Qatar Discussion with Keith St Clair


>>All right, well,
thanks for coming today. For those viewing on the
college cable channel, my name is
Keith St. Clair. I teach
political science here at Grand Rapids
Community College. So American Government,
International Relations. This last year, I
had the opportunity to go to the country of
Qatar in the Middle East, an Arab country, and this
was really an opportunity that was arranged through
the National Council for US-Arab
Relations. It’s an organization
that attempts to educate Americans
about the Arab world. And I was one of many
faculty and students that got to go to–
I guess we were a group of maybe about 15,
if that’s many. And we got to spend
a week in Doha, Qatar, learning about the history,
the culture, the politics, with the intent that
I would come back and share what I learned
with my students, with the community,
and so on. So for that purpose,
I’m very happy to be able to
do this talk. This is the national
flag of Qatar. Like I said, it’s
an Arab emirate. And I called
this talk “The Rebel Emirate,”
because Qatar has, if you followed the news
recently, kind of been isolated. And there’s an
economic embargo by some of the
other Arab states, led by
Saudi Arabia. And so, we’re gonna get
into why that’s the case. I wanna talk a little bit
about how Qatar came to be. I wanna talk about, you know,
how it sees its place in the world, which is
really what has instigated the recently foreign
policy isolation. And it’s all really occurred
within this cold war that continues between
Saudi Arabia and Iran. So with that, this is
where Qatar is on the map. This is the Arabian
Peninsula here. And Qatar is just this
little thumb that juts out. It’s not
very big. It’s about 100 miles long
and about 50 miles wide, so I think it’s
comparable in size to the state
of Connecticut. So it’s pretty small,
geographically. And population-wise, it only
has about 2.3 million people. And the vast majority of
them live in the cities, and I think 60%
of the population lives in the
capital of Doha. And Doha has
become this… well, world-class city,
in many respects. And yet, you know,
even 100 years ago, it was just a small
fishing village. I mean, it’s
rather amazing. Now the reason why it
has grown in importance is obviously the
fossil fuels and the wealth that comes
from oil and natural gas. In the middle of the
Persian Gulf here, between Iran
and Qatar, is one of the largest
natural gas fields. And Qatar has become
fabulously rich, most recently exporting
liquefied natural gas. And it’s interesting
to note that Iran is a Persian country–
they speak Persian. And on the other side of the
gulf are these Arab countries where the dominant
language is Arabic. And so, Qatar is
an Arab country, the dominant language is
the local Arab dialect. So Saudi Arabia
is an Arab country, United Arab Emirates, Oman,
Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan… Libya, Lebanon. So you know, you’re familiar
with the Arab world. And historically, the
Arabs and the Persians did not get along,
they fought each other, even though the Persians
adopted Islam from the Arabs. Historically, politically,
they’ve been adversaries throughout much
of history, and that is kind
of playing out now between Saudi Arabia
and Iran, fighting for dominance
in this power vacuum that was left after
the United States toppled Saddam Hussein
of Iraq. You know, up until
then– what, 2003– Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was
the dominant military power in the region. And when Saddam Hussein
was overthrown by the United States,
it created a vacuum. Power abhors
a vacuum. And Iran and Saudi Arabia have
attempted to step into that. And obviously,
them being rivals, that has spilled out
in the various wars that are going on
in the region. And yet, there was a time,
over 100 years ago, when the Al Sauds
of Saudi Arabia, the Al Thanis, which is
the ruling family of Qatar, the Khalifas are the
ruling family of Bahrain, and the Sabahs, the
ruling family of Kuwait– they were all
Bedouin tribes. And along the coast,
many of them engaged in, in some cases,
piracy. Up until the 19th century,
Qatar was really, you know, very
unimportant. It’s really mostly
isolated desert. There’s not much farming
that goes on there except in
the north. The predominant trade was–
well, I mean, it was port. It was–
fishing was big. Pearl diving
was huge. And what happened was
this eventually came under the dominance of the
Khalifas of Bahrain. Bahrain
dominated Qatar, and then, the Al Thanis
basically made a treaty with the British
in the 19th century, giving them status. The British made
this treaty with them in the hopes of quieting down
the piracy in this region. And by the end of the
19th century, that was done, and then the Turks came in,
and they built a fort in Doha. And that was the way it
was up until World War I. And the Al Thanis made
their agreements with the
Ottoman-Turkish Empire. And then, when the
Ottoman-Turkish Empire found itself on the wrong side
of the British in World War I, the Al Thanis switched their
allegiance to the British, and saw in them the
better protector. And so, then, the
Turks were kicked out. And really, Qatar remained
a British protectorate all the way up
until 1971. And that is
equally true of the United Arab
Emirates and Oman, and Kuwait,
and Bahrain. And so, you know, it was after–
it was in the 1930s, then, that oil was discovered
by the British, but they didn’t really
capitalize on it in Qatar until the late 1940s,
early 1950s. And so, after World War II,
this is when Qatar all of a sudden finds
itself, you know, this Bedouin community all
of a sudden fabulously rich with fossil fuel
wealth. And the Al Thanis
continued to rule up until the British
protectorate ended in 1971. Basically, whereupon Qatar
trades its protection from the British
for Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia now the
dominant Arab state. It was seen as
a protector. It was seen as something that
could replace the British. And so, Qatar looked to
Saudi Arabia for leadership and foreign policy
protection. And that was the case up until
Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. And then, all of a
sudden, Saudi Arabia didn’t look like an
adequate protector. Because the United States
was called in to kick Iraq out of Kuwait. And it was there that
Qatar and the Emirate saw that maybe their
future really lied with that of the
United States. And so, now, there’s a
major military base there, outside of Doha, an Air Force base, and
then also in Bahrain, there’s a major
US naval base. Now, what’s interesting
is that Qatar was originally
supposed to be part of the United Arab Emirates,
of which there are seven. Seven united
Arab emirates. Qatar and Bahrain were
both supposed to join that. But because of the animosity
between Bahrain and Qatar over a dispute of the
islands off the coast here, they did not join the
United Arab Emirates. Because they didn’t think
that their territorial claim would be furthered by joining
the United Arab Emirates. So that’s why Qatar
ends up being its own solo emirate,
and Bahrain as well, and that’s why they
did not join the UAE. The islands I’m talking
about are right here off the
northwest coast. They still remain
part of Bahrain. The International Court
of Justice ruled in favor of Bahrain’s claim to Qatar’s,
and so they remain, much to Qatar’s chagrin,
a part of Bahrain. But the territorial
claim has died down. I mean, Qatar seems
to have accepted it. And they have
attempted to move on. But note that
Doha is really the one really metropolis
on this peninsula. And it’s become a major
port, a major airport, a major city
in all respects. And Qatar, through Doha,
and its oil wealth, has attempted to really put
itself on the international map. It’s really sought out a
higher profile for itself since the
20th century. This is the historical
fort that remains in central Doha
near the bazaar. This would have been
garrisoned by the Ottoman-Turks when they ruled it
up until World War I– or when they occupied it,
were providing protection. Now, obviously, the Qatari
flag flies about it. It’s worth noting that
the Qataris have a pretty capable military,
despite its small size. And in fact, during the,
you know, the first Gulf War, with Iraq,
Qatari forces made a good account
of themselves fighting alongside
the Americans. As I said, up
until the 1930s, Qatar was a major
source of pearls. Pearl diving off
the coast of Qatar was really how these
small communities on the coast really
made their living. And there was wealth
to be made, but again, compared to the wealth
today, it was nothing. I mean, it was just–
Qatar before World War II was really just a backwater,
very small population. Not much of
anything. And what really ended
the pearl industry for them was the Japanese. The Japanese domesticated
pearl… pearl fishing. So after that,
they didn’t need any more wild pearls
from the Persian Gulf. And so, the pearl industry
collapsed for them. And really, just in the
nick of time for them to discover oil and no
longer need pearl diving or fishing as much, although
they still do fishing. And this is
modern Doha. And you know,
the landscaping, the architecture
is phenomenal, it’s world-class, they
made a world-class city. The country is
fabulously wealthy. In fact, since they’ve
gained so much wealth, they’ve really imported
a lot of foreign labor to do a lot
of the work that a lot of Qataris
don’t want to do. The indigenous Qataris,
for the most part, work for the
government. And in many ways, the state
is really the Al Thani family. And– but this is kind
of the layout of Doha. And they’ve built up this region
up here, called “The Pearl,” for a lot of wealthy
foreigners to actually live. Here’s the airport
down here, this is the old
City Center of Doha, where you found the
fort and the bazaar, and then hotels are all located
along the Corniche here. The Pearl, up here, I
got a picture of that. They’ve got these
fabulous yachts. I mean, so this is where a lot
of the wealthy foreigners live. But keep in mind that
Qatar takes in foreigners from all over the world,
but mainly Pakistan, South Asia,
in other words, other Arab countries, even
Iranians, working in Qatar. And unfortunately, a
lot of these immigrants have been doing
very hard jobs. And they haven’t been
necessarily treated very well, historically,
by the Qataris. And… Qatar has recently
tried to live that down. They’ve recently tried
to initiate reforms to clean up their
international reputation. Their reputation was one
of exploiting foreigners and depriving them of
rights and, in many cases– some of them– well, it was
like a couple years ago, there were like
1,200 Nepalese that died in construction accidents
over the span of a few years, and there was worries
about worker safety. So Qatar is trying
to live down that and kind of reform
the process. It’s interesting to note that
there’s a long history of that. And up until like even
the late ’40s, early ’50s, slavery was common in
this part of the world. So African slaves
had been incorporated into the pearl
diving industry. And so, slavery lasted
quite late in this region. And of course, after that,
the treatment of– the harsh treatment
of these foreigners, or the fact that many foreigners
were brought in as workers and they were not allowed to
leave without their sponsor, which basically, the person
they were working for… being that he was accountable
for all of their debts. So they couldn’t
leave until that was– so they were kind of
like indentured servants for a long time. So this is kind
of the history that Qatar itself
is trying to shed. Obviously, there’s a lot of
wealthy foreigners there, too. And they obviously
are doing quite well. And I saw people– British,
Europeans, all over. In fact, what’s shocking
is the number of foreigners that are in
the country. Anywhere– the
CIA “World Factbook” has it
around 12%. I was told when I was there
it was like closer to like 17% are actually
indigenous Qataris. The rest of them
are all foreigners. So we’re talking about
anywhere from 80% to 90% of the population
being immigrants that are not citizens, that
are just there for work. And so, you’ve got a small
population of indigenous Qataris who are fabulously wealthy
because the government takes care of them, they’re
employed by the government, the government has
access to all of this oil and natural
gas wealth. And they’re very
well taken care of, and so these Qataris have
imported all this foreign labor to do the works that
they don’t wanna do. So most of the
private sector of the economy is
all foreigners. In fact, when I arrived
and went into the hotel– I think it was like– with
the exception of the people who met me at the airport,
who were indigenous Qataris, like for the first day–
before the next day, when we actually went out to
the government ministries, everybody I met
was a foreigner. You know, I talked to people
at the hotel, “Are you Qatari?” “No.” There was very few of them–
most of the Qataris I did meet worked for the
government. This creates an incredible
potential problem going forward. I mean, it’s a security
concern for the Qataris. Because I mean, if the
foreigners were so inclined and they were
organized, they could clearly
take over the country, being so many
of them. And so, it is– it’s a
concern of national security for the government that
foreigners don’t organize, that they don’t become
politically active. And perhaps not
stay too long. This is the Mall of Qatar,
just outside Doha. I kinda compare it to
the Mall of America, if you’ve ever
been there. Again, it’s just
another example. I was just gonna go in
and look around the place, I wasn’t really
interested in shopping, but it took me 2.5 hours
to see the whole mall. That’s how
big it was. It did remind me a lot of
the Mall of the America. And it’s just
another way that Qatar is trying
to put itself on the international
stage. And that drive and
that ambition is both important in
understanding Qatar itself and also understanding a little
bit of why they have problems with Saudi Arabia now. Here’s a traffic
jam in Qatar. And you can see that there’s
really– there’s not many trees. I mean, it’s pretty barren,
most of the country. Just desert,
sand, rock. Very little
vegetation. They do grow some
food in the north. Here’s the palace, where the emir, the
Al Thani family, rule, hold official
government events. And obviously, a well-manicured
lawn that they’ve watered, which wouldn’t grow
there normally. Here’s some of the police
on horseback in the Bazaar. The Qataris have this
like national uniform, this white robes with
this white head covering, and, you know,
it’s just– they look impeccable
in it, really. And the Qataris themselves
are very conservative. Politically,
religiously. Like the Saudis, they
are followers of the…. the Wahhabi school
of Sunni Islam. And the Wahhabis are a very
fundamentalist form of Islam. Very strict in
their interpretation. But be that as it may, the
Qataris are a little bit more pragmatic than
their Saudi cousins. Whereas in Saudi Arabia, not
only are they very strict, but the women’s
dress code is more strict, women are more restricted
as far as what they can do. And foreigners themselves
are also very restricted. But I think it’s perhaps
because of the practicality of having so many
foreigners in their country that Qataris are more
tolerant of other religions. For example,
there are now– there’s now a Christian
church in Qatar where foreigners can
practice their faith. And so, the women
that were in our group, they did not have to
be covered in any way. And in fact, the
women I saw in Qatar, they were very
assertive, they were working for the
government, they can drive. The majority of people in the
Qatari University are women. Women outnumber
men there. So they’re very
well-educated, and they work, and they
have a higher profile. I’ve never been
Saudi Arabia, but, you know, the women
there have to wear the burka. They were covered, but you could
see their face in Qatar. So it was not quite
as restricted. Falconry is a major
sport in Qatar. And you saw falcons being
sold in the bazaars. Camel racing is
also very popular, but also kind
of scandalous. Up until
recently, Qatar faced a lot of
international condemnation for the treatment of
their camel jockeys, which were
children. So them
being small, and children that would
ride on the camels. And you know, it
was a harsh life. And so, since then,
in the last 10 years, Qatar has sworn off using
children as camel jockeys, and they now
use robots. So if you look closely
at this photo, you will see that these
jockeys are actually robots. So they still
race the camels, but modern technology
has allowed them to continue their practice
and their love of the sport without actually having
to treat children poorly. This photo down here is
what it used to look like when they actually had
children on the camels. This is the Museum
of Islamic Art. They’ve built this world-class
art museum in Doha showcasing Islamic art,
not just from Qatar– actually most of it
wasn’t from Qatar, most of it was from just
the Middle Eastern world. You know, even a
lot of Iranian art. And… it is a very impressive
building in its architecture and in its displays, even some
modern versions of Islamic art. This is the campus of
the Qatar University. Qatar only has
one university. But they also, in
this education city, they also have campuses
from American colleges, colleges across
the world, that have extension
campuses here. And so, we saw international
students from all over. And this was
our delegation. This was the, like I said, me
and other faculty and students who were chosen on
this Malone Fellowship by the National Council
for US-Arab Relations to go to Qatar, all paid for
by the Qatari government, including our flight
from DC to Doha. And yes, we– you know, our
accommodations were fantastic. And so, this was the
size of our group. And many of these students
have actually participated in the Model
Arab League that the National Council
for US-Arab Relations sponsors throughout
the United States, including the one
here in Michigan at Grand Valley
State University. Qatar is also very
proud of the fact that they are
gonna be hosting the 2022
World Cup soccer. They are counting down the
months, the days, the hours. And they are seeing this
as another opportunity for their “coming out”
party to the world. You know, for them, it might
as well be the Olympics. And yet, when they
were awarded the site for the 2022 World Cup,
there was a– it was tinged
with scandal, because FIFA, which
is the governing body of World Cup soccer, was
alleged to have accepted bribes in its determining
of sites for its World Cup
soccer matches. And so, there’s been
a hint of scandal. But Qataris pay
it no mind. They’re fully invested, and
they’re gonna make it a party. And they’re gonna
make it a party that showcases Doha to
the rest of the world. And here’s the
Olympic-sized torch on the sports complex
that they’ve built, not only of the World Cup,
but for international sports in general, that
they’ve been hosting international
competitions for years. And again, all with the intent
of showcasing their country. And so, these were a
couple people working on the marketing of the
World Cup coming to Doha. And this woman, she worked
for the government. And as you can see, she’s
dressed conservatively, but it’s not like
Saudi Arabia, where her face
has to be covered, where all you can
see is her eyes. on the contrary. And she was very not only
friendly, but assertive, and had a very
prominent role in this. And so, from what
I could see, you know,
it is a… a male-dominated
society for sure, but at least the
indigenous women that were educated,
working in government, seemed pretty free
to speak their mind. Some of the other
women that I met. You know,
like I said, the Wahhabi sect
of Sunni Islam is very strict
and rigid. And the Qataris, in some ways,
are even more conservative in that way than
even the Saudis. But they’re more
pragmatic. Like I said,
they have more– they have many more foreigners
living in their land, therefore they’re forced to
be more tolerant of others, and therefore, I think,
in some ways, maybe that has affected
maybe why the women have a little bit more rights
maybe than in Saudi Arabia. This is Al Jazeera News Network,
their world headquarters. Al Jazeera is
based in Doha. It is funded by the
Qatari government. And no doubt you’ve
heard of it. Since
September 11th, it’s become
internationally known. It developed, really,
before the 21st century, when the Qatari emir
found that the BBC, the British
Broadcasting Company, was ending their Arab broadcast
out of Saudi Arabia, he hired a bunch of
the BBC reporters, said, “Set up
shop here. “I’ll give you free reign,
freedom of the press, “and you can become
an international “satellite news service,”
which they did. Now, there’s a caveat to that,
though, is that they– Al Jazeera getting
all of its funding from the Qatari
government, it doesn’t criticize the
Qatari government, I must say. And for that matter,
it usually stays clear of criticizing the Saudi
government too much either. But in other respects, it’s
been incredibly progressive and shocking
in some ways. It has gained an
international reputation for a reliable
news source, and also, in many ways,
did a lot of the coverage from the Arab point of view
of the US invasion of Iraq. During the Arab Spring,
in 2011, you may remember all
those Arab revolutions that were breaking out
across the Arab world, Al Jazeera was
covering the rebels, or the protestors,
the “man on the street” that brought down
Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, the dictator
of Egypt. And it was actually
giving voice to the Muslim
Brotherhood, and even hosting the
Muslim Brotherhood. And when the Muslim Brotherhood
took over Egypt, you know, many people thought maybe
there was an opportunity, but obviously, the
Muslim Brotherhood didn’t express a liberal
viewpoint in its rule, and the backlash against that
was that the Egyptian military stepped in and retook
the government. And there’s a lot of
lingering resentment amongst the
Egyptian military and the current government
now of Egypt against Qatar for the way it paid for
Al Jazeera’s coverage. They gave the
Muslim Brotherhood a little bit more
favorable light. The Muslim Brotherhood, if
you’re not familiar with it, is a fundamentalist Muslim
party, political party, that has various affiliates
throughout the Arab world. In the case of Hamas, which is
their Palestinian affiliate, the United States
considers that, Hamas, a terrorist
organization, in that its– because of
its hostility to Israel. But the Muslim Brotherhood’s
rule in Tunisia has been a little bit–
they’ve lost power. They stepped down after
they lost elections, so it’s not like– it’s not like
Hamas is necessarily reflective of all affiliates of
the Muslim Brotherhood, but nevertheless, it’s
irritated Saudi Arabia and it’s irritated the
government of Egypt. And that’s part of
the reasons why you have the current embargo,
economic embargo against Qatar. Here’s the– inside the
news room of Al Jazeera. We also went to the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Learning about
Qatar’s foreign policy. And here we are, our
US representative providing a gift
to our host. It really– this photo
I guess I took as an example of the close
US-Qatari relations. I mentioned
before that, you know, since the
first Gulf War against Iraq, the United States has
built a major military base just outside of Doha,
an Air Force base, on which I think there’s
about 10,000 US soldiers. We also have a major
naval base in Bahrain. So we have a military
investment in Qatar. And this has only become more
problematic and complicated, given the current situations
developed over the last year. What happened– and this
was after my visit. I was there the last
week of April, 2017. And when I was there, the
Qataris actually had high hopes for the new
President Trump. President Trump was kind
of looked fondly on by a lot of the Arab world–
I mean, they understood him. I mean, he’s a strong man,
he spoke strongly. Many of them had
been disappointed in President George W. Bush
for invading Iraq, destabilizing
the region. Then came
Barack Obama, and Barack Obama was
not well thought of by much of the
Arab world either, because he seemed to reflect
some kind of disengagement. Many thought that
President Trump, because of the way
he campaigned, that he was gonna
be a strong leader and a strong ally
of Qatar. Well, at least in
the case of Qatar, that has been a
disappointment. Because come June
of last year, 2017, after Donald Trump’s
visit to Saudi Arabia, where the Saudis apparently
ran by him their ideas on how they would
like to cow Qatar, which they felt is kind
of an upstart emirate that’s kind of gotten
ahead of itself, and they wanted
to rein in, they imposed a
economic embargo. So Saudi Arabia, Bahrain,
the United Arab Emirates, have basically shut
off economic ties, closed the border
with Qatar, as a means to punish Qatar
for various reasons. One, the Saudis
alleged that Qatar is a little too
economically close to Iran. And although that’s true,
they do have economic ties to Iran, and Iran–
uh, for good reason. They do share the
natural gas field out in the
Persian Gulf with them. But it’s not just Qatar
that trades with Iran, Oman does
as well. Even some of
the emirates do. So it’s hard to see that, in
isolation, as the reason. Part of it is speculating
that Al Jazeera has irritated Saudi Arabia
in its promotion of the Muslim Brotherhood’s
perspectives. Qatar has kind of
struck out on its own. It now relies on the
United States militarily, not so much
the Saudis. But it’s really perhaps
best understood in the context
of this cold war that’s going on between
Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia has made
some big decisions lately that haven’t
gone so well. One, Saudi Arabia supported
the rebellion in Syria. And Assad, the
dictator of Syria, obviously is winning
that civil war, with the help
of the Russians, with the help of
the Iranians. There’s also a civil war
going on in Yemen, which is just to the
south of Saudi Arabia, where the Houthis have
been very successful. And Saudi Arabia alleges that
Iran has been helping them. And that war is
not going so well. Saudi’s intervention in that war
has pretty much just resulted in a stalemate, and not
a decisive victory. And for that matter, the
embargo against Qatar hasn’t been going
that well either, in that Qatar has been managing
economically pretty well since last
summer. Oman has continued
to trade with Qatar, and Oman is an
Arab country. Turkey has close
ties to Qatar. They continue to
trade with Iran. So despite the threat
from Saudi Arabia, Qatar has been– you know,
on the streets of Qatar, things are
available. It’s not like
they’re– it’s not like they’re
being brought economically to their knees, I think,
like the Saudis had hoped. So the Saudi’s venture–
the Saudi Arabia’s venture in Syria is not
going so well. Saudi Arabia’s
venture in Yemen has not been
going so well. Saudi Arabia’s economic embargo
of Qatar is not going so well. And all the while, Iran
seems to be gaining prestige and power
internationally. The other thing that
Saudi Arabia alleged with regards to Qatar is that
Qatar had ties to terrorism, probably they’re
alluding to the fact that they have hosted
the Muslim Brotherhood. But that’s a little rich
from the Saudi point of view, because Saudi Arabia itself
has had numerous ties to funding organizations that
end up becoming terrorist. And initially, at least,
even in Syria, ISIS initially
benefited greatly before they got out of hand and
Saudis cut off aid to them. So it’s really hard
to fully explain why it is that Saudi Arabia
has this animosity, but you really have to
understand it in the fact that Saudi Arabia sees
Iran as their adversary, and Qatar, from
their point of view, has made that
adversarial relationship even more
difficult. That Qatar is kind of not
towing the line, as it were, from the Saudi Arabian
point of view. And I guess there I might
as well mention the… Well, it’s not just an ethnic
difference between the Iranians and the Arabs,
right? The Iranians
speak Persian, which is an
Indo-European language. Arabic, spoken on this
side of the Persian Gulf, like Qatar, Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, is a Semitic language. Arabic is a Semitic language,
more akin to Hebrew, Aramaic. Whereas Persian is an
Indo-European language, it’s closer
to German. That is,
European. But it’s not just
the ethnic rivalries, but Iran is predominantly
Shiite Muslim. it is the largest
Shiite Muslim country, where most Arabs
are Sunni Muslims. And I think a
lot of Americans maybe are confused
on the distinction, but really, the difference
between Sunni and Shiite Muslims goes back to the very
foundation of the faith. But it’s something that
Christians can relate to, because there was a similar
struggle in early Christianity. And that being, who was the
proper authority for the faith? In the case of
Islam, you know, Muhammad was the
last prophet of God. There are to be no more
prophets after him. Muhammad lived in the
early 7th century. So that’s how long
ago we’re talking. And when
Muhammad died, Muhammad was both not
only a religious leader, but a political
figure, and he had formed the beginning
of an Arab state in Arabia that ended up becoming
the foundation of what would become
the Arab Empire, that would go on to
spread throughout Africa and the
Middle East, become a fabulous civilization,
and rule for centuries. When Muhammad died, he never
lived to see that fulfillment. He consolidated power and
created a state within Arabia, but it never really got beyond
that, and then he died. And then, there was the
question of who should be the authority for the
faith in his absence. Shiites believed
that it needed to be a blood descendant
of Muhammad. Sunnis did not
accept that. They thought it could
just be an elder from the Quraysh Tribe,
which was Muhammad’s tribe. So there was a dispute,
and the Shiites lost. (chuckling) The Shiites revered
as the leader– they saw the proper leader as
Ali, who was Muhammad’s cousin and married Muhammad’s
daughter, Fatimah. And the Shiites believed
that the children of Ali and Fatimah should
be the proper successors and authority
for the faith. The Sunni Muslims
didn’t accept that. Muhammad didn’t have
any male children that lived
to adulthood. He had a
daughter. He had several daughters,
but Fatimah married Ali, and that’s who the
Shiites follow. So Shiites are kind
of partisans of Ali. And so, Iran is
dominated by Shiites. Shiites are a minority through
most of the Muslim world, with four
exceptions. One is Iran,
one is Bahrain, and the other’s Iraq and
Azerbaijan, are the four. And even though Iraq
is an Arab country, and so is Bahrain
for that matter, Shiites are actually
in the majority there. So in Qatar, it’s
predominantly Sunni. Saudi Arabia is
predominantly Sunni. And I should say that the
successors to the prophet, from the Shiites’
point of view, were all hunted down and
killed by the Sunnis. And there’s a lot of
lingering resentment by the Shiites against the
Sunnis for that purpose. Lest you think that we
can’t relate to this, in Christianity, we
have a similar story. In the– after Christ died,
rose from the dead, ascended to Heaven,
as the story goes, there was a lot of dispute
amongst Christianity about who should be the proper
authority for the faith in the absence of Christ
in physical form. And there were those Christians
who believed that since Rome was the capital
of the empire, that the bishop of Rome should
naturally be the authority for the faith. And those Christians became
known as “Roman Catholics.” And the bishop of Rome
became known as the “Pope.” There were other
Christians who said, “No, we’ve got a new
capital of the empire,” that being Constantinople,
which is now today Istanbul. And so, they thought the
bishop of Constantinople should be the authority
for the faith, and those Christians
became known as “Eastern Orthodox
Christians.” And so, you know, you have
the first major split in Christianity, between
the Roman Catholics looking to the bishop
of Rome for leadership, the Eastern Orthodox looking
to the bishop of Constantinople for leadership. What’s interesting is that today
in Sunni and Shiite Islam, there is no– no one
that really claims to be the authority
for the faith. It’s much more
decentralized than that. For years, the Sunnis looked to
somebody called the “caliph”– “caliph” was the Arab
word for “successor.” But the Ottoman Turks captured
the caliph and the title. And the Ottoman Turkish
sultan, after World War I, was deposed and
gave up the title, and since then, nobody
has claimed the title that has been
accepted. The last Shiite Imam–
“Imam” with a capital “I,” meaning not just
“prayer leader,” but “the” leader– was killed– well, they were
all killed by the Sunnis. The last one, though, is
thought to have escaped. The 12th Imam is in
hiding to this day. And he’s thought,
according to Shiites, to return one day with
Jesus Christ at his side, where they will restore
peace on Earth. So the Shiites are
awaiting the return of this 12th Imam
messiah figure. They consider
Jesus a prophet, but they don’t consider
Jesus the Son of God. The Sunni Muslims are
not waiting for anybody. So there’s that difference,
that sectarian differences that explain the conflict
between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as the
ethnic differences. And it’s just that Qatar is
kind of caught in the crossfire. Qatar has naturally had more
close relations to Iran. Saudi Arabia
resents that. Saudi Arabia also
resents Qatar’s Al Jazeera
news service as promoting people that
Saudi Arabia doesn’t care for. And so, that’s a
large part of it. Anyway, that’s probably
a good place to stop. I can open it up to questions,
if there are any. Yes?>>Trump campaigned
fairly heavily on having the
Gulf States pay for American military
intervention. Were they open
to that idea?>>Um… to some extent–
what intervention are you referring to?
>>Any type of intervention.>>Going forward, or–
>>Yeah.>>Historically?
>>Going forward.>>Yeah– no, there was no talk
of that when I was there, no. I mean, I don’t know
what Trump has in– I haven’t heard much talk
of Trump, President Trump speaking of any intervention
to come either, but… yeah, he has–
Donald Trump has– I remember that
during the campaign. Not only was Mexico
gonna pay for the wall, but our allies were all
gonna pay for our military. But he made the same claim
about NATO, if you remember.>>Yeah.
>>He felt that the United
States contribution to the defense of Europe was
costing America too much, and he said the Europeans
are gonna have to pay more. Well… you know, we haven’t
seen much there either. But no, I did not
hear anyone voice– it wasn’t even on their
radar as far as talking about the fact that they
were gonna have to cough up and pay for more of– I mean,
they already provide a lot. I mean, they’re hosting
the United States– the US has a major military
base outside of Doha. So Qatar has coughed up a
lot of the expense for that. So it’s not
like they’re– it’s not like they
haven’t paid anything. I don’t know what more
President Trump is asking for. You know, I think he left
that pretty ambiguous.>>You mentioned earlier
that the majority of, like, the government
is maintained by Qataris. However, like, the
majority of the workforce and people who live within
Qatar are not actually Qatari.>>Yes, that’s
exactly right.>>You also suggested that it
would not be unfeasible for– or at least not difficult
for not necessarily like a revolution, but for
people living within Qatar to sort of seize control
of the country, and that could be a possible
problem for them in the future.>>It has to be a national
security concern, right? It has to be– the fact that
they have that many foreigners. I mean, you already see it here
in the United States, right? President Donald Trump thinks
we have too many foreigners. Could you imagine
if 85% to 90% of the population
was foreigner? I mean, President Trump
would be going ballistic. I mean, you know, that would
be a national security concern. And the Qataris have
to be aware of that. And they are.
>>Do you believe that, you know, other
emirati states, such as Bahrain and United Arab
Emirates, would intervene, should such a
thing happen?>>Well, I mean,
your speculation is as good as mine,
I suppose. I mean, I guess I
can imagine, yeah. To the extent that they
have a similar problem. Although I haven’t been to
the United Arab Emirates, and I haven’t
been to Bahrain, so I can’t really
speak to that.>>I guess my question would be
better articulated by asking, do you think that the
Emirati identity is stronger than that of like the Arab
identity, their Arab identity?>>Well, they’re all Arabs.
>>Yes.>>Bahrain,
United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia,
they’re all Arabs. The fact that
they’re emirates, that means they’re
ruled by a royal family.>>Right.
>>In the United Arab Emirates, there’s seven
of them that formed together
to create one state. So if you’re asking about what
is the future of monarchy, or monarchical rule, I mean, I don’t see any
sign of that ending. I can tell you that
during the Arab Spring, there were no major
protests in Qatar. You know, the indigenous
Qataris seemed pretty happy with the amount of money
that the Qatari government brings in and
distributes to them. And you know, they
feel pretty secure in being able to
get government jobs, which are the jobs that
they seek in Qatar. Like I said, they leave most
of the private economic sector to private businesses
that are foreign-run. So apparently, the indigenous
Qataris don’t seem unhappy with the fact that
they have a monarchy, unhappy that they’re ruled by
a royal family, the Al Thanis. ‘Cause most of them
are related… (laughing)
to the Al Thanis. You know, in that sense, it
kind of reminded me of Monaco. You know, I’ve
been to Monaco. There’s a European
principality. It’s not a
democracy. It’s– you know, the prince
of Monaco is the royalty, and he’s–
you know, it’s not– the people that live there,
when I was in Monaco, didn’t seem to be unhappy
with that arrangement. They didn’t seem to be
clamoring for democracy. Again, Monaco’s
fabulously rich, so I guess as long as everybody
is content with the cash, there’s not much
fomenting revolution. So I think the same is true
for the indigenous Qataris. It might be more true for some
of the immigrants, maybe, who don’t see
a wealthy– they don’t have that wealth,
and they work hard, and maybe, in some cases,
they’re not treated well. But again, they’re all
speaking different languages. It would be hard for them
to effectively organize.>>And as long as the
Qataris control the state, that makes it a lot
more challenging.>>Yeah. And the Qataris do intend to
continue controlling the state. Yeah, they’re not–
it’s– they’re willing,
I think, to– they’ve been talking and
they’ve been trying to reform their reputation regarding
their treatment of foreigners, that’s true. And to that extent, then,
that’s all for the good. But no, they’re not extending
citizenship to these foreigners. Not that they’d have the right
to vote, even if they were. Right?
(laughing) But I mean, they could vote
for the local council, but the emir is
the emir, right? And he is chosen amongst
the elders– yeah?>>Are they working on
diversifying their industries? ‘Cause if they’re so
dependent on natural gas, doesn’t that leave them
pretty susceptible–>>Yeah, I think,
like the Saudis, they are heavily investing
in renewables like solar. I mean, they don’t
have– you can’t go– I mean, you get a lot
of sun there, right? So I mean, solar power would
seem to be a natural extension. And they’re well
aware of the fact that the fossil fuels are only
gonna serve them so long. I think, in the near term,
they’re secure, but long range, you know, once
those fossil fuels run out, they realize they gotta have
alternative energy sources. And so, yeah– so solar is
definitely something to look at. They’re even–
they even need– they’re short of
water, too, right? So they use
desalination plants to get their water
from the ocean, their fresh water,
and that’s not cheap. Desalination of
salt, ocean water, is not a cheap way
to get fresh water, but they’ve
got the money. So why not? And that’s really
the largest source of water
available to them. A lot of the groundwater,
you can’t read drink. It’s–
it’s too– too many minerals
and stuff in it, so they use it for irrigation
for the plants that they grow, but they don’t
typically drink it. Any other
questions? All right, well, hey,
thank you for coming. Thanks for listening
to my talk on Qatar. I hope you learned a little
bit more about the country. All right,
thanks. (applause)

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