Qatar’s new international assertiveness has led it into areas where Riyadh has for years been the dominant Gulf party and comes amid a succession of scandals to hit Saudi Arabia in recent months.

Qatar continues to gain international recognition the world over, this time from the renowned Financial Times newspaper in the United Kingdom which highlights the country’s success since the Saudi-led siege took hold 18 months ago.

According to the newspaper, Qatar is seeking to reassert itself on the regional stage by wielding its financial clout and launching a flurry of diplomatic activity.

Doha’s renewed confidence has this month seen the country welcome two foreign leaders desperate for financial support, offered US$500m to embattled Lebanon, and hosted talks between the Taliban and the US.

“They are starting to be punchy again,” Neil Quilliam, a Gulf expert at Chatham House told the FT. “There will still be red lines about where they go, but they have weathered the storm [of the embargo] and they are certainly feeling confident.”

A Swirl of Diplomacy

Qatar’s new international assertiveness has led it into areas where Riyadh has for years been the dominant Gulf party and comes amid a succession of scandals to hit Saudi Arabia in recent months, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the arrest of businessmen and members of the kingdom’s royal family over so-called corruption.

The newspaper points out that the swirl of diplomacy is also signalling that Qatar feels it is over the worst of the financial impact of the Saudi-led blockade, joined by Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE, which began in June 2017.

Qatar didn’t give up. Doha sought out new trade partners, built international relations and spent heavily on Washington lobbyists. Doha is now once again using its financial muscle to build relations.

Qatar last week announced that it planned to buy US$500m in Lebanese bonds as that country grapples with a financial crisis. In doing so it was entering terrain where Saudi Arabia has for years been the main Gulf player.

International channels have also eased for Qatar in light of the barbaric Khashoggi murder. Pakistan has opened up, and Sudan’s embattled president, Omar al-Bashir, recently chose Qatar as his first foreign trip after a wave of protests erupted against him last month.

“The region has opened up a little bit for Qatar in the wake of Khashoggi,” said Michael Stephens, head of Royal United Services Institute’s Qatar programme. “Saudi power projection is not what it was,” he added.

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Author

Ahmed Naser is a UK-based journalist with a deep understanding of the Middle East. Ahmed is a contributor to a wide range of regional publications in the Middle East. He works across print and digital media as a freelance editor and writer.

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