A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, June 24, 2013

Will Sheikh Tamim Differ from His Father?

After a couple of weeks of rumors, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar has met with members of the Royal Family and confirmed rumors that he will hand over power to his 33-year-old son and Heir Apparent, Sheikh Tamim.

The transfer of power in Qatar today is likely to draw a great deal more attention than when Sheikh Hamad took power in 1995, despite the fact that Hamad overthrew his father at that time. Qatar's international clout has vastly increased under Hamad's policy of making Qatar a regional power; its role in Lebanon, in Sudan, and more recently in the Syrian conflict and supporting the Morsi government in Egypt (not to mention the role of Al Jazeera), mean that any change at the helm will be closely watched.

Sheikh Tamim has been Heir Apparent since 2003 He is Sheikh Hamad's fourth son; the others were passed over for succession. He is the second son by Sheikh Hamad's second and best-known wife, Sheikha Moza. Before Hamad took power in 1995 the Al Thani family had a long history of internal feuding and maneuvering; at least visibly, Hamad seems to have kept that under control, and his meeting with the Royal Family this morning was presumably intended to smooth the way for Tamim.

Many reports suggest that Tamim is even more conservative and potentially supportive of Islamist groups than his father.

Another question will be the role of the powerful Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, a royal cousin who is also Foreign Minister and CEO of the Qatar Investment Authority, the country's sovereign wealth fund (the British press has called him "the man who bought London").

The internal dynamic of Gulf royal families is often discussed but generally is opaque to those outside the ruling families. Expect a lot of speculation, but wait and see what happens. Sheikh Hamad (the ruler, not the PM) addresses the country tomorrow.

1 comment:

David Mack said...

Politics in the Arabian Peninsula is intensely personal. By and large, Shaikh Hamad's fellow rulers disapproved of his removal of his father. Shaikh Khalifa was a dour fellow but neither venal, stupid nor too old or feeble to carry out his duties. Hamad's coup seemed disrespectful, at the very least, and reminded the other GCC hereditary rulers that they depended on the vagaries of family politics to stay in power. Hamad is smarter than average, and I would guess he wanted to avoid a situation where declining health or unanticipated failure of some policy made him vulnerable to just such a family coup. He has now secured an honorable place in the history of Qatar, and it could set a good example. Latter is probably not likely, as the normal human instinct of leaders, both democratic and otherwise, is to outstay their welcome.