Qatar exploits tensions in Ukraine, Middle East for gains - analysis

Last year Qatar exploited its hosting of the Taliban in order to not only bring the Taliban back to power but also to secure much-needed “major non-Nato ally” status from the US.

 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani walk during their meeting in Moscow, Russia March 14, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani walk during their meeting in Moscow, Russia March 14, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA)

Qatar is trying to exploit the divisions in the world that have emerged over Ukraine, and also divisions in the Middle East, to not only profit but make itself more necessary for US foreign policy.

Last year Qatar exploited its hosting of the Taliban in order to not only bring the Taliban back to power but also to secure much-needed “major non-Nato ally” status from the US. Now Qatar is also looking to benefit from the energy and inflation crisis that has come out of the Ukraine war to make itself appear even more essential. Its recent comments backing the Palestinians are also evidence of how it tries to play all sides.  

In a revealing interview, the former Qatari Foreign Minister and Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani was quoted in Iranian media as saying that the “energy crisis following the Russia-Ukraine war and the urgent need of European countries for Middle Eastern oil,” has made Qatar more important, according to Fars News Agency's International Service. 

"We know from our experience that the West is forgetting our countries; It does not interact with us on the basis of equality or common interests, and only remembers us when it is in dire need. It is as if our countries are a treasury that they open during difficult times,” he wrote, according to Fars News. "They should know that we also have interests and that it should not be harmed, and that this should be done on the basis of mutual interests." 

His point is that the West is now in dire need of energy resources and Qatar can benefit. Qatar could seek a free trade agreement, the former Qatari official said. It is not clear if this is a trial balloon from Qatar, or merely comments from the former official. What is important is that he appears to be stating openly what is often said in private in Doha. 

 QATAR’S EMIR Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani meets with US President Joe Biden at the White House in January. (credit: LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS) QATAR’S EMIR Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani meets with US President Joe Biden at the White House in January. (credit: LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS)

According to the reports, Germany recently sealed a gas deal with Qatar in order to reduce dependence on Russia. This is how Qatar is swooping in to take advantage of this crisis as it once did to take advantage of the crisis in Afghanistan.

Al-Jazeera says “Germany and Qatar have reached a long-term energy partnership, a German official has said, as Europe’s biggest economy seeks to become less dependent on Russian energy sources. Russia is the largest supplier of gas to Germany and German economy minister Robert Habeck has launched several initiatives to lessen Germany’s energy dependence on Russia since it invaded its neighbor Ukraine.” 

Meanwhile, France24 says that “Germany has committed to ‘fast track’ the construction of two liquefied natural gas terminals as part of a new long-term deal with Qatar as it looks to reduce dependence on Russian gas, the Gulf state said Sunday. Economic Affairs Minister Robert Habeck secured the accord during talks in Doha with its emir and energy minister who have been pressing European nations to strike long-term deals to guarantee their supplies.”   

This is how Qatar wins. Qatar wanted to increase exports to Germany over the last years, and now the war gives it a new opportunity. In addition, US tensions with the UAE over various issues have enabled Qatar to continue to exploit its lobbyists in Washington to get more from the US. 

Meanwhile, Qatar has made new recent comments supporting the Palestinians, which comes as officials from Morocco, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt will gather in Israel for an unprecedented meeting this week.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh today thanked the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani during their meeting in Doha on the sidelines of the Doha Forum for his statements in support of Palestinian rights, according to Palestinian Qafa news agency.

"Shtayyeh briefed the Emir of Qatar on the political and economic challenges facing the Palestinian people, thanking the Emir for his remarks at the opening of the Doha Forum during which he noted ‘the millions of Palestinians who have been suffering from the Israeli occupation and international neglect for more than seven decades,’ stressing that ‘the international community has failed to render justice” to the Palestinian and other peoples in the region,” the report said.  

The Palestinian Prime Minister also briefed the Emir of Qatar on the difficult financial and economic situation. This matters because Iranian media also reported on Qatar’s backing of the Palestinians. It shows how all these issues are connected. Qatar wants to be a major non-NATO ally of the US, and also sign new energy agreements and cement its close ties to Iran and the Palestinians; always at the right place at the right time to exploit its role astride the Middle East, somehow able to play all sides.