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Countries

Qatar

Qatar
Qatar
Qatar
(KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images)
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Overview

Qatar occupies the Qatar Peninsula, a thumb of land jutting into the middle of the Persian Gulf. It has one land border with Saudi Arabia, but shares waters with Bahrain, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. It has no surface rivers or lakes, and its water supply is buried beneath the sandy desert that is practically the country’s only topographical feature. It lacks forests and, prior to the modern era, could not develop an indigenous agricultural sector. This makes the country uniquely dependent on the outside world for survival. Qatar possesses proven 885.3 trillion feet of natural gas reserves just beneath the waves of the Gulf in a field it shares with Iran, and it makes Qatar the third-largest holder of light natural gas in the world and the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Since it began exporting LNG, Qatar has become the richest country on Earth per capita. The exports pass through the strategic Strait of Hormuz or are sent through an undersea pipeline to the United Arab Emirates. After Qatar ceased being a British protectorate in 1971, its royal family declined an offer to join the federation of the United Arab Emirates and chose to chart an independent course. Qatar joined the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional bloc, in 1981, and although it was officially neutral in the Iran-Iraq War, Qatar joined the coalition to evict Iraq from Kuwait in 1991. In 1996, Qatar began hosting U.S. troops at its Al Udeid air base and opened the offices of the state-sponsored Al Jazeera media outlet. In 2010, it was awarded the rights to the 2022 World Cup. Its geopolitical position makes Qatar uniquely reliant on open trade for prosperity and outside powers for security. It must have reliable trade routes to export its LNG, and it requires outside sponsors to prevent Saudi Arabia or Iran from gaining too much influence over it. For now, it relies on the United States to provide both. That alliance allows Qatar to maintain a precarious balance against geographically advantaged neighbors.

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