The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani has announced he is stepping down and handing power to his son.
In a speech broadcast on Qatari national television that stunned the small Gulf nation, the emir explained that it was time for a new generation to take over, and that he had long planned to abdicate in favor of his Crown Prince.
Sheikh Tamim is 33 years old, and already is involved in running the country under his father’s guidance. Qatar is home to only two million people, but nevertheless is a powerful country in that it is the world’s largest exporter of liquified natural gas.
The country, a global investment powerhouse, has also been a major financial supporter of the region-wide Arab Spring uprisings that have toppled at least four Arab governments over the past two years.
“God knows that I didn’t want power in itself, and I didn’t seek it for personal reason,” al-Thani said. The emir, currently 61, had overthrown his own father in a bloodless coup in 1995.
No reference was made in his speech to the Qatari prime minister and foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who has also been expected to abdicate.
Jassim al-Thani was quoted by The Algemeiner in a report last year in describing the benefits of a relationship with Israel. “Without any contact, there will be no understanding or affinity,” The foreign minister was quoted as saying. “A lot of other Arab states must learn from Qatar on how to put the interests of the country and the state first.”
He reportedly added that “they all should stop funding terrorism and focus on building their own countries, and stop teaching kids at school the culture of hate.” Decisions should be “according to wise thinking, not to emotional thinking.”
Qatar is also known as a major global investment powerhouse the largest global exporter of liquified natural gas.
Home to the Al Jazeera news network, Qatar was one of the first Gulf states to establish relations with Israel, but the relationship soured a few years later, when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead to silence the constant Gaza-based rocket fire terrorizing residents of southern Israel. The country has also allowed Hamas terrorists to established headquarters there in Doha and is also home to a U.S. military command center, with the longest runway in the Persian Gulf.