By S Rob Sobhani /Washington Times
As the Trump administration calibrates its response to the state-sponsored murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi it would be well advised to redirect its focus on another young leader in the region whose domestic and foreign policy deserve Washington’s attention and applause. This leader is the 38-year-old Amir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
Since taking over from his father in 2013, Sheikh Tamim has practised an art of statecraft whose underlying premise is regional stability. Indeed, this Western educated leader’s policies are aligned with US national security interests on a number of fronts.
Since taking over as Amir in a smooth transition, Sheikh Tamim has not only maintained a strong military partnership with the United States but he has overseen the expansion of Qatar’s defence relationship with Washington.
Qatar is host to America’s largest military base in the region, Al-Udeid. This vital air base provides the United States the means to project power in a region critical to the global economy. Indeed, over 30% of the world’s oil and gas exports pass through the waters of the Arabian Gulf. In recognition of the critical role this US military base plays in regional and global stability, Sheikh Tamim recently authorised the expansion of the base, thus allowing for new facilities.
Another example of how Sheikh Tamim’s policies are aligned with American interests occurred immediately after the blockade of his country in 2017 by a quartet led by its much larger neighbour Saudi Arabia. Because both Qatar and the United States share the goal of uninterrupted flow of energy resources to consumers around the world, Sheikh Tamim did not cut off gas supplies to the UAE (a member of the Saudi-led coalition that has imposed the blockade on Qatar).
Instead, this responsible leader continued to provide natural gas to its neighbour. This act of international statesmanship by Sheikh Tamim is why Qatar has become the world’s largest and most reliable exporter of liquefied natural gas to consumers around the world. One can safely argue that Qatar energises the world because its responsible leader does not play politics with a commodity of vital importance to the global economy.
The young ruler of Qatar shares the enlightened perspective of leaders in the United States that instability and poverty in one part of the world impacts the other parts. Toward this end, in 2017 Sheikh Tamim established the Global Dryland Alliance (GDA) whose mission is to advance food security in dryland nations through innovative technologies in the fields of agriculture and water security. Badr al-Dafa who was appointed by the Amir to be the Executive Director of GDA (he served as Qatar’s ambassador to the US) explains the vision of Sheikh Tamim as such: “To the extent that we provide food, clean water, year-round crops and smart solar solutions for people who live in dryland countries we have laid the foundation for long-term global stability for the world.”
The United States and Qatar also share the common goal of using diplomacy instead of war to solve intractable global conflicts such as the one in Afghanistan between the Afghan government and the Taliban. As such, Sheikh Tamim has allowed the Taliban to maintain a presence in his country. This foresight by Qatar’s leader is what has allowed President Trump’s special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to hold extensive talks with the Taliban in Qatar’s capital Doha towards a permanent peace. Indeed, to the extent that the talks in Doha are successful it enhances both regional stability and allows America to extricate itself from a costly 16-year-old war.
In recognition of Sheikh Tamim’s wise, patient and statesmen-like approach to foreign policy, President Trump and the US Congress must work together on the following initiatives that further solidify America’s ties with Qatar. First, the US must insist that the blockade of Qatar be lifted immediately and without any preconditions. In the interest of American national security the president of the United States must call the leaders of the Saudi-led coalition and make it clear that Washington will no longer tolerate this reckless behaviour.
Second, the US Congress must consider passing a resolution offering full support to Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup in 2022. This act of solidarity is important because it sends a message to Sheikh Tamim’s regional rivals that Washington will not tolerate any efforts to sabotage Qatar.
Third, the president should ask Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to fast track co-operation with Qatar on developing the next generation of solar and battery technologies so as to allow Doha-based Global Dryland Alliance to deploy cutting edge energy generation solutions to countries in Africa. This US-Qatar joint venture to address food security in the volatile dryland countries is a noble foreign policy goal that will enhance security in African countries.
As volatile, unpredictable, and ruthless leaders around the world continue to challenge US national security interests, America is lucky to have an ally like Sheikh Tamim on the global stage.
- Courtesy Washington Times
* S Rob Sobhani is CEO of Caspian Group Holdings.
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