Foreign policy and defense
Qatar is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city Doha. It is important for Qatar to maintain stability around the Persian Gulf. The country seeks to increase its influence internationally and at the same time calls for good relations with as many states as possible; among other things, Qatar maintains close political and military contacts with the West, especially the United States. The regime is considered more liberal and Western-friendly in foreign affairs than many of the more conservative countries in the region.
Qatar joined the GCC in 1981, but the relationship with other members has sometimes been frosty. After a period of heightened tensions with mainly Saudi Arabia and its close allies, relations in June 2017 became directly hostile. Several countries in the region broke diplomatic relations and, among other things, banned Qatari flights from using surrounding airspace (see Calendar).
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Qatar for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
In addition to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, Yemen, the Maldives, Mauritania and – to some extent – Lebanon, Senegal and Chad joined the boycott.
In the past, contradictions with the neighboring countries have been due to border problems or that countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have seen with unblinking eyes on Qatar’s will to reform. The al-Jazira TV channel, which is based in Qatar, has caused irritation as it was considered the regime’s foreign language channel, rather than an independent broadcaster. The channel’s news offering includes inconvenient events for power holders in neighboring countries, such as extensive surveillance of the assassination of Saudi regime critic Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul 2018. Among the demands that Qatar’s neighboring countries made in connection with the crisis that broke out in 2017 were -Jazira would be closed.
After the Arab Spring of 2011, relations with the other countries in the region deteriorated due to Qatar’s support for and al-Jazira’s reporting on the Muslim Brotherhood, which several countries considered to be a threat to their security. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain called home their ambassadors in 2014 after accusations that Qatar had joined the countries’ domestic politics, but the dispute was resolved after Qatar agreed to cushion the Brotherhood’s operations in the country. However, dissatisfaction persisted and was one of the reasons behind the new break in 2017.
Qatar, on the other hand, has very friendly relations. Turkey has promised military and other support since the conflict with neighboring countries arose.
Qatar’s close relations with Shia Muslim Iran disturb the Sunni Muslim royal houses in neighboring countries. Several of the countries, mainly Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, have partially Shiite people who feel discriminated against and the authorities hold a high suspicion of Iran’s actions in the region.
Following the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, Qatar gave up its territory to the Americans in the ensuing war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Qatar, on the other hand, opposed US plans for a unilateral attack on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, but when the Iraq war began in 2003, US, British and Australian aircraft were stationed in Qatar, as well as the US Combat Command Center. After the war, the US forces and the US regional headquarters were moved from Saudi Arabia to Qatar. The air base in al-Udayd is now the United States largest military facility in the region with an American staff of about 9,000 people and about 90 fighter aircraft. At the end of 2014, the US lease of the base was extended by ten years. Today, Qatar belongs to a small crowd close to US allies outside NATO cooperation.
Both Qatar and the United States have chosen not to speak so highly of their close cooperation, as there is criticism within Qatar against it. It is also known that groups in Qatar have contributed to funding more extreme Islamist groups, and that some of the cash flows to the Islamic State (IS) have been able to pass through the country. Yet, like other countries in the region, Qatar has supported the US fight against IS. Among other things, Qatar has participated in air strikes against IS positions in Syria. It has also been promised to stop recruits from going to IS and to stop making money contributions to the jihadist group. However, support for extreme groups was a major reason stated by Saudi Arabia and its allies to break relations in 2017.
Qatar signed a bilateral trade agreement with Israel in 1996. However, after the Israeli offensive in Gaza in 2008-2009, Qatar broke off trade contacts. At the same time, Qatar has always maintained good relations with Israel’s worst enemies: Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah. In 2018, a collaboration that attracted attention was reported when Qatar, with the Israeli government’s consent, was allowed to finance fuel for Gaza’s power plant and salaries to public servants in the Hamas-controlled area. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suffered a minor government crisis, but earlier in the year had declared openly that he saw better relations with Arab countries as a target, and as a possible path to a settlement with the Palestinians.
The good relations with Iran mean, among other things, that Qatar has declared that the country would never agree to allow US flights to use its base in Qatar for a possible attack on Iran.
Qatar has mediated between warring factions from Afghanistan and hosted talks between the Taliban movement and the United States, which sought ways to end their efforts in Afghanistan after a war started in 2003 (in pursuit of the al-Qaeda terror network) that lasted longer than Washington imagined. On March 1, 2020, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement in Qatar with the intention of withdrawing from Afghanistan for the US soldiers.
Doha has also tried to mediate in other disputes in the region: in 2008, the government hosted a successful mediation between disputed Lebanese politicians. In 2007 and 2008, Qatar brokered peace between government and rebels in Yemen, but failed to stop the fighting. In 2014, an attempt was made to mediate in a war between Israel and radical Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip and hosted meetings between Palestinian factions. Qatar also claimed the same year to have helped to release the release of 45 Fiji UN soldiers captured by Syrian rebels at the Golan Heights.
In addition, through “soft diplomacy”, Qatar has tried to put the country on the map, among other things by ensuring that a number of major international sporting events have been placed in Qatar, such as the short course World Cup in swimming 2014, the World Cup in handball 2015, the World Cup in athletics 2019 and football World Cup 2022. Not least the latter has been criticized for the poor working conditions for the many guest workers who build the arenas (see also Labor Market). Information that wealthy Qatar has defected to the host, since the hot and humid summer climate really makes the country unsuitable for many types of competition, is being investigated in, among others, France.
Relations with Russia deteriorated after the Chechen president Zelimtjan Jandarbijev was killed in 2004 by a car bomb in Qatar, which said this was done with the approval of the Russian leadership, which Moscow denied. However, in 2008, Qatar and Russia together with Iran – the world’s three largest gas exporting countries – formed the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) whose secretariat was placed in Doha.
General military duty was introduced in 2014 for men between the ages of 18 and 35. Anyone who has completed an academic degree is required to serve three months, the rest for four months. The military duty for men was extended in 2018 to a year at the same time as voluntary community service was introduced for Qatari women.
In 2019, Qatar received the first of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft ordered from French manufacturer Dassault. Previously, Qatar’s air force had, among other things, Mirage Plan. France’s interest in selling weapons to Qatar has been cited as the backdrop for Qatar’s applications for hosting major sports competitions to receive French support.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 8,500 men (2017)
The air Force: 1,500 men (2017)
The fleet: 1 800 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 1.5 percent (2010)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 4.9 percent (2010)