Friday, June 10, 2011

What's Behind Qatar's Aid to Libya?

A billboard in Qatar reads, "We are at your service Libya"

Qatar has played a significant role in Libyan affairs since the uprisings in February. Qatar has donated hundreds of millions of dollars on fuel, food and cash transfers to the rebels. Qatar was the first Arab country to contribute planes to police the U.N.-backed no-fly zone over Libya. Simultaneously, hundreds of millions of dollars began to flow from the Qatari capital Doha to Benghazi from early March. Qatar's foreign ministry has confirmed that it has shipped four tankers full of gasoline, diesel and other refined fuels to Benghazi, which specialists estimate is enough to feed the large Benghazi power plant for one or two weeks. According to a report by Reuters, a representative from the the Qatari Emir's palace declined to comment on the ruling family's motivations behind its Libyan engagement.

Conference in Doha, Qatar regarding Libyan affairs hosted by the Qatari government

The text, in dark red, below is an excerpt from the Reuters article. The article is well researched and gives the reader an insighful look into Libya-Qatar foreign relations.

What's behind Qatar's generosity? It helps that it is so rich. Qatar's copious gas reserves have made it one of the world's wealthiest countries, with a sky-high gross domestic product per person of $88,000 according to the International Monetary Fund. Its $60-billion plus sovereign wealth fund owns stakes in banks Credit Suisse and Barclays, as well as London's iconic department store Harrods.
"Qatar will soon -- literally -- have more money than it knows what to do with," according to a 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable, obtained by WikiLeaks and reviewed by Reuters.
The generosity towards Libya is part investment, part strategic. "They are looking to park investments around the world. They helped the Lebanon peace process, Yemen, they got the World Cup, Doha talks, Al Jazeera -- these are all parts of a very big diplomatic game and a fight for influence," says a London-based British diplomat.
The big prize is energy. Libya produced 1.6 million barrels of oil per day before the war, or almost 2 percent of world output, and has enough reserves to sustain that level of production for 77 years, according to BP. Qatar would like to control a chunk of that oil supply as well as potentially large Libyan gas exports to Europe which otherwise would effectively rival Qatar's own deliveries.
"To some extent they may be acting as a U.S. proxy. Washington wants to achieve things but doesn't want to do it with its own hands," said a London-based risk consultant who has European firms as clients.
Qatar hosts a large U.S. military base; its decision to contribute planes to police the no-fly zone over Libya helped Washington argue that the western-led air strikes had Arab support. Its importance there was underscored by its ruler's visit to Washington in April.

So, it seems that Qatar's motivations behind its aid to Libya are partly to wield more influence in the Middle East as well as furthering US interests covertly. This leads into me asking myself some questions: 
Does it matter why Qatar is helping Libya? 
Is the aid all that matters, or do the motives behind the aid matter just as much?

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