For Qatar, relations with West are a balancing act

By Janine Zacharia Published: Tuesday, March 4, 2008

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For Qatar, relation By Janine Zachar nytimes.com 12

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March 4, 2008

The New York Tim

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DOHA, Qatar — For Sheik Hamad bin Jasim bin Jaber al-Thani, Qatar's prime minister and chief diplomat, it's natural to play host to the U.S. military while sharing one of the world's largest natural-gas fields with Iran. Qatar's royal leadership has learned to balance contradictory political interests as a means of national preservation for the tiny country. Saudi Arabia, a kingdom friendly to the United States, looms on Qatar's western border, and Muslim clerics rule Iran just across the Gulf. The Qatari strategy may be a peek into the future of international politics. As the U.S. and Europe increasingly rely on new sources of energy and capital, they may be dealing with more independent-minded countries like Qatar that play all sides to their advantage and favor no major power exclusively. "Our ambition is to have prosperity for our people," Hamad, who also oversees Qatar's $60 billion investment fund, said in an interview in the booming seaside capital, Doha. "We would like to be friendly with everyone."

which is financed by the Qatari government. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Enriched by the third-largest gas reserves in the world. They're caught with the Americans in Iraq.Qatar is asserting itself economically. who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map. the emirate still welcomes Israeli athletes and executives. Hamad attended the opening of the Brookings Doha Center. Tankers filled with Qatari natural gas will arrive routinely at a Texas terminal by 2009. Qatar coaxed Arab states to attend President George W. and they want to place themselves as an important player" in the Gulf.S. to gauge the loyalty of the desert nation.S. Qatar isn't always out of sync with U. universities. They also say Qatar isn't joining with other Arab governments to pressure Syria to stop interfering in Lebanon. "They're next to Iran. In November. Qatar plans to invest as much as $15 billion this year shoring up U. a specialist in the Gulf's petrochemical industry at Georgetown University and a senior adviser to PFC Energy." Five years ago. Qatar "is trying to think of the future. diplomats have objected to what they consider biased coverage of the Iraq war on the pioneering Arabic satellite news station Al Jazeera. and European banks struggling with mortgage losses. military commanders based in Qatar ran much of the air war against Saddam Hussein's forces in the opening stages of the attack on Iraq. U. . says Jean-François Seznec. to a summit in Doha. Still. Last month. which nonetheless still allows American forces to use an air base to send supplies to Iraq and Afghanistan. A month later it upset the United States by inviting the Iranian president. Saudi Arabia. While Qatar defended Hezbollah in its 2006 war against Israel and gave millions to rebuild homes in the militant group's stronghold in southern Lebanon. U. a powerful country of 75 million people. and Carnegie Mellon of Pittsburgh. which is based in Washington. "They're next to a very big power. Now it is hard for the U. a Washington consulting firm. They have to be very careful. including Georgetown.S. Maryland.S.S.S. Qatar also houses branches of U." Seznec says. interests. Awash in cash. with which they have a rather mediocre relationship. Bush's Middle East peace summit in Annapolis. affiliated with a Mideast policy unit at the Brookings Institution in Washington that is funded by the Israeli entrepreneur Haim Saban.

ambassador to Qatar who now heads the U. based in Washington. according to a U. the bank's stock rose 3." Protecting its gas wealth is the country's chief objective. Asked about Bush's snub. Democratically. a former U.S. making Qatar the world's biggest exporter. and most of that is sold to Asia. Within three years. total LNG production may reach 77 million tons. "That's how they survive. to unload and process Qatari gas. Qatar produces 32 million tons of liquefied natural gas a year. assistant secretary of defense now at Brookings in Washington. Texas. Gulf Coast. Qataris "have to do their little maneuver." says Peter Rodman. 11 plotter Khalid Shaikh Mohammed stayed there before he slipped away and was later captured by the Americans.S. When Hamad said in an interview last month that Qatar had started purchasing shares of the Credit Suisse Group. Bush skipped Qatar during his Gulf trip last month. ExxonMobil is building a $1 billion facility near Port Arthur.S. Qatari officials and Middle East observers say ." . members of Saddam's family and former mujahedeen from the Afghan-Soviet war.both unique and necessary. Hamad says simply: "It's his choice. the country is holding municipal elections and planning for its first parliamentary elections later this year. It's part of the balancing act. based in Zurich. Women can vote.The royals have a history of sheltering the unwanted of the world: Chechen rebels. The Qaeda operative and alleged Sept.S. Qatar's economic influence in Europe and the United States is already soaring. That leap will occur as LNG ships start heading to the U. All this progress hasn't stirred Washington. even as his military commanders praised Qatar's cooperation. a former U. Qatar is moving in a direction the United States favors for the Arab world.-Qatar Business Council. commission that investigated the attacks." says Patrick Theros.S. "They keep the exiles here as a way to guard against terrorism.2 percent and carried other European shares higher.

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