Doha: “This is one of Qatar’s answers to the world of sceptics,” Khalid Al Ziyara, a Qatari political analyst, said as he extended his hand towards the Katara Amphitheatre, an open-air combination of the classical Greek theatre concept and Islamic features in the cultural village in the capital Doha.
The evening was cool, but several people, Qatari nationals and foreigners, were cheerfully walking on the marbled apron stage.
“It is a great tribute to art and culture, but for those who have grudges against Qatar, it is an unbelievable waste of money. Some of them said that the money should have been given to the world’s starving poor. When we give money to some countries, we are accused of buying our power into their political class and of seeking to increase our influence on their society. Accusations are being bombarded non-stop, but we have now become so accustomed to them that we easily withstand the onslaught and move on towards our destiny,” he said.
Like most Qataris, Khalid was bewildered by the onslaught on Qatar, stressing that his country was being “viciously” targeted for emerging as a new power house in regional politics.
“The new reference to us is the chequebook diplomacy. That is not bad when it comes to spending money to ensure conclusive mediations between parties in conflict. We have succeeded in several instances where other countries or international organisations lamentably failed. Of course, the focus is never on Qatar’s successful efforts and persuasion skills, but on how much Doha paid to reach a compromise that saved lives and rescued countries,” he said.
Qatar has inexorably turned into a focal point of regional and international interest, mainly after it was awarded the right to host the football world cup finals in 2022. Its media scope has been accentuated by Al Jazeera television network and its political clout has come under the spotlight following the events that unfolded in several Arab countries.
Last month, the 24th Arab summit concluded in Doha with the Arab League ending its official recognition of the Syrian regime and granting the Syrian seat to the National Alliance, the opposition group.
Ahmad Al Khatib, the alliance leader, ceremoniously took the seat as staged by Qatar and delivered a highly emotional speech, ushering in a new era for Syria and the Arab League, even though he did not mention anything about future state programmes or plans.
Not all Arab countries agreed with what happened, but Qatar had led a concerted push and Doha made sure its summit went according to its own will and that of the other Gulf and Arab countries that concurred with it.
“We sided with the Syrian people and we wanted to support them more openly and without further hesitations and procrastinations,” Khalid said. “Qatar had the merit of leaping into action when deeds, not words, were needed because that was the only plausible course of action after months of talks with the Syrian regime reached a deadlock. This is realpolitik. It is hard for some countries or people to accept that Qatar, a country with a small geography, can be among leaders, but that is their problem,” he said, reaching out to finish his karak tea.
The serene atmosphere at Katara sharply contrasted with the vivaciousness at the hotel where journalists had followed the public sessions of the summit.
The main hall was lively animated and even when some of the televised summit speeches became repetitively long, reporters, never short on ideas, engaged in cheerful discussions to decide the name of the best and worst dressed leaders.
Tunisia’s president, Moncef Marzouki, who had insisted since he assumed the position in late 2011 on not wearing a tie in his public appearances, was reportedly selected as the least smartly dressed.
In the adjacent media centre, Khalifa, a youthful Qatari with long dark hair, was typing notes on his tablet as he watched the live broadcast of the sessions.
“We do not expect people to support Qatar, but we do hope that they are fair when they talk about the country,” the television journalist said. “This is a very tough neighbourhood and Qatar has been able to forge its way despite the formidable challenges, mainly thanks to its stable domestic stability and to its good relations with everyone. It is these special ties that have enabled us to mediate in several conflicts and with great success. Accusations will always be there, but we are now used to them. Maybe we should start looking at them as outstanding indications of our success story,” he said.