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Qatar is probably best known in the west as the home of media outlet Al Jazeera and perhaps secondly as a less grand, Dubai-esque sheikdom in the Middle East. Recent events in the Middle East such as the uprising against Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the fall of Qaddafi in Libya and the toppling of Mubarak in Egypt have all seen the tiny Persian Gulf nation of Qatar at the center of the action. Ruled by Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who overthrew his own father, Qatar is a modern, booming Gulf state with some of the world’s most abundant natural gas reserves. Qatar has been credited with providing funding to the Libyan rebels through an expatriate network living in Doha as well as putting pressure on Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Qatar is accused of having Islamist sympathies, a charge that does not sit well with countries in the West. Qatar hosts two U.S. military bases and yet enjoys close relations with the Muslim Brotherhood. With Al Jazeera, Sheik Hamad has extended his tiny nation’s cultural influence to the wider Arab world in a display of soft power and is evidence of the rise of a regional sentiment in the Middle East whose identity is being informed and coalescing around such types of media.

 

[New York Times]