Qatar: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy (Paperback)
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The State of Qatar has employed its ample financial resources to exert significant regional influence and avoid domination by Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of the alliance of six Gulf monarchies called the Gulf Cooperation Council. Qatar has intervened in several regional conflicts, including in Syria and Libya, and has engaged with both Sunni Islamist and Iran-backed Shiite groups in Lebanon, Sudan, the Gaza Strip, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Qatar has maintained consistent dialogue with Iran while also supporting U.S. and GCC efforts to limit Iran's regional influence. Qatar's independent policies, which include supporting regional Muslim Brotherhood organizations and establishing a global media network called Al Jazeera, have injured Qatar's relations with Saudi Arabia and some other GCC members. On June 5, 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain, joined by Egypt and a few other governments, severed relations with Qatar and imposed limits on the entry and transit of Qatari nationals and vessels in their territories, waters, and airspace. The United States, as well as Kuwait and other countries, are attempting to mediate the dispute, in large part because the rift threatens efforts to counter Iran and regional terrorist groups. However, mediation efforts have not produced sustained direct talks between Qatar and its antagonists, let alone a full resolution. Qatar has countered the Saudi-led pressure with new arms buys and deepening relations with Turkey and Iran. As do the other GCC leaders, Qatar's leaders apparently view the United States as the guarantor of Gulf security. Since 1992, the United States and Qatar have had a formal Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) that addresses a U.S. troop presence in Qatar, consideration of U.S. arms sales to Qatar, U.S. training, and other defense cooperation. Under the DCA, Qatar hosts about 10,000 U.S. forces and the regional headquarters for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) at various military facilities, including the large Al Udeid Air Base. U.S. forces in Qatar participate in all U.S. operations in the region, including Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against the Islamic State organization in Iraq and Syria. Members of Congress have taken into account a broad range of Qatar's policies in consideration of U.S. arms sales to Qatar, such as a sale of F-15s signed in mid-2017. In late January 2018, Qatar and the United States held the inaugural "Strategic Dialogue" in Washington, DC, in which U.S. officials hailed a strong U.S.-Qatar partnership on many fronts and signaled the potential for permanent U.S. basing there. Qatar signed a broad memorandum of understanding with the United States in 2017 to cooperate against international terrorism. That MOU appeared intended to counter assertions that Qatar's ties to regional Islamist movements support terrorism and that Qatari leaders condone private Qatari citizen contributions to Islamist extremist organizations. The voluntary relinquishing of power in 2013 by Qatar's former Amir (ruler), Shaykh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, departed from GCC patterns of governance in which leaders generally remain in power for life. However, Qatar is also the only one of the smaller GCC states that has not yet formed a legislative body that is at least partly elected, even though such elections have long been promised. Further, U.S. and international reports criticize Qatar for failing to adhere to international standards of human and labor rights practices, and for failing to protect expatriate workers from abuses by Qatari employers. As are the other GCC states, Qatar is wrestling with the downturn in global hydrocarbons prices since 2014, now compounded by the Saudi-led embargo. Qatar is positioned to weather these headwinds because of its small population and substantial financial reserves. But, Qatar shares with virtually all the other GCC states a lack of economic diversification and reliance on revenues from sales of hydrocarbon pr.