Why Qatari Planes Roar in Libyan Skies

First Qatar called for a no-fly zone in Libya, sending planes towards the effort. Then they agreed to help the rebels sell oil from their territory, and recognized the National Transitional Council in Benghazi as the government of Libya. Finally, they helped facilitate international financial transactions for the fledgling rebel government, providing support for a television station to counter Qaddafi’s propaganda. But, why has Qatar gone so far to help the rebels in Libya? 

Qatar seeks to benefit from the goodwill of other countries that wish to see Qaddafi fall, to prove they can be leaders in the region.

Countries such as France, the UK, the U.S., and Saudi Arabia, as well as the rebels in Libya if they come out on top, will all owe a favor to Qatar in the future. President Barack Obama said of the emir, “We would not have been able to shape the kind of broad-based international coalition…without the emir’s leadership.”

Qatar has become the public face for intervention, further seen in its decision to host the International Intervention Group on Libya in Doha in April. Qatar’s allied role gives a sense of political cover to Western countries against those that accuse the intervention as being western imperialism.

Additionally, Qatar has been in the lead in Libya because officials feel that other Arab countries are not stepping up.

As Qatari Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mubarak al-Khayanin said, “Certain countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt haven’t taken leadership for the last three years. So we wanted to step up and express ourselves, and see if others will follow.”

By gaining the support of both the GCC and the Arab League, Qatar is showing that it is ready to be a regional leader.

Qatar’s support has been very extensive because it both wanted to ensure the rebels would succeed, and also to guarantee that a post-Qaddafi Libya, a major oil exporter, would have close relations with Qatar. Increased bilateral trade and having a new government in Africa bound to Qatar is also something the rulers have surely not overlooked.

With the rebel fighters and Qaddafi’s forces now at a stalemate, the future in Libya is uncertain. However, Qatar’s support of the rebels will undoubtedly continue. As the costs of the conflict continue to grow, the rewards that Qatar will reap for standing by the rebels and Western countries, will only grow. Add to the mix the successful attempt to obtain GCC and Arab League support for the no-fly zone, and it is clear that Qatar will see the benefits from their foray in Libya.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Jonathan Bertman

Jonathan Bertman holds a MA in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Edinburgh. He is interested in politics and economics in the Middle East and North Africa.

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