tv Book Discussion on Qatar CSPAN December 14, 2013 12:00pm-1:16pm EST
he argues that unlike other regional powerhouses qatar has been able to achieve its global standing for al-jazeera it supported democracy movements in the least of the hosting of major world events like the world cup. this is about one hour and 15 minutes. >> thank you all very much. let me start at thinking osama and his wonderful team for tonight's event. most grateful and honored to be here. thank you all. i was motivated to study qatar. i've been in qatar since 2007 at the georgetown campus in doha and one of the first things that struck me about the country was its amazing development and its relative success. so what motivated me to write this book was the simple question of whether or not qatar
is for real. i don't know how many of you are familiar with qatar but in many ways this is a country that consistently punches above its weight to use an overused metaphor and it's a small state, which tries to be extremely consequential not only within the arabian peninsula and within the persian gulf region but in the large reason and the hunt ended exercises a certain amount of power than in many ways is in commensurate with its size, its demography in the region where relatively regions like syria and iraq and saudi arabia have long influenced regional affairs and have long called the shots if you will. qatar has been extremely consequential over the last decade and a half and has not
only been extremely consequential but it has also in many ways shaped the direction of current events and in fact history as it unfolds. so when i went there, there were several questions that i had. one was what i posed to you earlier, is qatar for real? this is a country that is exercising a sort of power that is fleeting and impermanent or is it a country that is in many ways consequential? and then if you look at doha, it's an amazing and it's a very odd city in terms of its development. it is engaged in what you might call high modernism in a city that is growing into the sea and into the sky with artificial islands and high-rises but it is
also a city where you have relatively little urban tradition and the urban tradition that is their is state-directed. it's an urban tradition where the government deliberately tries to create a sort of heritage. and so the questions i had for myself were to what extent does all of this mean anything and how lasting is this? is it something that's fleeting in the larger history of the middle east where we have the worlds oldest civilizations and where we have countries that have long shaped the history of the region. the more i studied this, the more i realized a couple of things. first of all i realized that qatar is indeed a success story. it's not an unqualified success that it is in many ways a success story and that story needs to be told. i also realize that there is a series of developments and fat
ears that have converged at the same time to result in what might be called qatar's moment in history. qatar currently is riding high. it's not only punching above its weight that it's in many ways having a number of successes that are shaping consequentially recent history. so qatar is in many ways a success story that needs to be told that again it does have some glitches. and then i realized for myself as well as others, it's a place that needs to be described and it's a place that needs to be studied and analyzed because it isn't just fleeting. when i went to qatar i had an extremely hard time describing the place for others. i remembered one of my first official meetings was with a
high-ranking diplomat and i asked him, how do you describe this place to others'? its is extremely to describe qatar. he gave me two images that stuck in my mind. one he said, well you know this is like those scenes in james bond movies where you have these national celebrations where people have their national dress and they are all together in beautiful colors of their own national dresses and in many ways qatar resembles that. the second image that he told me about was more lasting. he said imagine at that time the size of the population was just over a million. he said you have 800,000 people waiting on 200,000 people in that image really stuck with me. so i decided when i wrote this book, i thought one of the first things i needed to do was to describe this difficult --
this place that's difficult to describe, this odd place. so bear with me as i attempt to read you a passage from the book to try to describe a place. for those of you have been in qatar you know there are lots of opulent buildings and very luxurious hotels. what i'm about to tell you is inspired by the description in the lobby of the ritz-carlton hotel in doha. there are a number of other hotels that are newer and more opulent but this particular passage -- i have been there for six years now close to seven years and every time i go to the lobby of the ritz-carlton i'm in many ways of overwhelmed by the opulence that i see. so i decided to start out with a description of qatar and then i will tell you a little bit about the kinds of power and influence that i think qatar is exerting
and what are some of the ingredients for its success that osama mentioned. doha may lack of session with lang but it is still filled with a glance that numbs the senses and distorts perceptions of reality. many parts of the city resemble the surreal and inc. on grand mixture of hong kong on the one hand in tucson, arizona on the other. it's not surprising that today's doha is one massive construction site. no sooner are city maps painted then they become up so we. as new roads and multilane highways replace old snaking streets. roundabouts, marbles a traffic engineering from a bygone era ,-com,-com ma a few cars and manageable street flows are being steadily replaced with four corner junctions end times
traffic lights. cranes and other heavy construction equipment are you the clovis features of the urban landscape. doha it seems is that did to tearing up its asphalt at streets as soon as they are ready for use. entire neighborhoods made up of older shops and larger single-family homes are raised with unsettling frequency and replaced by tall glass cover laming buildings. remembering directions to points of interest is often an exercise in futility. taxi passengers frequently find themselves giving directions to their drivers, many of whom are recent varieties from bangladesh or ethiopia. doha's roads and streets are seldomly mangled cars strewn on
the side of products the world's highest and deadliest traffic accident. the municipalities installation of. >> cameras all across the city have done little to encourage a culture of driving safely. unsurprisingly most qataris prefer larger presumably safer cars. the ubiquitous toyota land cruiser overwhelmingly in white is the dash of delhi roads, the referred car of qataris. in recent years more daring colors of lacking grade are also seen david -- darting around town. all the while the cities armies of construction workers and their tens of thousands remain as inconspicuous and hidden from public you. the state employees the discourse revolving around the protection of the family to
bachelors from shopping malls and so-called family days and from living in family residential areas. in this sense, it is a code word for migrant workers from south asia and family designates everyone else, married or not. the biggest interaction in unskilled migrant workers and the rest of the country's residents say for household mates are on doha's congested streets where stuck in traffic tired eyes peer through half open windows of all american school buses or grungy ones made as workers are driven from future high-rises to the distant labor camps. so what i tried to do was to convey a sense of this odd
mixture between hong kong and tucson arizona, this city that has landmarks in bellagio that had nothing to do with the culture of the gulf but nevertheless are an important part of the country's tradition and its sense of identity, a but then i realized that in fact doha as i mentioned is a success story. it does have some challenges. it does face some serious fundamental challenges but nonetheless it is in many ways a success rate. what are some of the ingredients of that success story? what are some of the main factors that have made doha and qatar into what it is today? i discovered this can be divided very broadly and in summary fashion into four categories. first and foremost at least compared to the rest of the
middle east and compared to its other neighbors in the arabian peninsula, qatar has a comparative advantage that others don't. in many ways qatar has remarkable social cohesion. 10 to 20% of qataris are said to be shia and about 10% of qataris claim to have come from iran. nevertheless the qatari shia tend to be remarkably supportive of the -- so unlike our rain for example where there are fundamental very major sectarian tensions in qatar there is remarkable social cohesion. also unlike the united arab emirate which is the confederation and one of those emirates has a wayward ruler that needs to be bailed out ever so often by the ruler of abu dhabi, qatar doesn't have that problem of having a
confederation. qatar also in addition to its social equation is extremely small demography. the number of qataris ranges at most around 200,000 so it's a very governable easily manageable country. it also has inordinate resources. it has inordinate wealth. so on the one hand qatar has the comparative advantages compared to all the other regional states it's got cohesion. it's got a very manageable population and small demography and it has inordinate resources at its disposal. a second characteristic that sets qatar apart from the rest of the pac within the arabian peninsula and the larger middle east is centralized decision-making. in many ways the way to conceptualize the country is to think of it as qatar a corporation.
qatar inc. is an easy way of thinking about it. in many ways the major decisions in the country are made literally by a handful of people and there is tremendous centralized decision-making. you can imagine that for all the minister of energy brings in revenues. the prime minister who also happen to be in charge of qatar investment authority is the guy who invests the funds that are brought in. shake how most of the former a mere's wife is in charge of culture activities. it's her foundation that has invited universities like georgetown, cornell texas a&m virginia commonwealth two, and she also oversees about with a couple of her daughters, overseas cultural activities. then you have the former arab --
who for now the last couple of months is the apparent. he is the chief deputy in many ways, the amir in waiting, the title of the former was deputy also and then you have the ceo overlooking the old operation. in many ways if you think about it, decision-making from investments to bringing the dollars to cultural activities to overseeing the whole operation, those decisions remain by five people and although the precise number may change by one or two and some of the personalities might change, the fundamentals of decision-making remain concentrated and remain centralized. that gives the qatari political system tremendous agility. he gives the qatari qatari system inability to capitalize on opportunities that for
example the political system doesn't have or the bahraini system and of course the bahrainis have major publics doesn't have. although kuwait or the uae might have the amounts of wealth are even more wealth, they don't have the centralized decision-making and leadership. it also the other characteristic is that it has an old wealthy vision. there is a vision that characterizes the qatari leadership at cavities and agendas that in many ways is lacking in other parts of the arabian peninsula and across the persian gulf. it's a vision that initially was motivated by survival status. that is hyperactive diplomacy which i will mention in a moment it was initially motivated by a survival strategy when sheikh hamad khalifa came to power in
1995. there was an almost irrational fear that qatar would be gobbled up. it would be trampled on over wealth by saudi arabia or by developments. qatar engaged in an incredibly hyperactive diplomacy to ensure its survival and then they realize that it wasn't survival that they needed to worry about, it was getting a place secure on the global map and then building on that position within the global map to enhance qatar's local position within the global community. there is a well-defined vision that is being pursued with unmatched passion in qatar. but also, important within the qatari political calculus is what might be called high modernism, this incredibly at
give and robust pursuit of modernity however defined, defined by the government. the way that the government of the qatari state defines modernity is through construction. we see that passage that i read whereby actively doha's geography is drawing urban landscape is being reconfigured through the building of futuristic cities. georgetown university along with other universities is housed in what's called education city. there is qatar technology park in the pearl artificial island. there are all sorts of mechanisms to pursue modernity as defined by the government. in all of this is pursued by
construction projects. the importance of this isn't just in changing qatar's urban infrastructure but in tying the state to business at chairs, bringing within the orbit of this and within the employee of the state qatar e-business interests and qatari entrepreneurs. each of these cities that are being built, lucille city for example being built slightly north of doha or within doha there is doha land, not too different from disneyland but there's there is something called doha land. all of these are construction development projects through which the business community is drawn in come into the orbit of the state and therefore political stability is insured and in many ways purchased. political stood -- stability is insured. there is remarkable political
stability which ties the business community, potential opponents of the state for example in kuwait to the state's vision and its pursuit of development and modernistic projects. last but i know means least the fourth element of qatar's success is its influence and power. one of the things that struck me about qatar was how a small state established only in 1977, how can a small state it comes so consequential? there was an arab league meeting in which the qatari representatives in the arab league -- this is before the arab spring, the representative from qatar was very passionately advocating qatar's speech and he was very easily dismissed by the
representative from egypt at the time who said please sit down. all the people in the country do not add up to the people in bus stop in cairo. and when mubarak went to the al-jazeera studios he turned to his information minister and he said, how can a matchbox like this cause so much trouble across the arab world and you he told his information minister, you employ 20,000 in cairo broadcasting in the skies with their handful of people in al-jazeera studios create more problems. so is qatar and influence for real? what i discovered is qatar through a number of very carefully calculated foreign-policy mechanisms and through it very carefully -- careful use of its foreign-policy toolbox, several
tools in its toolbox has been able to create conditions whereby they can pursue its interests. what are some of those tools? first and foremost qatar pursues a foreign policy that might be best described as hedging. this of course comes from gambling. it's a term that comes from gambling whereby you place one lets say you bet on the united states to guarantee your security and you place a number of smaller bets. let's say for example you maintain fraternal ties with hamas or with iran or with other actors that may not necessarily see eye-to-eye. what qatar has been able to do it carefully calculated policy is to position itself as an important conduit between various actors that otherwise do not speak to one another.
a couple of months ago qatar was extremely successful although immortal in many ways, successful and positioning itself as a conduit between united states and the taliban and that really was an interesting development. qatar has been able to maintain ties very close fraternal ties with iran at the same time it is anchored under the american security umbrella and american cultural institutions and universities and of course american economy and diplomacy or economic patterns that diplomacy. this is what might be called subtle influence. what qatar has been able to do through its subtle power, through its exercise of subtle power is to create a set of conditions, a set of structures whereby they can't exert its
influence in quite subtle ways through its international investments, through its careful pursuit of hedging as a foreign-policy initiative. through its very deliberate, very aggressive branding effort as al-jazeera tv station represents. it's extremely active in branding itself and of course do a very aggressive advertising campaign. if you fly anywhere in the world you will see advertisements for either the national carrier or the qatar foundation. there are a whole variety of other qatari into decent interest that will help together create a set of conditions. of course needless to say qatar's international investments are extremely important. let me and finally with the passage from the veaux
conclusion which in many ways cuts to some of the upcoming challenges that qatar is likely to face. unfortunately sheikh hamad did not wait for the book to be published before he decided to retire. first he retired and then the book came out a couple of weeks later. in many ways, some of these very sources of success, that centralized decision-making, i think can also become maberg -- mage or challenges for qatar in the future. here is how the book concludes. paradoxically, the biggest challenge facing the qatari system in the coming years has also been one of its biggest assets in the recent past, namely its personal nature. the regimes focused decision-making has given an agility and flexibility.
sheikh hamad ,-com,-com ma the balancer has been the great navigator of the region's troubled waters and his own families fractured past. in 2003 incident lay qatar it never had a successful smooth transition of power. every time there was a transition of power up until 2003 at head come about as a result but in 2003 of course that all changed. the former arab -- is that on-the-job training for number of years since 2009 ,-com,-com ma 2010 assuming an increasingly more visible and after profile in the decision-making process in the company's diplomacy. but whether and how future generations of qatari rulers we'll will deal with the same challenges that his father did
remains an open question. let us make no mistake about it. regardless of their visions and capabilities, qatar's is written by its wealth and as long as that wealth continues, so is the likelihood that will it will project a much larger image of itself and its size and abilities warrant. the country's current moment in history and how long a camp project a form of power that is by all accounts in commensurate with its size, history, infrastructure and industrial and scientific resources depends directly on how long and in what ways its wealth lasts and can be prolonged. the real challenge is for qatar to carry on business as usual in
the post-oil era. until then, the country can rest reasonably assured of its place in the limelight of the city. thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you. >> thank you very much for a very engaging presentation of your book. i'm sure there are going to be many books following your wake now talking about qatar. i will now open the floor to your questions. mehran will field his own questions but i will only ask you to identify yourselves before you ask your question and keep your questions brief and to the point if you don't mind. so thank you. >> my name is katrina.
mehran i wanted to ask you, you emphasize the remarkable social cohesion and the efforts that regime makes to draw in the business community for example. i was wonder if you have any thoughts on how the regime deals with domestic dissent and thinking for a of mohammed the deed to his serving a 15 year jail time and i think the new amir has chosen to uphold that sentence so do you have any dots on what's going on there? >> yeah. you mentioned domestic dissent. qatar is remarkable for its lack of consent particularly to other states. it doesn't mean there aren't individuals particularly in the social media and in particular twitter, against the erosion of culture or against some of these developments.
by and large, we don't have dissent in the country. i will tell you why there is absence of dissent. first and foremost, the average per-capita gross domestic drawbacks is around $354,000 a year. qataris tend to be remarkably wealthy and are aware of that wealth particularly in comparison to bahrainis or the moradi's or the saudi's or the kuwaitis so they know how good they have it. economic lien financially and they know that they made the state for the continued wealth. that is one factor but the other factor is qatar has an incredibly well-developed and detailed welfare system. for qataris, almost from cradle to grave every need is addressed
and taking care of. to use a political jargon. [inaudible] in this kind of a state the kind of issues that come salient and tend to exercise people and tend to excite people aren't necessarily issues of accountability. they are not demands for transparency. what they are our demands in what might be termed cultural politics. for example, why is there pork sold in the countries only liquor store. the question of erosion of culture. as you know for all intensive purposes everybody speaks english and even qataris particularly qataris who attend these american branch campuses oftentimes qatari students don't speak arabic fluently and don't
have arabic writing literacy. issues that revolve around cultural politics tend to be those that are important. the erosion of cultural authenticity. the erosion of culture rather than demands for transparency. these issues can be relatively easily addressed by the powers that be. you for example can ban the sale of alcohol in the pearl is the government did or you can somehow address for example the sale of pork in the country. by and large the lease for the time being even the current political economy of the country the qatari population tends to be a political for a whole variety of reasons. it doesn't mean there's no individual dissent. now, is this something that the sentencing of the poet is something that the sheikh
personally upheld? issued no the poet is accused of personally insulting the very personal type of insult against the ruling family. that becomes extremely difficult in the context of that culture and in the context of that kind of political system to pardon. having said that let's not forget that the sheikh is an in office for only a matter of months and so it will take a couple of years at least for him to put his personal stamp on the political system as it took his father a couple of years to put his stamp on the qatari political system. so things might still change. i promise to keep my answers shorter. >> thank you very much. i wanted to go back for a second
to your opening and note and i want to ask you how sustainable in your opinion qatar is in a more mediocre -- considering 200,000 keep old. how does it transform traditional issues to pragmatism? for example politics and issues not geographically but to include more citizens for growth and people. this is my question. >> thank you. i'm not sure if for growth you necessarily need people. it depends on how you work with your demographic limitations. no doubt the small size of the population poses major challenges. for example in terms of having a robust diplomatic corps or having a robust national bureau
cm civil service that can staff ambitions and can follow through but at the same time the limited democracy can serve several distinct advantages or can be used as an advantage. for example the follow-through move last is important then you don't have to deal with an inherently politically troublesome middle class. if you don't have a domestic individualist working-class you don't have to worry about strikes and if the working-class goes on a strike you deport them and then there is a ready tool of replacement. i think it depends on how you can massage and handled these demographdemographic limitations. some of these states particularly qatar can use it to their tremendous advantage. in many ways you could argue that qatar has pursued an
industrial policy that has deliberate lee hampered the development of indigenous working-class areas these guys can be troublesome. you know we go back to simon huntington's classic king's dilemma. they can have put akel participation and political empowerment. having said that and i go back to one of the other points you raised, women's empowerment. qatar has are suited very deliberate and active policy of women's empowerment under the patronage of islamism. you see a deliberate effort at the state to empower women. incidentally and the government doesn't even have to try that hard. qatari women particularly younger women take -- are far more motivated than qatari women. 75% of qatari national
university is women. only 25% of it is men. the american branch campuses for example at georgetown 60% of our student audie is female and 40% is men. in many ways that is part of the natural sense of wanting mobility and of course the government acela tapes that. let's go in the back. >> professor i was wondering before 1995 qatar was in many ways subservient to its larger neighbor saudi arabia and then under the leadership of shake map mohammed more independent of its larger neighbor much which are grand. in this new era under the leadership of shake him mean
which is unnecessarily accounted for in the look i'm wondering if you foresee the new leadership will be able to add independent of its larger neighbor and will this be the end of eshoo call it qataris moment in history? >> that is an excellent question and i think it's too early to answer. we have yet to see but allow me for a minute to very quickly share an addict to. in 1995 the former sheikh khalif khalif -- khalifa would think the arabian peninsula. and that homage that qatari amir would pay to the saudi king was extremely personally presented by younger generation of qataris.
in 1995 that younger generation of qataris to power. those were sheikh, and khalifa and the sheikh who became the prime minister and foreign minister. from 1995 on we have a crop of qatari leaders that in many ways personally resent the secondary position that was ascribed in relation to saudi arabia and we see this in terms of their foreign-policy to deliberately come out of the saudi shadow. as you know up until 2010, 2011 there was tremendous tension from saudi arabia and qatar largely because qatar was so determined to, that the saudi shadow and the saudi's resent it they dismissed qatar as -- and even recently there was a tweet by fritz lond rf saudi
arabia dismissing saudi arabia is a country of 300 people and a tv station and of course the qatari foreign minister tweeted back saying we raised our kids to be a lot more polite than others. so a twitter war of sorts ensued the sheikh tom mean in and the new crop of qatari leaders have the same visceral resentment of the saudi behemoth? i don't know. i don't think we know the answer to that. probably not but again i think we will see the ultimate results of sheikh tom mean's stamp on qatari diplomacy in a year or two so we don't know yet. yes, sir? >> thank you dr. kamrava for a
fascinating presentation. i'm a second-year master student here at -- and i was wondering i have not had the pleasure of sitting qatar yet and i hope to soon one day. i was wondering if you were to advise another state on political reforms what kind of advice would he think the qatari system could give? >> what the kind of advice the qatari system would give to another system on political reform? >> it seems to be very effective so i was wondering if this is something that could be reproduced elsewhere wax. >> i don't think qatar is in any position to advise on political reform. it's ultimately a nondemocratic legal system. it happens to be a remarkably stable nondemocracy but it is by no means reformed, if you'd be be -- mean by reformed a democratic
political system. it's not a reformed political system and that brings up a more interesting question as this thing keeps fainting on me. this microphone. that rings up an interesting question, decision-making. why does qatar make some of its decisions the way it does? for example how could a nondemocratic good akel system have the audacity to bring in a number of american universities that teach liberal arts in a nondemocratic environment, or how dare does could tarry support the yearning for freedom in places like libya and syria? thank you sir. whereas itself it's a nondemocratic let akel system. what are some of the calculations that go on in the minds of qatari leaders that prompt them to make these
decisions that really don't seem quite logical or in many ways coherent. my response to that or my gut feeling to that is they make decisions based on several calculations. first and foremost this is the right decision. does it serve our interests? does it not alienate the united states even if they don't agree with it, does it not alienate them? is it something that brings us us -- does that help our branding efforts? does that help qatar inc. in those terms? conspicuoconspicuo usly absent from most appellations are the consequences particularly unintended consequences. so i think the assumption is that we have got enough resources to give whatever
unintended consequences may arise so in 10 years when you have a robust alumni of all these qataris who are graduates of northwestern university qatar and carnegie mellon university qatar and georgetown university all of these will have a robust group of alumni and they start asking questions about transparency and lack of accountability and when they start politicking. how do you deal with that? i think the assumption is we have got enough resources at that time. >> thank you very much and i look forward to reading the book. recently one has noticed there seems to be an uptick in the level of public discourse internationally on labor issues. in the gulf and genuine --
general but qatar in particular with the world cup and the height of the programs. i am wondering if, how this is registering, if there is any physical reaction on the part of a small group of key decision-makers to what appears to be shaping up as a more significant public relations problem than they have had in the past? >> that's right and that's another excellent question. first and foremost i should say with power comes -- once you start getting involved then things become fair game and you open yourself up to scrutiny which is exactly what is happening qatar. the qataris are extremely sensitive to their image and as
i mentioned brand is one of their main concerns and how qatar is perceived. there have been surprisingly very concerned domestically about what is turning out to be an image problem. and so qatar's minister of labor has had several high-profile meetings and announcements saying they are going to address these and they are going to look into living conditions of migrant labor. to what extent this is meaningful and to what extent will fall is of course yet to be seen over time but certainly there is keen awareness that this sort of publicity can lead to the wrong kind of attention and can bring the qatar brand.
there is a remarkable sensitivity over the last couple of years to the report by guardian. there have been front page news stories but at the same time there has been also an attempt to stay with the guardian is recognizing out of context so there has been some of that but there's also been what seems like a genuine attempt to address the problem. >> thank you for your very engaging talk. it seems like part of this aspect of qataris around the world has to do with us idea or this excuse is something about qatari culture makes it inevitable or inherent that people are oppressed.
this seems to fly in the face of this active modern day image in terms of agriculture in developing technology. that was wondering how these political figures we are talking about are actively promoting this kind of excuse of these culture reasons versus what they are trying to pursue and urban development? >> i'm not sure if they phrased or frame the discussion in the terms that you described. or at least not quite in those terms. one thing that qatar has tried to position it self is as a successful bridge between science and islamic tradition. in fact in 2010 doha was chosen as the cultural capital of the arab world, much i'm sure to the chagrin of cairo and damascus and the other real capitals of
arab culture or historic capitals of arab culture but one of the things we have seen is a very deliberate attempt on the part of qataris to say that modernity and culture or air culture and arab heritage are not necessarily antithetical that they can't easily and successfully be synthesizsynthesiz ed together. so we see this for example in the invitation of these american universities. we see this in qatar has set aside to point a resent of its national budget to scientific research. that is an amazing amount. in many ways unparalleled elsewhere at least in the middle east that i know of. and so there is a very deliberate effort to foster progress but at the same time
you don't have to abandon your tradition. you don't have to abandon your culture and if you look at the national vision of the country, qatar 2030 the national vision is a document that is supposed to guide these states attempts and agendas over the next couple of decades. there is very deliberate attention to progress and modernity on the one hand and preserving culture and tradition on the other. interestingly the qatari state and some of its main leaders oftentimes make a deliberate effort to say this is what sets qatar apart from a country like dubai or an emirate like dubai where dubai tries to completely ignore tradition and completely abandoned what is unique to its tradition and heritage.
we foster progress and modernity at the same time as we are careful about our tradition. for faster i leave you to let me know how long to go so i'm at your disposal and i'm at the disposal of everyone. it is now about 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. doha time so we have all day. we have all day. [laughter] >> professor. >> i'm from the university of -- in france. thank you for this presentation on qatari. i would like to come back to the labor issue. i think it's a very serious problem at least since the kenyan is sensitive and many
newspapers are talking about -- slavery. in your answer to this issue you said that the qatari government is trying to fix the problem. my question is, there is a willingness to fix the image of qatar a broad or to fix the problem. >> a good question. i think you start out with the assumption that there is a problem. i wish we had an hour or two to discuss this. the question is why does labor keep coming? if the problem is owed dire, if the situation is dire, if as we commonly assume there is a modern form of slavery, why is it that there is an
inexhaustible stream of labor in qatar or elsewhere in the region? is it indeed as dire as we think it is sort does the average construction worker earned eight times the amount that he would earn had he stayed in nepal or india clanks -- i think there are major problems. there is abuse, there are horrible conditions. no doubt they are are all sorts of exploitations. there might even indeed in fact be in instances certain types of slavery. at the same time i think we need to contextualize and not generalize on the condition of all migrant workers. i think one of the things we need to keep in mind is that the situation is extremely complex. there are people who make a
tremendous amount of money. there are massive amount of remittances. there are so much remittance going back that recently the government of the united arab emirates said we want to tax remittances. taxing those remittances is a huge revenue stream for the uae. so, now i don't think that's quite workable and qataris aren't going to do it or release they have announced that they want to do it but what i think the situation of migrant workers is extremely complex and i don't think we can say that based on the anecdotal evidence that we hear we can therefore generalize that all workers are in a dire predicament. having said all of this, i realize that i'm explaining or trying to talk about an extremely complex and very emotionally charged subject in a
couple of seconds and which i can't do justice to but i think it's important to keep in mind that there are people who make a lot of money and there are people who are exploited and whose passports are confiscated and work in horrible conditions and have to go back to horrible camps but at the same time there are those who are much better off, working as migrant workers in qatar than they would he have a state. again the question of if it's so bad why do they keep coming back i think it's an important question to address. >> i was wondering if you please talk about what is qatar hoping to achieve by hosting the world cup in 2024 and how will they
achieve those goals? >> it's trying to achieve the same thing as it tried to do back in 1996 when it started al-jazeera. the same thing that it tried to do back in 2006 when it hosted the asian cup and what it tried to do back in 2012 when it hosted the asian football or soccer tournament. it's trying to achieve ranting. it's trying to say that it's not just a member, that it's consequential and it's important within the arabian peninsula but it's important in the middle east and in fact beyond. all of these projects, al-jazeera, the national high-rise buildings, hosting the world cup, hosting all of these are showcased projects designed to enhance the country's brand.
yes, in the back. >> thank you professor kamrava. my question is you have talked about. [inaudible] do you think the cards a are change in syria libya and egypt basically? in the last three months we have seen how people and egypt work is a brotherhood. we are talking about qatari interfering. syria is thinking about saudi arabia. we have seen that in the peace conference going on in london. ..
>> i'm not sure. i think it could very well have failed. it could very well have backfired. i think these are setbacks. my hunch is that in the long term qatar has positioned itself. the one thing about subtle power to keep in mind is the creation of conditions. it's the creation of overall conditions that become favorable, and you can cash in those favors. you can call in those favors when you want them. and so you might take a couple of hits in the short term, and these things, these examples that we just mentioned could be a couple of short-term hits that qatar is suffering. i would be reluctant to say these are a long-term series of
setbacks that have influence regionally and globally. it just so happens that right as these things are happening, there's a leadership transition in qatar that has taken place. and a new leader has a decidedly different style. and his foreign minister has a very different style than the former foreign minister. and the emir has a very different personality and different style. he doesn't seek the limelight. he's not thirsty or hungry for the global stage in the same way that the emir was or the former prime minister was. interestingly, the former prime minister was also the minister of foreign affairs. the current prime minister is also the minister of internal affairs. and so there appears to be, at least in the short term, a more inward focus in line with solidifying the emir's domestic
power base. and so in the long term, things might change. but at least for now the leadership transition and the new style of leaders has had seeming effect on the foreign policy of the country. or at least in its diplomacy if not in its foreign policy. yes, sir. i'm -- i'll come. >> i'm going to wait for the microphone. thank you so much for a very, very interesting talk. given that qatar owes so much to the presence of immense natural resources and that those natural resources are so important to the energy industry, is qatar concerned that over the long term they must seek a diversity in their autonomy, to not become so dependent on those natural resources, particularly natural gas? and in the short term, given that so much seems to be changing in the international energy industry with
unconventional sources of energy becoming more and more visible, is qatar concerned that its recent success in exploiting those natural resources might become less of an advantage? >> thank you. there's a rhetoric, and there's a reality. the rhetoric is that qatar is trying to foster a knowledge-based economy in the post-oil era. and so the in new buzz word, or it's actually not that new. for the last few years, the buzz word has been knowledge-based economy in preparation for the post-oil era. now, post -- knowledge-based economy is great, it sounds very exciting, it sounds interesting. in reality it doesn't, at least in a -- [inaudible] political system n a political economy, in a fundamentally oil-based political economy it's far from reality. the actual reality is that what
qatar is trying to do is to prepare itself for the post-oil era through its international investments. so it uses its sovereign wealth fund to position itself in a way that can bring it revenues when its lng, liquified natural gas, dries up. now interestingly, one thing that qatar does is that it has, as you know, it's the world's largest supplier of liquified natural gas, but it also has long-term contracts with its purchasers. these contracts usually go for 20 years or 30 years. and so qatar is not as vulnerable to the vagaries of the market as, for example, a purely or largely oil-dependent country like saudi arabia might be. >> yes.
thank you. there have been so many good questions, i'm relegated now to the celebrity gossip question. [laughter] and what is, and that is what is sheikh hamad up to? what is he doing now that he is no longer emir? and in a country where there are so few decision makers and so many people that drive the agenda, these guys sort of fade into the background? what is their role moving ahead, and what are they doing in the meantime? >> that's a very good question. and i don't think anyone is in a position to answer, certainly i'm not in a position to answer. sheikh hamad's official title is the father emir. and so he does have an official title as the father emir. and he was recently photographed in paris attending a horse race
in paris. i think this is a genuine retirement. it is not meant to, for him to be a backseat driver, nor is it meant for the former prime minister to still be active. i think it is a genuine retirement. i think it is a retirement that was in the making for some time. of course, it's easy in hindsight to second guess and say, well, i knew this was going to happen, but back in 2010, quite frankly, there were some rumors that because of the emir's health at the time, he was going to retire and abdicate in favor of his son. but then the arab spring hit, and in the heat of the arab spring, the assumption is that it wasn't the right time to retire. and so he was eagerly looking forward to retirement for some time for a variety of reasons, some of it having to do with his
state of health. and he is retired, and he is now enjoying retirement. remember, both the former emir and former prime minister are incredibly wealthy people. and so they are enjoying retirement in style. be. [laughter] so much for gossip. [laughter] yes, sir. >> do you want to take two more questions? >> two more questions, yes. >> [inaudible] >> yes, sir. >> oh, microphone. thank you so much, professor. in your assessment, to what extent is the continued prom especially in of qatar -- prominence of qatar dependent on the support of the international community, in particular the united states, in playing this role? is surely the presence of the largest american air base in the gulf is significant for national security. particularly when you have prickly neighbors like iran and saudi arabia and the hundreds of millions which qatar hasp spent
on military equipment -- has spent on military equipment is really not of much use without american contractors to maintain it and train the qataris, etc. similarly, if you look at the lng industry, my impression -- and correct me if i'm wrong -- is essentially run by western staff, and there isn't really a domestic capacity to maintain that. so in the situation where the u.s. or the west more broadly speaking is maybe thinking of reducing its military or political footprint in the region, is qatar's continued prominence sustainable? thank you. >> excellent question again. a couple of things are important to keep in mind. qatar's hyperactive diplomacy and its risk taking would not have been made possible had it not been for its firm
positioning under the american security umbrella. so the fact that the united states maintains the largest forward base in qatar in the world, in qatar, has a lot to do with qatar's ability and qatar's sense of security to then pursue its hyperactive diplomacy and to engage in of its ambitious diplomatic, economic and ore activities -- other activities that it wants to do. so surely the american security umbrella affords qatar the opportunity to do many of the things it would otherwise not have been able to do. one correction though to one thing that you mentioned, and thanks to wikileaks we know that compared to all the other gulf states qatar spends remarkably little on its military hardware. and it's, again, part of the genius of its foreign policy. they know the americans are there, and so why spend millions
or billions of dollars in the same way that the emirates or the saudis do on hardware? in fact, in wikileaks there's a very interesting cable in which one of the high-ranking qatari military commanders complains to the americans and says, my budget keeps getting cut, and i want more budget, and it's cut by 10%. which is really interesting because the government was secure in its, in the fact that the united states is there, so why bother spending money on military hardware. having said that, recently they've placed a couple of major military purchases. um, having said all of this, for the last 35 years all of the states of the gulf cooperation council have capitalized on
america's tensions with iran. they have seen u.s./iranian tensions as an opportunity to position themselves as america's allies, as america's reliable allies with the former ally, iran, being a pariah state. the former ally, iraq, being the pariah state and for all intents and purposes dismembered or at least in shambles. all of these states, kuwait, bahrain, saudi arabia, qatar and the united arab emirates in particular have capitalized on u.s./iranian tensions. the big question, the big variable, the known variable is what is going to happen if those tensions between iran and the united states get reduced. and we see the saudis in particular extremely nervous. you know that secretary kerry's just met with the saudis in paris to allay their fears.
the saudis are nearly as nervous as prime minister netanyahu of a possible u.s./iranian -- i don't want to even use the term rapprochement, but a reduction of tensions between these two parties. what would they do then when the iranian bogeyman is no longer there? and i think that's the, that's the thing to look at. >> [inaudible] ask the last question and then give you a break. you've worked enough tonight. >> my pleasure. >> i want to go back to another dimension of big politics and ask you whether you see -- as doha starts to transform itself into a global city and doha is transforming itself into a global city, do you also see its leading elites as this handful of technocrats who are ruling the state and designing its policy, do you see them engaging in some of these global issues like food security, global
warming, the spread of epidemics, diseases, these kinds of issues? or is the habit of hedging as a foreign policy strategy, in fact, hindered qatar from developing any kind of consistent approach to these issues which surely have to impact the future of qatar in the long term. >> thank you. excellent question. small states in general often specialize in particular issues. and they become what might be called norm entrepreneurs. they specialize in a specific norm, and then they -- that becomes their area of expertise. be norway, for example, or other small states. they specialize in one particular issue.
so qatar is no exception. at the same time, i've mentioned qatar's preoccupation with branding. but not only is it interested -- and so qatar has, for example, been very active in dialogue of civilizations, in civilizational dialogue, and the sheikh has been one of the main figures involved with some of the other global figures trying to reverse this clash of civilizations, global clash of civilizations or to at least remedy it in some ways. and so doha fancies itself as a hub and a forum for some of these global dialogues. now, in addition to all these you mentioned food security. for qatar food security is a real, tangible threat and a major concern. it's a real concern. and the qataris since
particularly the price hikes of 2007-2008, the food price hikes of 2007-2008 have specialized and made a deliberate effort to place themselves as one of the pioneers of addressing food security issues. and so not only to allay their own food security, but to also see what are some of the ways in which global food security issues can be addressed. and so what the qataris are trying to do out of necessity as well as in order to enhance their own brand and also because structurally they're a small state and small states tend to specialize in some of these niche areas, as a result, qatar has been extremely active and on the forefront of issues like women's empowerment, food security, science and technology, and now they're building wis