Those questions are complicated by the country’s apparent eagerness to retain influence in the West. It is increasingly underwriting Qatari outposts of Western universities and think tanks, including Georgetown University and the Brookings Institution, to help inform Western views about the region’s future and Qatar’s role in it.
Among some observers, the overarching questions about Qatar, as one senior Arab diplomat put it, is this: What, exactly, does it represent?
“I think that is part of the conundrum that is Qatar,” said the diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity but whose government maintains close ties with the Persian Gulf country.
Officials at the Qatari Embassy in Washington and the Qatari mission to the United Nations did not make themselves available for interviews for this article.
In the past, Qatari officials have taken pride in their country’s growing role on the world stage.
Since deposing his father in a bloodless coup in 1995, the country’s emir, Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani, has transformed its capital, Doha, from a dusty Persian Gulf backwater into the undisputed intellectual and diplomatic capital of the Middle East. Slightly smaller than Connecticut and with a population of about 2 million, the country is home to now-global institutions, including the television network al-Jazeera.
Among other benefits, analysts say, Qatar’s growing clout and its alliance with the United States have won it diplomatic leeway from Washington.
When Turkey’s prime minister announced plans to visit the Gaza Strip recently, American officials made clear they opposed any engagement with Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls the strip. When Qatar’s emir visited Gaza last month, pledging hundreds of millions in reconstruction aid, the State Department was understanding.
“The Qataris have described this as a humanitarian mission,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. “We share Qatar’s deep concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people, including those residing in Gaza.”
Qatar has long sought to cultivate a reputation as a country interested in serving the public good. As part of that effort, the country’s foreign minister, Sheik Hamad Bin Jasim al-Thani, has combined deep pockets, extensive business investments and a vast conference center in Doha into a high-charged mediation juggernaut.