(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)
|Introduction||Ruled by the Al-Thani family since the mid-1800s, Qatar transformed itself from a poor British protectorate noted mainly for pearling into an independent state with significant oil and natural gas revenues. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Qatari economy was crippled by a continuous siphoning off of petroleum revenues by the Amir, who had ruled the country since 1972. His son, the current Amir HAMAD bin Khalifa Al-Thani, overthrew him in a bloodless coup in 1995. In 2001, Qatar resolved its longstanding border disputes with both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. As of 2007, oil and natural gas revenues had enabled Qatar to attain the highest per capita income in the world.|
|History||During the pre-Islamic era, the peninsula was often dominated by various foreign powers, such as Persian dynasties, the last of which (the Sasanians) included the Qatar peninsula, which they called Meshmahig (“Big Island”), in the large region of Bahran/Bahrain with its capital once at Shirin (probably, the modern Qatif). This province included the island of Bahrain and the coastal regions of modern Saudi Arabia.
In the Islamic era, Qatar was one of the earliest locales to convert to Islam. The sect of the Qarmatians]] arrived in the area very early during the Islamic era and spread their influence widely in the Gulf, as they did in the neighboring Hasa region. In medieval times, Qatar was more often than not independent and a participant in the great Persian Gulf-Indian Ocean commerce. Many races and ideas were introduced into the peninsula from Africa, South and Southeast Asia, as well as the Malay archipelago. Today, the traces of these early interactions with the oceanic world of the Indian Ocean survive in the small minorities of races, peoples, languages and religions, such as the presence of Africans and Shihus.
After centuries-long domination by the Ottoman and British empires, Qatar became an independent state on September 3, 1971.
Although the peninsular land mass that makes up Qatar has sustained humans for thousands of years, for the bulk of its history the arid climate fostered only short-term settlements by nomadic tribes. Clans such as the Al Khalifa and the Al Saud (which would later ascend thrones of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia respectively) swept through the Arabian peninsula and camped on the coasts within small fishing and pearling villages.
The British initially sought out Qatar and the Persian Gulf as an intermediary vantage point en route to their colonial interests in India, although the discovery of oil and other hydrocarbons in the early twentieth century would re-invigorate their interest. During the nineteenth century, the time of Britain’s formative ventures into the region, the Al Khalifa clan reigned over the Northern Qatari peninsula from the nearby island of Bahrain to the west.
Although Qatar had the legal status of a dependency, resentment festered against the Bahraini Al Khalifas along the eastern seaboard of the Qatari peninsula. In 1867, the Al Khalifas launched a successful effort to quash the Qatari rebels, sending a massive naval force to Wakrah. However, the Bahraini aggression was in violation on the 1820 Anglo-Bahraini Treaty. The diplomatic response of the British to this violation set into motion the political forces that would eventuate in the founding of the state of Qatar. In addition to censuring Bahrain for its breach of agreement, the British Protectorate (per Colonel Lewis Pelly) asked to negotiate with a representative from Qatar. The request carried with it a tacit recognition of Qatar’s status as distinct from Bahrain. The Qataris chose as their negotiator the respected entrepreneur and long-time resident of Doha, Muhammed bin Thani. His clan, the Al Thanis, had taken relatively little part in Gulf politics, but the diplomatic foray ensured their participation in the movement towards independence and their hegemony as the future ruling family, a dynasty that continues to this day. The results of the negotiations left Qatar with a new-found sense of political selfhood, although it did not gain official standing as a British protectorate until 1916.
The reach of the British Empire diminished after the Second World War, especially following Indian independence in 1947. Pressure for a British withdrawal from the Arab emirates in the Persian Gulf increased during the 1950s, and the British welcomed Kuwait’s declaration of independence in 1961. When Britain officially announced in 1968 that it would disengage politically (though not economically) from the Persian Gulf in three years’ time, Qatar joined Bahrain and seven other Trucial States in a federation. Regional disputes, however, quickly compelled Qatar to resign and declare independence from the coalition that would evolve into the seven-emirate United Arab Emirates. On September 3, 1971, Qatar became an independent sovereign state.
In 1991, Qatar played a significant role in the Gulf War, particularly during the Battle of Khafji in which Qatari tanks rolled through the streets of the town providing fire support for Saudi Arabian National Guard units which were fighting against units of the Iraqi Army. Qatar also allowed Coalition troops from Canada to use the country as an airbase to launch aircraft on CAP duty.
Since 1995, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani has ruled Qatar, seizing control of the country from his father Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani while the latter vacationed in Switzerland. Under Emir Hamad, Qatar has experienced a notable amount of sociopolitical liberalization, including the endorsement of women’s suffrage or right to vote, drafting a new constitution, and the launch of Al Jazeera, a leading English and Arabic news source which operates a website and satellite television news channel.
The International Monetary Fund states that Qatar has the highest GDP per capita in the world, followed by Luxembourg. The World Factbook ranks Qatar at second, following Luxembourg.
Qatar served as the headquarters and one of the main launching sites of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
In March 2005, a suicide-bombing killed a British teacher at the Doha Players Theatre, shocking for a country that had not previously experienced acts of terrorism. The bombing was carried out by Omar Ahmed Abdullah Ali, an Egyptian residing in Qatar, who had suspected ties to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
|Geography||Location: Middle East, peninsula bordering the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia
Geographic coordinates: 25 30 N, 51 15 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 11,437 sq km
land: 11,437 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Connecticut
Land boundaries: total: 60 km
border countries: Saudi Arabia 60 km
Coastline: 563 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: as determined by bilateral agreements or the median line
Climate: arid; mild, pleasant winters; very hot, humid summers
Terrain: mostly flat and barren desert covered with loose sand and gravel
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m
highest point: Qurayn Abu al Bawl 103 m
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, fish
Land use: arable land: 1.64%
permanent crops: 0.27%
other: 98.09% (2005)
Irrigated land: 130 sq km (2002)
Total renewable water resources: 0.1 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.29 cu km/yr (24%/3%/72%)
per capita: 358 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: haze, dust storms, sandstorms common
Environment – current issues: limited natural fresh water resources are increasing dependence on large-scale desalination facilities
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: strategic location in central Persian Gulf near major petroleum deposits