Rising power Qatar stirs unease among some Mideast neighbors

Tue Feb 12, 2013 8:06am EST
 
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By Peter Apps and Regan Doherty

DUBAI/DOHA (Reuters) - In the center of Cairo, young men hold up a burning flag for the cameras to show their fury at a nation they believe is meddling in their country and the wider Middle East.

It's a familiar image. But it's not the U.S. flag they are waving, it is that of Qatar, the Gulf state that has used its billions to spread its influence in the wake of the Arab Spring.

For most Western governments and officials, the influence of Qatar emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani's government is seen as broadly positive.

Qatar's neighbors are uneasy, however.

In Egypt, Libya and Syria, where Qatar tried to play a role post-Arab Spring, it finds itself blamed for much that has gone wrong on a local level. Close ties to Egypt's new leaders, the Muslim Brotherhood, have alarmed countries like the United Arab Emirates, where the Islamist group is still banned and which in January said it had foiled a Brotherhood-linked coup plot.

Senior officials in the UAE have long believed Qatar has long-term strategy to use the Brotherhood to redraw the region.

"There is both greater apprehension and appreciation for Qatar two years after the Arab awakening in the region," said Taufiq Rahim, Executive Director of Dubai-based geopolitics consultancy Globesight.

"While prior to the revolutions, Qatar was seen more as a mediator, its foreign policy recently has been much more proactive and in some cases partisan."   Continued...

 
A protester opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi walks outside tents near a picture of Egypt's former president Gamal Abdel Nasser during a sit-in at Tahrir Square in Cairo in this January 31, 2013 file photo. In Egypt, Libya and Syria, where Qatar tried to play a role post-Arab Spring, it finds itself blamed for much that has gone wrong on a local level. Close ties to Egypt's new leaders, the Muslim Brotherhood, have alarmed countries like the United Arab Emirates, where the Islamist group is still banned and which in January said it had foiled a Brotherhood-linked coup plot. The Arabic words printed over the Star of David read, "Qatar, U.S., Hamas and the Brotherhood are the enemies of Egypt". REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Files