force to help quell a
popular uprising in its own backyard.

The rift between Saudi Arabia and its major Gulf allies was evident
in a commentary by Abd al-Rahman Al-Rashed, the general manager
of Al Arabiya, the Saudi network established to counter Qatar’s Al
Jazeera. Accusing Qatar, the only Gulf state critical of the Egyptian
military’s crackdown, of fuelling the flames of the Muslim
Brotherhood campaign against the Egyptian military’s toppling of
Morsi in the summer of 2013, Al-Rashed wrote: "We find it
really hard to understand Qatar’s political logic in a country (Egypt)
to which it is not linked at the level of regimes or ideologically or
economically. Egyptians in Qatar moreover are only a minority.
Qatar’s insistence that the moving force of the army and Egyptian
political parties accept the Brotherhood’s demands is not only
 impossible but also has dangerous repercussions. Supporting
the Brotherhood at this current phase increases (the Brotherhood’s)
stubborn insistence to stick to its guns and creates an extremely
dangerous situation. So why is Qatar doing it? We really don’t
understand why! Historically and over a period of around 20
years, Qatar has always adopted stances that oppose the
positions of its Gulf brothers, and all of Qatar’s
opposing policies have ended up unsuccessful.”[9] In scathing
remarks criticizing those opposed to the Egyptian military’s
removal of Morsi, Saudi King Abdullah referred to Qatar without
naming it: “Let it be known to those who interfered in Egypt’s
internal affairs that they themselves are fanning the fire of
sedition and are promoting the terrorism which they call for
fighting, I hope they will come to their senses before it is too
late; for the Egypt of Islam, Arabism, and honourable history
will not be altered by what some may say or what positions
others may take.” the monarch said.[10]

By maintaining support for the Brotherhood as it fought for its
survival, Qatar aligned itself with the very Islamists in its
own backyard who were challenging Gulf regimes and that the
Saudi-led bloc was seeking to suppress. In doing so, it also
identified with Gulf Islamists who were exploiting their
criticism of Gulf backing of the Egyptian coup to campaign for
increased support for anti-Assad rebels in comparing
Egyptian military leader General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to Assad.
The often blunt criticism by Gulf Islamists speaking from the
pulpit in mosques and on Twitter resonated with the public,
as tweets and videos of sermons went viral. Qatar’s
positioning implicitly recognized attempts by Saudi Arabia to
co-opt Islamist forces like the Sahwa, a powerful Islamist
network nurtured by members of the Brotherhood that
had supported the government in the early days of the Arab
popular revolts, was failing. The widening rift between the
Islamists and the ruling Al-Saud family was further highlighted
by the death of Mohamed Al Hadlaq, a nephew of the
kingdom’s terrorist rehabilitation program who died in Syria
fighting as part of a jihadist rebel group.[11]

The Brotherhood, the only organized opposition force in the
kingdom, albeit clandestinely, stands at the core of differences
between Qatar and Saudi Arabia over Syria even though they
coordinated to become the first Arab states to withdraw their
ambassadors from Damascus in 2011. Their divergence
over the Brotherhood posed however a dilemma for the kingdom
which gravitated towards more secular as well as Salafi rebels
in its bid to topple Assad’s secular Alawite (read Shiite and heretic
in Saudi eyes) regime; weaken Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah; and
thwart a power grab by the Syrian Brotherhood. Support of Salafi
forces risked a repeat the fallout of Saudi aid to Afghan
mujahedeen fighting the Soviets in the 1980s who once
intoxicated by their defeat of a superpower turned against the
kingdom and its allies. In contrast to the kingdom, Qatar has
proven more willing to risk engagement with jihadi groups on the
grounds that its priority was to see the Assad regime overthrown
sooner than later and that their exclusion would only aggravate
Syria’s grief. “I am very much against excluding anyone at this
stage, or bracketing them as terrorists, or bracketing them as al-
Qaeda. What we are doing is only creating a sleeping monster, and
this is wrong. We should bring them all together, we should treat
them all equally, and we should work on them to change their
ideology, i.e. put more effort altogether to change their
thinking. If we exclude anything from the Syrian elements today,
we are only doing worse to Syria. Then we are opening the door
again for intervention to chase the monster,” Qatari Minister
of State for Foreign Affairs Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah
told an international security conference in Manama in late
December 2012. The official played down the jihadi character
of some of the Syrian rebel groups. “They are only close to God
now because what they are seeing from blood – and I am
saying this for all of Syria. Muslims, Christians, Jews – whenever
they have a crisis, they come close to God. This is the nature of man.
If we see that someone is calling Allahu Akbar (God is great), the
other soldier from the regime is also calling Allahu Akbar when he
faces him. This is not a sign of extremism or terrorism,” Al-Attiyah

The fundamentally different strategies of self-preservation of
Qatar and the Gulf states are rooted in a Qatari perception that
the role of the Saudi clergy in policymaking has resulted in
Saudi Arabia failing in its ambition to provide the region with vision
and effective leadership that would have allowed it to perhaps
pre-empt the wave of change and resolve problems on its
own. That perception has reinforced Qatar’s raison d’etre:
a state that maintains its distinction and tribal independence from
the region’s behemoth, Saudi Arabia, with whom it is entangled in
regional shadow boxing match.

While the ruling families of both have sought to buffer
themselves against protests by boosting social spending, Saudi
Arabia has opted for maintenance of the status quo
wherever possible and limited engagement with the Muslim
Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere, overshadowed by
its deep-seated distrust of the group. Saudi Arabia’s attitude
towards the Brotherhood is informed by a fear that Islamic
government in other nations could threaten its political and
religious claim to leadership of the Muslim world based on the
fact that it is home to Mecca and Medina, Islam’s two
holiest cities, its puritan interpretation of Islamic dogma, and
its self-image as a nation ruled on the basis of Islamic law with
the Quran as its constitution. The threat posed by the
Brotherhood and Qatari promotion of political activism is
reinforced by the fact that concepts of violent jihad have largely
been replaced by Islamist civic action across the Middle East and
North Africa in demand of civil, human and political rights.
That hits close to home. Saudi efforts to co-opt the Sahwa
movement in the kingdom whose positions are akin to those of
the Brotherhood have only succeeded partially. Sahwa leader
Salman al-Odeh warned the government in an open letter in
March 2013 against ignoring widespread public discontent.[13]

By contrast, Qatar’s pragmatic relationship to Wahhabism
eased the early forging of a close relationship with the Muslim
Brotherhood. Qatar’s ties to the Brotherhood may be less
motivated by ideology than by a determination to distinguish
itself from the kingdom and back what at times appeared to be a
winning horse. Ironically, Qatar is joined by Bahrain, one of, if
not the Gulf state closest to Saudi Arabia, in bucking the
region’s trend and maintaining close ties to the Brotherhood.
The Bahraini Brotherhood’s political arm, the Al-Minbar Islamic
Society, has been allowed to operate openly. The group, which
has largely supported the government, is widely believed to
be funded by the island’s minority Sunni Muslim ruling family
and Islamic finance sector in a bid to counter political forces
that represent its Shiite Muslim majority.[14]

Qatar’s relationship with the Brotherhood was moreover
facilitated by the fact that key figures from the group like
Egyptian-born Yusuf Al Qaradawi, a major influence in a
country with no real clergy of its own, Libyan imam Ali Al
Salabi, fellow Egyptian Sheikh Ahmed Assal and Sheikh Abdel
Moez Abdul Sattar have had a base in exile in Doha for
decades. Qaradawi, who has been resident in Doha since the
1970s, wields intellectual and theological influence within the
Brotherhood but insists that he is not a member. "Saudi Arabia
has Mecca and Medina. We have Qaradawi -- and all his
daughters drive cars and work,” said former Qatari justice
minister and prominent lawyer Najeeb al Nauimi.[15]

Qaradawi, a controversial figure in the West, is widely credited
for Qatar’s early backing of opponents to Syrian president Assad.
He noted in the early days of the Syrian uprising that historic links
between Egypt and Syria put Syria in protesters’ firing line.[16]
Qaradawi was immediately accused by Syrian officials of fostering
sectarianism.[17] The Qatari support ended the close ties Hamad
had forged in the first decade of the twenty first century as a result
of his strained relations with the Saudis with Assad, a leader of the
more radical bloc in the Arab world.

Qaradawi took his advocacy of resistance to Assad a significant
step further by effectively endorsing the sectarian Sunni-Shia
Muslim divide in a speech in late May 2013 before the ascension
of Tamim, who under his father was Qatar’s main interlocutor
with the kingdom. By doing so, Qaradawi hinted at a possible
change in Qatari policy once Tamim took over the reins. In line
with Saudi encouragement of the divide between Sunni and Shia
Muslims, Qaradawi urged Muslims with military training to join
the anti-Bashar al-Assad struggle in Syria. His condemnation of
Lebanese Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah (Party of God) as
the “party of Satan” was immediately endorsed by Saudi grand
mufti Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, as was his assertion that al-Assad's
Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam, was "more infidel than
Christians and Jews." In a surprising gesture to Saudi Arabia,
Qaradawi went on to say that "I defended the so-called
(Hezbollah leader Hassan) Nasrallah and his party, the party of
tyranny... in front of clerics in Saudi Arabia. It seems that the
clerics of Saudi Arabia were more mature than me."[18]

Promoting Islamist activism
Ironically, the setting up of Qatar’s state-owned Al Jazeera
television network which handles Gulf states with velvet gloves,
parallels the structuring of the Gulf state’s ties to the
Brotherhood: the group, which dismantled its operations in
Qatar in the late 1990s, was allowed to operate everywhere
except for in Qatar itself. Instead of allowing a Qatari branch
of the Brotherhood, Qatar moved to fund institutions that
were designed to foster a generation of activists in the Middle
East and North Africa as well as to guide the Brotherhood in its
transition from a clandestine to a public group. Former
Qatari Brother Jassim Al-Sultan established the Al-Nahda
(Awakening) Project[19] to promote Islamist activism within
democracies. A medical doctor, Al-Sultan has since the
dissolution of the group in Qatar advised the Brotherhood to
reach out to other groups rather than stick to its strategy of
building power bases within existing institutions. He has also
criticized the Brotherhood for insisting on its slogan, ‘Islam
is the Solution.’ Al Nahda cooperates closely with the London
and Doha-based Academy of Change (AOC)[20] that focuses on
the study of “social, cultural, and political transformations
especially in the Arabic and Islamic region.” AOC appears to
be modelled on Otoper, the Serbian youth movement that
toppled President Slobodan Milosevic and has since
transformed itself into a training ground for non-violent
protest. The Brotherhood campaigned for AOC founder Hisham
Morsy’s release after he was detained during the popular
revolt in 2011 that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The threat to Saudi Arabia posed by Qatar’s fostering of
popular protest was compounded by the nature of the social
contract in the kingdom and other energy-rich rentier Gulf
states. The state’s generous cradle-to-grave welfare and
social and no taxation policy approach in exchange for
the surrender of political rights meant that the Brotherhood
challenged ruling families on issues that they were most
vulnerable to: culture, ideology and civic society. The Qatari
government’s support of Al Nahda and AOC was part of its
effort, in contrast to other Gulf states, to control the world
of national non-governmental organizations. In doing so,
it targeted what, according to Hootan Shambayati, effectively
amounts to the Gulf states’ Achilles Heel. “The rentier
nature of the state limited the regime's ability to legitimize
itself through its economic performance… Consequently,
culture and moral values became sources of conflict between
the state and segments of the civil society,” Shambayati wrote.[21]
The government’s support for activists paralleled Qatar’s earlier
bypassing of Arab elites by initially appealing to the public
across the region with its groundbreaking free-wheeling
reporting and debate on Al Jazeera that, at its peak, captivated
an Arabic speaking audience of 60 million.

Sharpening the rivalry
Beyond historic differences in religious experience and practice,
two more events sharpened the rivalry between Saudi Arabia
and Qatar: the 1991 U.S.-led expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait
and the rise to power in a 1995 bloodless coup of Sheikh
Hamad. The U.S.-led invasion called into question Qatar’s
alignment with Saudi Arabia since its independence in 1971,
which involved Saudi’s guarantee to protect the tiny emirate.
To the Qataris, the invasion demonstrated that Qatar could not
rely, for its defence, on a country that was not capable of
defending itself. That realization coupled with Kuwait’s ability
to rally the international community to its assistance reinforced
Hamad’s belief that Qatar’s security was best enhanced by
embedding and branding itself in the international community
as a cutting-edge, moderate, knowledge-based nation.

The rift with the kingdom was further widened by Saudi
outrage at a son revolting against his father that translated
into efforts to undermine the new ruler, including attempts to
unseat him, sabotage Qatar’s endeavours to export natural
gas to other states in the region, and build a bridge linking
it with the United Arab Emirates. By all accounts, Hamad’s
voluntary abdication in favour of Tamim should have
provoked similar ire from the Saudis in a region in which
rulers hang on to power until death even if they at times
have experienced a deterioration of health that has
incapacitated them not only physically but also mentally.
One reason it may not is the fact that Saudi officials
appreciated Tamim’s more accommodating interaction
with them and the fact that his ascension held out the
hope of a down toning of the activist and adventurist nature
of his father’s foreign policy.

Relations between the two countries had nonetheless
already virtually ruptured before Hamad’s 1995 coup after
border skirmishes in 1992 and 1994 rooted in long-standing
disputes over Saudi projections of itself as first among the
region’s Bedouins. They further deteriorated as a result of
several allegedly Saudi-backed coup attempts in the late
1990s. The attempts prompted Qatar to strip some 6,000
members of the Al-Gufran clan of their Qatari nationalities
because they had patrolled the border on behalf of the

The deteriorating relationship with its big brother made
it even more imperative for Qatar to strike out on its
own – the very thing Saudi Arabia thought to thwart. A
struggle for a multi-billion dollar Qatari project to supply
gas to Kuwait symbolized Saudi power. Asked in 2003
why the Kuwait project was stalled, then Qatar’s industry
and energy minister Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah said:
"We have received no clearance from Saudi Arabia.
Hence it is not feasible."[23] It took a rollercoaster of
repeated Saudi denials and approvals for the project to
be finally completed in 2008.

If the natural gas deal was emblematic of Qatari-Saudi
relations, so was a London libel case in which the wife of
the wife of the former and mother of the new emir, Sheikha
Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned, sued Saudi-owned Ash Sharq
al Awsat newspaper for falsely reporting that her husband
had secretly visited Israel. In her petition to the court, the
Sheikha charged that the paper was "controlled by Saudi
intelligence paymasters who used the newspaper as a
mouthpiece for a propaganda campaign against Qatar
and its leadership."[24]

Saudi and Qatari national interests diverge further when it
comes to Iran, with whom Qatar shares the world’s largest
gas field. Saudi Arabia sees Iran as a major rival that is instigating
civil unrest in the region. It is also the spiritual home of the
Shiites, the sect most despised by Saudi Wahhabis. To
navigate this minefield, Qatar has projected itself in the first
decade of the twenty first century as the mediator of the
wider region’s conflicts and prompted it to forge relationships
with other Saudi nemeses such as Israel and Hezbollah.

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, when he was still crown
prince, refused to attend an Arab summit in 2000 because of
the presence of an Israeli trade office in Doha. The
appearance of Saudi dissidents on Al Jazeera two years later
persuaded the kingdom to withdraw its ambassador to
Qatar. In 2009, the two countries held rival Arab summits within
a day of each other despite an improvement in relations in
the two preceding years that included a deal allowing Al Jazeera
to open a bureau in Riyadh provided it did not air dissident
Saudi voices. Seemingly improved relations were highlighted
when the emir amnestied several Qataris-turned Saudi nationals
convicted of their alleged involvement in the 1996 Saudi-inspired
coup attempts.

The improvement in relations was a reflection of Saudi
leverage. That leverage was enhanced by Qatar’s own success in
deploying soft power. The winning of the hosting rights for the
2022 World Cup meant, for example, that Qatar needed to project
stability in its backyard. Saudi Arabia could undermine that
perception. Support for the Syrian rebels had a similar potential
downside. Qatari backing could backfire on its relations with
Iran, driving Qatar in turn closer to the kingdom. While a majority
of Qataris are likely to back improved relations, they also
appeared to remain ambiguous. Qataris participating in a 2009
broadcast of the BBC’s Doha Debates overwhelmingly
described their country’s relations with the kingdom as a
‘cold war.’[25] University students often glorify past Qatari tribal
defence of Qatar’s only land border that separates it from Saudi

Finally, while few have any doubt about Saudi Arabia’s policy
goals – maintenance of the status quo to the greatest degree
possible, retention of its leadership role, limiting of the
rise of Islamist forces, preservation of monarchial rule and
restrictive political reform – Qatar’s actions have raised
questions about what it is trying to achieve.

Politicians and analysts grappled, for example, to get a
grip on how Qatar’s competition with Saudi Arabia for
influence played out in Yemen, a strategic nation at the
southern tip of the peninsular. Questions they were
trying to wrap their heads around included Qatar’s
ties to the powerful Islamist Brotherhood-related Al-Islah
movement and its emergence as a mediator in Yemen.
Qatar’s role, for example, in the release of a kidnapped
Swiss teacher[26] made it rather than Saudi Arabia, the
go-to-address in a country in which kidnapping for
political and criminal purposes are a fixture of life.

Qatar’s influence in Yemen was both remarkable and
sensitive given long-standing Saudi bankrolling of the
government of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh as
well as the country’s major tribes, including the
president’s own tribe, the Hashid tribal confederation.
Qatar’s close ties to the Brotherhood as well as a history of
mediation in Yemen dating back to the 1990s allowed it
to make significant inroads into what the Saudis perceived
as their preserve. By competing in Yemen, Qatar benefited
from the fact that it was a tiny nation rather than the
egion’s giant and was not a supplier of jihadists to Yemen-
based Al Qa’ida in the Arabian Gulf (AQAP). Qatar’s
influence was sufficiently significant to prompt tribal
leaders, including prominent businessmen and politician
Hamid al-Ahmar, to balance their relations between the two
Gulf rivals once they broke off with Saleh during the 2011
popular uprising against him and joined the opposition.

On the back of its relationship with the Brotherhood,
Qatar forged ties to other key Yemeni players, including
Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a Muslim Brother and
powerful advisor to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Hadi succeeded Saleh in 2012 in a deal with the opposition
mediated by Gulf states under Saudi leadership that was
designed to preserve the core structure of the outgoing
president’s regime. Qatar initially participated in the diplomatic
effort but later pulled out because of "indecision and
delays in the signature of the proposed agreement" and
"the intensity of clashes" in Yemen.[27] In an interview with
Russia today, Saleh had warned a month earlier that "the state
of Qatar is funding chaos in Yemen and in Egypt and Syria and
throughout the Arab world. We reserve the right not to sign
(the Gulf-negotiated deal) if the representatives of Qatar are
present" at the ceremony.[28]

The divergence of Qatari and Saudi goals was also symbolized
by Qatar’s ties to Nobel Prize winner and prominent Yemeni activist
Tawakkol Karma, who emerged as the face of the popular revolt
against Saleh. Gen. Al Ahmar’s first armored division, which
joined the mass anti-Saleh protesters in early 2011, played a
key role in the president’s ultimate demise after 30 years in
office, when it attacked the presidential palace in 2012, killing
several senior officials and severely wounding the embattled
Yemeni leader and various of his key aids. Qatar’s relationship
to Al Ahmar dates back to 2008/2009 when it was
mediating an end to the armed confrontation with rebel
Houthi tribesmen in the north. The general was the
Saleh government’s negotiator. Qatar further garnered
popularity among Saleh’s opponents by becoming the first
Arab country in 2011 to call on the president to step down
in response to the demand of protesters camped out on
the capital Sana’a’s Change Square. In response, Saleh
thundered in a speech: “We derive our legitimacy from
the strength of our glorious Yemeni people, not from
Qatar, whose initiative we reject.”[29]

Qatar’s success in breaking the Saudi political monopoly in
Yemen was evident to all in July 2013 when Hadi stopped in
Doha on his way to Washington for an official visit. Hadi was
accompanied by General Al-Ahmar. Similarly, when Al Islah
leader Muhammad al-Yadumi travelled to Doha in 2012 to
thank the government for its support, he did not include Saudi
Arabia on his itinerary. It was a glaring omission given Saudi
Arabia’s key role in brokering the agreement that eased Saleh
out of office.

Read further Part 2

[1] Alan J. Fromherz. Qatar, A Modern History, London , 2012, I. B. Tauris
& Co. Ltd, p. 91
[2] Birol Baskan and Steven Wright. 2011. Seeds of Change: Comparing
State-Religion Relations in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Arab Studies Quarterly,
33(2), 96-111
[3] Mehran Kamrava, ‘Royal Factionalism and Political Liberalization in Qatar,’
2009, Middle East Journal, Vol:63:3, p. 401-420
[4] Ibid. Baskan and Wright
[5] Yaroslav Trofimov. October 24, 2002, Lifting the Veil: In a Quiet Revolt, Qatar Is
Snubbing Neighboring Saudis, The Wall Street Journal,
[6] Ibrahim Hatlani, ‘Saudi Arabia wrestles with its identity,’ July 12, 2013, The
[7] James M. Dorsey, ‘Persian Gulf Futures,’ Global Brief, March 5, 2013,
[8] Journalists call for overhaul of QNA, July 14, 2013, The Peninsula,
[9] Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, , انقسام الخليج حول مصر (Why Is The Gulf
[10] Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman bin Faisal bin Turki bin Abdullah
bin Muhammad bin Saud, ‘Saudi King Abdullah declares support for Egypt
against terrorism,’, 16 August 2013, Al Arabiyah,
[11] The Gulf Institute, ‘Close Relative of Senior Saudi Counterterrorism Official
Killed Alongside AlQaeda in Syria,’ Washington, 19 August 2013, press release by
[12] International Institute for Strategic Studies, Priorities for Regional Security: Q&A Session,” 8 December 2012,
[14] Lori Plotkin Boghardt, ‘The Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf: Prospects for
Agitation,’ 10 June 2013, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy,
[15] Ibid. Trofimov
[16] Qaradawi backs Syrian revolution, The Peninsula, March 26, 2011,
[17] Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, ‘Syria and the 'Resistance' Bloc: Buddies No More,’
[18] Qaradawi admits Saudi clerics are more mature than him on Hezbollah, June 1, 2011, Middle East Online,
[21] Hootan Shambayati, ‘The Rentier State, Interest Groups, and the
Paradox of Autonomy: State and Business in
Turkey and Iran,’ Comparative Politics, 1994, Vol 6:3, p. 307-331
[22] Jill Crystal. Political reform and the prospects for democratic
transition in the gulf, FRIDE Working Paper, July 8, 2005,
[23] Mona Lisa Freiha, Saudi refuses Qatar gas project, An Nahar, July 23,
[24] Lawrence Smallman, ‘Qatar's first lady wins UK libel case,’ January 5,
2005, Al Jazeera,
[25] The Doha Debates, This House believes that after Gaza, Arab unity
[26] Michael Peel, Rivals make play for power in Yemen, Financial Times,
April 15, 2013
[27] Middle East Online, ‘Qatar pulls out of Gulf's Yemen mediation,’
[28] Ibid.ra
[29] Al Sharq, ‘ Doha’s influence in Sana’a spring forces taking accounting of
new allies (ربيع الدوحة في صنعاء يثمر نفوذاً لحساب حلفائها الجدد),