Qatar: The Rising Sun of the Middle East?


Qatar’s tiny geographical size belies its recent rise to stardom on the international stage. In a region ripe with civil unrest, Qatar, along with neighboring Saudi Arabia, has been mostly immune to the turmoil that has engulfed the region. Sitting atop massive oil and gas reserves and an unemployment rate of below 5%, it is currently one of the most prosperous countries in the Middle East, with a real GDP growth rate of 19.4% in 2010, second in the world. It is first in the world in GDP per capita, at a staggering 145,300 in 2010.

Qatar’s ascendance has been a long time coming, but it was thrust into the international spotlight at the end of 2010 when it was handed the prestigious honor of hosting the soccer World Cup in 2022, beating out heavyweight contenders like Australia. It will be the first country in the Middle East to host the World Cup in history. Images that have emerged of planned stadiums in the Gulf country are impressive, to say the least, an indication that Qatar is seizing the opportunity to leave a positive impression on the world.

In a further bid toward global recognition, Qatar is stepping up its geopolitical role on the world stage. When the conflict in Libya reached a critical point in which a no-fly zone was deemed necessary by many countries in the West, Qatar followed suit. Now it is following those actions with words. “In Libya’s skies, Qatar is punching above its weight,” the Associated Press writes, in this article. “From an air base in Crete, the tiny Persian Gulf nation has started its biggest, farthest combat deployment — including a third of its fighter-jet fleet — and given the first Arab face to the Western-led coalition hoping to protect Libyan civilians from Moammar Gadhafi’s firepower.”

To further show that the nation is growing geopolitical clout that will make its American allies smile, Qatar has become the first Arab nation to recognize the rebels as the sole legitimate representative.

It is already reaping the benefits of its latest decision; the rebels have contacted oil companies in Qatar to export and market Libya’s highly demanded sweet crude oil. Has Qatar got a potential major oil deal in the pipeline?  The county’s involvement in the war against Gaddafi will not go unnoticed by the rebels, and if the war is successful, Qatar could have possibly made itself has a major exporter/marketer of Libya’s oil.

While a lot of Qatar’s rapid rise can be attributed to it vast financial power, it has recently stepped up its geopolitical game. And the world is watching.