The old emir returned to the Gulf the following year , publicly disowning his son and trying to drum up support for a counter-coup, but Sheik Hamad snuffed out the plot by freezing billions of dollars in his father’s overseas bank accounts.
Then, just 44 and the youngest ruler in the Gulf, he set about to reform and redefine Qatar.
Surrounding himself with young, Western-educated advisors, he drew up a long-term plan to develop a post-oil knowledge-based economy.
He has allocated 40% of Qatar’s budget between now and 2016 to massive infrastructure projects, including an $11-billion international airport, a $5.5-billion deep-water seaport and a $1-billion transport corridor in Doha, as well as $20-billion in new roads.
He has also invited foreign universities to establish Middle East campuses in a $100-billion Education City in Doha.
Without an elected parliament to advise him, the Emir has final say in the disposition of the country’s $70- billion to $100-billion sovereign wealth fund, which has made it a financial powerhouse internationally by investing heavily in everything from German carmakers Porsche and Volkswagen to the Agricultural Bank of China, Harrods department store in London, a Brazilian bank, Chinese oil refineries, a Spanish soccer team and a French fashion house.
The Emir’s most influential investment was his creation of the 24-hour Arab-language Al Jazeera television network in 1996.
Granted a level of editorial independence unheard of in the Arab world, Al Jazeera is encouraged to report freely and aggressively on everything but Qatari politics, and is the most watched TV network in the Middle East.
The broadcaster was widely regarded as one of the driving forces behind the spread of the Arab Spring.
“Qatar hopes to insert itself as the key mediator between the Muslim world and the West,” Mr. Roberts said.
“Qatar sees its role as a highly specialized interlocutor between the two worlds, making — from the West’s point of view — unpalatable but necessary friendships and alliances with anti-Western leaders.”
Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasem Al-Thani, Qatar’s Prime Minister and a distant cousin of the Emir, likes to say his country is small and has to be proactive to protect its interest and avoid being run over by more powerful neighbours.
“Our policy is to be friendly with everybody,”
the Emir said recently in a television interview. “We are looking for peace. It doesn’t mean if two parties turn against each other, we have to go to one party. No, we would like to stick with the two parties.”
A very neat piece on Qatar.