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The New York Times ‘ MIDDLE EAST produced this article on Qatar going its own way and pays for it.  A very detailed story on the current situation of a minuscule peninsula whose “citizens, today numbering 300,000, have become very rich, very fast. Their average income of $125,000 is the highest in the world, over twice that of the United States or Saudi Arabia. The state cocoons them with free land, cushy jobs and American universities. Gleaming supercars and limousines cruise along Doha’s palm-lined corniche. Poor Qataris are hard to find.” We reproduced some mouth-watering excerpts of the said article that in our view would have been better titled “From Pearl Divers to Porsche Drivers”.

 

Tiny, Wealthy Qatar Goes Its Own Way, and Pays for It

In a few dizzying decades, gas exports have made Qatar very rich, very fast. CreditTomas Munita for The New York Times

DOHA, Qatar — For the emir of Qatar, there has been little that money can’t buy.As a teenager he dreamed of becoming the Boris Becker of the Arab world, so his parents flew the German tennis star to Qatar to give their son lessons. A lifelong sports fanatic, he later bought a French soccer team, Paris Saint-Germain, which last summer paid $263 million for a Brazilian striker — the highest transfer fee in the history of the game.

 

He helped bring the 2022 World Cup to Qatar at an estimated cost of $200 billion, a major coup for a country that had never qualified for the tournament.

Now at age 37, the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, has run into a problem that money alone cannot solve.

Since June, tiny Qatar has been the target of a punishing air and sea boycott led by its largest neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Overnight, airplanes and cargo ships bound for Qatar were forced to change course, diplomatic ties were severed and Qatar’s only land border, a 40-mile stretch of desert with Saudi Arabia, slammed shut.

Not even animals were spared. Around 12,000 Qatari camels, peacefully grazing on Saudi land, were expelled, causing a stampede at the border.

Qatar’s foes accuse it of financing terrorism, cozying up to Iran and harboring fugitive dissidents. They detest Al Jazeera, Qatar’s rambunctious and highly influential satellite network. And — although few say it openly — they appear intent on ousting Qatar’s young leader, Tamim, from his throne.

 

A boycott of Qatar led by its larger neighbors has created a cult of personality around the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, whose image adorns billboards and skyscrapers. Here, an image at a falcon market in Doha. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

 

Thousands of Qatari-owned camels were expelled from Saudi Arabia in June. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

Tamim denies the accusations and chalks up the animosity to simple jealousy.

“They don’t like our independence,” he said in an interview in New York in September. “They see it as a threat.”

The boycott turned out to be the first strike of a sweeping campaign by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, that has electrified the Middle East. Obsessed with remaking his hidebound country and curbing the regional ambitions of its nemesis, Iran, the young, hard-charging Saudi has imprisoned hundreds of rivals at a five-star hotel in Riyadh, strong-armed the prime minister of Lebanon in a failed stab at Iran and stepped up his devastating war in Yemen.

The Saudi prince has shaped the Trump administration’s approach to the Middle East and his endeavors could have far-reaching consequences, potentially driving up energy prices, upending Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and raising the chances of war with Iran.

The Qatar dispute is perhaps the least understood piece of the action, but it has a particularly nasty edge.

In September, at a normally soporific meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, Saudi and Qatari diplomats exchanged barbed epithets like “rabid dog” and heated accusations of treachery and even cruelty to camels. “When I speak, you shut up!” yelled Qatar’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Sultan bin Saad al-Muraikhi.

“No, you are the one who should shut up!” his Saudi counterpart shouted back.

The highly personalized rancor has the unmistakable air of a family feud. Qataris, Saudis and Emiratis stem from the same nomadic tribes, share the same religion and eat the same food. So, their dispute has shades of quarreling cousins, albeit ones armed with billions of dollars and American warplanes.

The crisis took an alarming turn last week when the Emirates accused Qatar’s warplanes of harassing two Emirati passenger airliners as they crossed the Gulf. Untrue, said Qatar, which fired back with its own accusation that Emirati warplanes had already breached its airspace twice.

 

Doha’s futuristic skyline. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

 

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