Magazine article Foreign Policy

59 Hamad Bin Khalifaal Thani: For Filling the Leadership Vacuum in the Middle East

Magazine article Foreign Policy

59 Hamad Bin Khalifaal Thani: For Filling the Leadership Vacuum in the Middle East

Article excerpt

Emir | Qatar

If there's one man who has stepped into the void in the Middle East, it's Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the ruler of a tiny country that few had heard of. Some might say it's his vast oil and natural gas wealth that has made the enigmatic emir a major player in conflict zones as varied as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen--not to mention Palestine, where Qatar has largely usurped Egypt's role as the principal mediator between the feuding factions of Hamas and Fatah.

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But the Qatari emir, who has been called the "Arab Henry Kissinger," is not just a sheikh with a big bank account. His ambition is nothing less than the remapping of power dynamics in the Arab world. Known for his grit and determination, which enabled him to turn the nearly bankrupt statelet he inherited in a bloodless 1995 coup into the planet's richest country, the emir also knows how to play great powers off each other to get what he wants. Qatar is home to one of the largest U.S. air bases, but the canny emir maintains cordial relations with his neighbors in Tehran as well, never mind his misgivings. …

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