Qatar's emir bows out, selects son as successor
The emir of Qatar handed power to his son on Tuesday at a time when the country has parlayed its media empire and natural gas riches into regional influence that includes arming Syrian rebels and building a Museum of Islamic Art.
In a televised speech, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani selected his fourth son, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, 33, to succeed him. A Cabinet shuffle is expected in the transition, but it was not clear whether there would be a significant shift in foreign policy under the new leader, who is known more for his expertise on domestic matters.
“The time has come to open a new page in the journey of our nation that would have a new generation carry the responsibilities with their innovative ideas,” said the 61-year-old emir, a close U.S. ally.
“I will transfer power to Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and I am fully certain that he is up to the responsibility, deserving the confidence, capable of shouldering the responsibility and fulfilling the mission.”
The outgoing emir did not indicate why he was stepping aside — a rare move in the Arab world — except to say that it was time for younger leadership.
There have been suggestions that his son, deputy commander of the armed forces, may relax civil rights restrictions to avoid the kind of dissent that propelled the Arab Spring.
Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, who serves as foreign minister and has been the architect of Qatar's international forays, may be replaced under the new leader, to whom he is distantly related. In the short term, the new emir is expected to continue a robust checkbook diplomacy that helped bring down Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and pledged billions of dollars to the Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Egypt.
The departing emir, who seized power from his father in a 1995 coup, has irritated world leaders, notably former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who viewed Qatar as a brash upstart out to remake the established Arab order.