A crisis in the Middle East has erupted between numerous nations and the small state of Qatar. On Tuesday, President Trump appeared to claim on Twitter that he pressured Middle Eastern countries into cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar. However, the next day the President offered to resolve the breakdown in relations between these countries.
Here is what you should know about Qatar, the world’s richest country:
1. Qatar is a country located on a small peninsula of the larger Arabian Peninsula. The country only has one land border, with Saudi Arabia, and is otherwise surrounded by the Persian Gulf. Other than Saudi Arabia, Qatar’s nearest neighbor is the small Arab kingdom of Bahrain, which is approximately 25 miles across the water. At 4,473 square miles, the mainland of Qatar is approximately the size of Los Angeles County in California and has a population slightly smaller than Chicago (2.7 million).
2. Since the 1980s, Qataris (citizens of Qatar) have been a minority group in their own country. Currently, Qataris account for only about 12 percent of the population; expatriates from 87 different nations who live and work in the country comprise the rest. Two countries alone—India and Nepal—have more citizens living in Qatar (about a million combined) than does the State of Qatar.
3. Qatar is a tribal state, and since the 19th century the ruling family has been the al-Thani family. Throughout the past 45 years, the al-Thanis have held from 18 to 63 percent of ministerial positions in the country. The family also holds one-quarter of all board seats on the 44 companies listed on the Qatar Stock Exchange.
4. For thousands of years, the economy in the area of Qatar was driven by the pearl industry. In the late 1930s, around the time hunting for pearls became unprofitable, one of the largest oil and gas reserves was discovered in the country. Qatar has proven oil reserves of 15 billion barrels and gas fields that account for more than 13 percent of the global resource. The export of these products has provided the country with the highest per capita income in the world.
5. The government of Qatar owns the infamous news agency Al Jazeera. Launched in 1999, Al Jazeera has grown into one of the largest news organization in the world. The news agency has frequently been criticized as a propaganda outlet of the Qatari regime. For example, in his 2004 State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush singled out Al Jazeera as a source of “hateful propaganda” in the Arab world, and then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld called its reporting “propaganda,” “inexcusably biased,” and “vicious.” The BBC notes the recent conflict is driven partially by a “desire to rein in, or even to close down, one of the emir of Qatar’s most cherished projects, the global television news channels of Al Jazeera.”
6. Qatar’s constitution stipulates that Islam is the state religion, and recognizes limited religious freedom. The law recognizes only Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, though Hindus, Buddhist, and Baha’is, are generally allowed to worship privately. According to the Congressional Research Service, since 2015, the government has permitted eight registered Christian denominations to worship publicly at the Mesaymir Religious Complex, and it has allowed the Evangelical Churches Alliance Qatar to break ground on the first new church to be built in Qatar in several years.
7. Qatar hosts the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East. Al Udeid Air Base, located 20 miles from the capital city of Doha, is home to several military units, including the U.S Central Command (CENTCOM), U.S. Special Operations Central Command (SOCCENT), and the U.S. Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT). Altogether, Qatar hosts nearly 10,000 U.S. forces at its military facilities.
8. Qatar has long been considered both an official an unofficial sponsor of terrorism. A number of terrorist organizations, including Al-Shabab, Al-Qaeda, Islamic State, Muslim Brotherhood, and the Taliban have received financial and material support from Qatar, and has been a safe haven for senior terrorist leaders. For example, Muslim Brotherhood members fleeing Egypt and Syria have found work as teachers and civil servants in Doha.
9. The Qatari government has also been the chief political and financial patron of Hamas. The former Emir of Qatar pledged $400 million to the terrorist organization in 2012 and $1 billion toward rebuilding the Gaza Strip after the 2014 Israeli-Gaza conflict.
10. Recently, nine countries (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Mauritius, Mauritania, the Maldives, and Yemen) have officially separated ties with Qatar. The tension between Qatar and these states has been building for years, with the recent move credited to the funding and secret arming of jihad extremist groups. Qatar has vowed it will “not surrender” its foreign policy, and is relying on Turkey and Iran to provide food, water, and other supplies during the diplomatic crisis.
Joe Carter is an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College, an editor for several organizations, and the author of the NIV Lifehacks Bible.
Feature Photo Credit: View of Doha, Qatar on a flight to Geneva. By marc.desbordes, via Flickr.