Qatar: Small State, Big Politics by Mehran Kamrava is a study if Qatar and how it rose to prominence in today’s world. Kamrava is Professor and Director of the Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar. He is the author of eight books and numerous journal articles. Kamrava holds a PhD from Cambridge University in Social and Political Sciences.
Qatar is a small country that most Americans would be hard pressed to tell you much about; perhaps that is something Qatar counts on. It is a country that would make Machiavelli proud. Qatar depends on the United States’ security umbrella and the two major US bases for protection, but at the same time enjoys friendly relations with Iran and regional Islamists. It is also sandwiched between two major powers in the region Iran and Saudi Arabia and must rely on being smart because it does not have the military to be a hard power.
Instead of spending on the military Qatar develops its infrastructure. From universities, desalinization plants, luxury residences, and a modern society, Qatar has built an unique country in the Middle East. It’s capital, a dusty fishing village in the 1930s, is now a modern growing city, out classing many western cities. The government’s social net is huge and supported by large oil and natural gas reserves and smart investments by the government. Qatar owns 10% of Porsche, and percentages of Tiffany’s, the London Stock Exchange, the Nordic Stock Exchange, and also went on a buying spree during the banking collapse. Smart government also budgets well under the expect price of oil and gas. Qatar has managed to separate itself from the usual single commodity economy of many oil nations.
Smart government has spared Qatar from civil unrest experienced in other Arab countries. Qatar supported the rebels against Qaddafi. A member of the ruling family is quoted as saying “We believe in democracy, We believe in freedom,we believe in dialogue, and we believe in that for the entire region…” Surprising words from a monarchy. The Shia minority is integrated into the society and there is seemingly no friction between the Shia and Sunni majority. To further reduce friction religious Qatar does not use contract or migrant workers from other Muslim countries, instead preferring to use South Asians workers.
Qatar is a very interesting study in small nation power in world affairs. I cannot think of a small country that has had so much wealth and power on the world stage since 17th century Netherlands. It has broken the role of a minor player by making smart moves that further its interests without damaging the interests of other nations. Kamrava explains many more aspects of Qatar than what I have mentioned. Qatar is quiet in its policy. It does not create waves; it says what seems to be right. It is the richest country in the world and at the same time under the radar. Qatar is an excellent study in modern history, foreign policy, and development. Highly recommended