Today, the petite petroleum kingdom is determined to buy its way to regional hegemony, and like other actors in the Middle East, it has used proxies to leverage influence and destabilize rivals. Qatar’s proxies of choice have been radical regimes and extremist groups.
In pursuit of this strategy, the gulf state is willing to dally with any partner, no matter how abhorrent. Qatar has provided financial aid and light weapons to Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria, and a base for leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban.
The emirate has also used the Arabic service of Al Jazeera news network to spread radical messages that have inflamed sectarian divides. In the early days of the Arab Spring, Al Jazeera’s coverage of popular uprisings earned the network millions of new followers and solidified its status as a mainstream global news network. Qatar capitalized on this popularity by advancing its own agenda — namely, using the Arabic network to promote the views of extremists who were undermining the region’s more pragmatic elements. In particular, Qatar’s open support for the Muslim Brotherhood angered its gulf state neighbors. In March, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Doha in protest.
This hasn’t stopped the Persian Gulf monarchy from serving as a Club Med for terrorists.