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Opinion
Jeffrey Goldberg

The Country That Makes Saudi Arabia Look Good

Qatar is a tiny country -- a mole on the back of Saudi Arabia -- yet one that makes its presence felt in disproportionate and often destructive ways.
Photographer: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images
Photographer: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, met secretly in Kuwait last month with foreign ministers from five neighboring countries, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. According to two people with direct knowledge of this meeting, the five foreign ministers had a simple message for the emir: Cut it out -- we know what you're doing.

Qatar is a tiny country -- a mole on the back of Saudi Arabia -- yet one that makes its presence felt in disproportionate and often destructive ways. It hosts the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command, but also provides material support to the Muslim Brotherhood, to Hamas (the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood), and to radical Sunni outfits in Syria, among others. After the new emir took over the management of Qatar last June from his father (Qatar, like other Gulf states, is a privately held family business), there was some hope that he would cease Qatar's meddling in the region's various wars and insurrections and focus on such domestic concerns as his family's pharaonic building campaign in advance of the 2022 World Cup. (I describe this construction campaign as pharaonic not because it is resulting in grand and beautiful buildings but because so many oppressed foreign workers are dying in the course of building those buildings.)