Former Qatari prime minister resigned after clashing with emir

Sheikh Tamim’s plan to increase Turkish military bases in Doha was a major factor in the fallout.
Sunday 02/02/2020
The cost of infighting. Former Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani attends the 40th Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh, last December. (AFP)
The cost of infighting. Former Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani attends the 40th Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh, last December. (AFP)

LONDON - Reports indicate that the recent cabinet reshuffle in Qatar was the result of severe behind-the-scenes infighting within the royal family.

The Qatari government, on January 28, announced the names of ministers in its new cabinet after the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani and the appointment of his successor.

Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani named Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani as prime minister. Like his predecessor, Sheikh Khalid will also hold the post of interior minister.

Media reports said Sheikh Khalid, 51, was the head of the emir’s court before his promotion.

“As the chief of the Diwan (Emir’s Court) and the director of Tamim’s office as crown prince, Khalid bin Khalifa is definitionally one of Tamim’s key confidants,” David B. Roberts, an assistant professor at King’s College London who studies the Gulf told Bloomberg News.

Sheikh Khalid’s appointment defied expectations that Sheikh Abdullah would be replaced with Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, Roberts said.

Despite the appearance of a smooth transition, a report by Qatar Leaks, an activist-run news site that focuses on the inner workings of the Qatari government, said sources claimed that Sheikh Abdullah was dismissed because of disagreements with Sheikh Tamim related to Qatari foreign policy, particularly regarding relations with Iran.

“Differences erupted between Tamim and Nasser in the Emir’s Palace, over Qatar giving $3 billion to Iran in a form of compensation over the killing of [Iranian Major-General] Qassem Soleimani,” the sources told Qatar Leaks, adding that Sheikh Tamim’s plan to increase Turkish military bases in Doha was another major factor in the fallout.

Sheikh Abdullah’s resignation was also said to be related to a reconciliation drive he spearheaded to resolve the crisis between Qatar and its Gulf Arab neighbours, Qatar Leaks said.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut off diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar, over accusations it was funding radical Islamist groups and fostering close ties with Iran at the expense of the countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council.

This was followed up with the four countries issuing demands for Qatar to comply with before normalisation of relations. The demands included shutting down Al Jazeera TV and scaling back relations with Tehran.

Doha, however, have seemed to move closer to Iran and expanded ties with the Muslim Brotherhood-friendly government in Ankara, which the Qatari Foreign Ministry said would continue and was non-negotiable.

There were hopes that the annual Gulf summit in December that Sheikh Abdullah could secure a breakthrough but the stalemate persisted.

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