As Arab world remakes itself, Qatar wields 'strange power'

November 14, 2011

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(AP/Amel Emric)
Qatar's Emir, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, rules the richest country in the world, as measured by GDP per capita.

It may come as a surprise that a Gulf nation the size of Connecticut would play an outsize role in the downfall of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi. But then, Qatar is full of surprises.

The oil-rich state helped lead the NATO mission in Libya, as well as train and arm the rebels. But although Qatar’s Emir provided material support for Libya’s uprising, his country's domestic politics are hardly conducive to democratic revolution. In Qatar, the same family has ruled since the 19th century, political parties are outlawed, and civil society is anemic.

Hugh Eakin is a senior editor with the New York Review of Books. He discusses his recent article, “The Strange Power of Qatar,” which explores the emirate’s curious foreign policy ambitions in a rapidly changing Arab world.