At this month’s donor conference in Egypt, which sought money for the reconstruction of Gaza, the tiny Gulf state of Qatar put up $1billion without so much as a flinch.
That’s more money than the United States ($212million), European Union ($568million) and Turkey ($200million) coughed up combined. The emirate’s vast wealth and interventionist tendencies are increasingly seen as a problem for Israel, especially when Qatar props up Hamas, as it did during last summer’s conflict.
But the same characteristics make it a huge help to the West, too, especially when the ruling al-Thani family offers full support in the war against fundamentalist Islam. As this week’s special report shows, concerns abound about the state’s funding habits, and its end recipients.
Splashing that much cash in a region with so many holes is bound to lead to the lining of bad guys’ pockets before long. Perhaps, some suggest, that has been the Qatari aim all along. Allegations are strenuously denied in the capital, Doha. But Saudi Arabia, the regional powerhouse, needs some convincing.
Earlier this month, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani flew out to Jeddah to tell King Abdullah that he had done all he could to resolve a dispute over links with Islamist groups.
It comes after Saudi Arabia, together with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, recalled their ambassadors to Qatar in March, accusing Doha of meddling in their internal affairs. It just goes to show: you can have all the money in the world, but it won’t buy you friends.