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France`s president Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani

France`s president Nicolas Sarkozy (L) shakes hand with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani (R) in front of British Prime Minister (C) during a summit on the post-Kadhafi era on September 1, 2011 at the Elysee Palace in Paris. France hosts a `Friends of Libya` conference to allow states that stood by during the uprising that ousted Moamer Kadhafi to belatedly back Tripoli`s fledgling revolutionary regime. GETTY IMAGE

If it were about bringing democracy into the Arab region then the West shouldn’t use Gulf Arab states and Islamists for this purpose. But the objectives of the West are becoming clearer everyday. The real targets are attacking: Nationalism; Russia and Iran.

French President Describes Qatari Head of State as  `Ideal Partner`

According to a French businessman who knows the Gulf well and who spoke under cover of anonymity: “Of course, the Qataris would not have dashed into such a project without a green light from the Elysee.” Although the most high profile of Gulf principalities — backed by its huge natural gas revenues — invests wholesale in major European nations, the United States and in Asia (in real estate, banks, industry), the closeness between the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has no equivalent.

Qatar`s Emir Sheik Hamad Al Thani and his wife with Sarkozy and his wife

Qatar`s Emir Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani (R) and his wife Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned (2nd R) walk with France`s President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (2nd L) before a state dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris June 22, 2009. REUTERS

Sheikh Hamad, who was the first Arab head of state to come visit the newly elected president at the Elysee in May 2007, paradoxically found and ideal partner in this assailant of the French “Arab policy” inherited from Gaullism. The Francophilia that has always been attributed to the emir, which he inherited from his father (today, Qatar`s military equipment is still 80% French), a monarch who was deposed without any snags in 1995, partly explains this special relationship. However its main driving force is the complementarity between the ambitious president of a still influential power that has a veto right in the United Nations and the sovereign of a micro state who wishes to play a leading role by relying on almost unlimited financial resources. Sheikh Hamad could not have hoped for similar overtures from the United States, which has the region`s main land base on its territory. Resolve

The two men, brought together by the same activism and the same taste for top-down power that avoids all sorts of intermediaries, teamed up back in 2007, with the release of the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor who had been unfairly imprisoned in Libya, and then again in 2008 with the reconciliation between France and Syria in the wake of the agreement that the Lebanese factions reached in Doha. The Franco-Qatari pair gained fame once again in Libya with the political and military support provided to the rebels against Colonel Mu`ammar al-Qadhafi, even though Qatar`s propensity to massively arm certain Libyan militias ended up arousing the concern and annoyance of French diplomats. However, this is far from a systematic partnership in the Middle East, as shown in the case of the financial aid for the Palestinian Authority, which Mr. Sarkozy took up in 2007 without ever managing to convince Sheikh Hamad.

(Source: BiyoKulule Online from , January 10, 2012, Commentary by Gilles Paris: “A Special Relationship Between Sheikh Hamad and Mr. Sarkozy”)

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, upon his arrival at Riyadh airport to attend a Gulf Cooperation Council

In this handout picture released by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Saudi Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (R) welcomes Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, upon his arrival at Riyadh airport to attend a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in the Saudi capital on December 19, 2011. The monarchs of the six Gulf nations are holding their first annual summit since the Arab Spring overthrew a raft of regional governments, including key allies(AFP)

Arab spring: ‘Western-backed exported Islamist revolution’

The string of uprisings in the Arab world boils down to Saudi Arabia and Qatar using money and influence to hijack public dissent and bring Sunni Islamists to power, says John R. Bradley, British author and expert on the Middle East.

­He argues that the turbulence that saw several governments overthrown in 2011 came from sectarian divide among Muslims, which the West played on, to support its own allies.

“What we’re seeing is a Sunni-Shiite divide reemerge in the Middle East with Washington clearly backing the Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia, a close American ally. And Saudi Arabia in turn along with Qatar has taken control of the revolutions elsewhere.

“For example it’s funding the Ennahda, the main Islamist party in Tunisia. The Muslim Brotherhood and more extremist Salafi groups in Egypt on the record were saying they received substantial funds from Saudi Arabia. The Yemeni government has openly criticized Qatar for interfering in its internal affairs and funding radical Islamists. And of course in Syria the main civilian opposition is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and the so-called Free Syrian Army is dominated by not only radical jihadists from within Syria, but also by jihadists from throughout the region,” the expert told RT.

Bradley has little doubt that citizens of the countries hit by the Arab Spring had reason to criticize their authorities, but contrary to western audiences’ beliefs, the lack of political rights was far from being the most important factor.

“The motivation for these revolutions was economic. In Tunisia for example it started with the impoverished and neglected deep south. In Syria it started in Daraa, a city near Jordan, which has been experiencing drought for three years. And in Egypt an extensive opinion poll carried out among those who went to Tahrir just after Mubarak fell showed that only 19 per cent of them put free and fair election and free expression and so on, on top of their agenda. The main priority for 65 percent was the economy,” he said.

People more concerned with a power grab than improving lives were quick to seize the opportunity, Bradley explains.

“Now the people who provoked these revolutions foolishly declared their revolutions leaderless and they didn’t have an agenda. Anyone who knows anything about revolutionary uprisings in the past… knows that what happens in the post-revolutionary chaos is that the groups that are most disciplined and most ruthless politically then fill the vacuum. When you couple that with the funding that we were talking about from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, able to manipulate the electoral process, they were perfectly poised to step into the gap and fill the vacuum and that’s what they’ve done,” he says.

(Source: Russia Today, 26 January, 2012)

Qatar`s ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani (R) welcomes France`s President

Qatar`s ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani (R) welcomes France`s President Nicolas Sarkozy at Doha airport January 14, 2008. REUTERS

France`s President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) greets Qatar`s Emir

France`s President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) greets Qatar`s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani upon his arrival at the EU-Mediterranean summit in Paris July 13, 2008. REUTERS

Britain and France `using Qatar to arm Libyan rebels`

Anthony Loyd in Benghazi, Hugh Tomlinson in Doha wrote in The Times the British daily newspaper on September 13, 2011:

Gazing down from a huge billboard outside the Libyan rebel headquarters in Benghazi, the image of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, surveys the square.

Below him are the words: “Qatar, history will always remember your support for our cause.” The emirate was pivotal in securing Arab support for the Nato campaign to oust Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and its importance is growing as the war drags on.

The Times has learnt that Britain and France are using Qatar to bankroll the Libyan rebels, with Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron under increasing pressure to break the deadlock and bring down the regime. NATO airstrikes have so far failed to dislodge the Libyan leader while the rebels lack the firepower and military discipline to take advantage on the ground.

Mindful of the rising cost of the campaign but fearful of breaching their UN mandate by arming the rebels, Britain and France are relying on Doha in a bid to tip the balance, according to a senior western diplomat.

“We need to reinforce military pressure. It has to bite on the ground. The Qataris are doing what needs to be done,” he said.

According to the diplomat, Mr Cameron and President Sarkozy discussed how to help the rebels on the ground last Friday. A security source in the Gulf also told The Times that British and French officials discussed selling arms to Qatar with a view to Doha passing them on to Benghazi.

“The issue was not whether to do it but how much [to send],” he said. “The Qataris are buying a lot of hardware from France and supplying the Libyans on the ground through Doha. France has denied it is engaged in such actions but we have good information that it is happening.”

Colonel Salah Badi, the commander of rebel forces in Misrata, said that British officials rejected their request for arms. He complained that the officials had acknowledged that rebel leaders were correct in claiming that Colonel Gaddafi was breaking the arms embargo with weapons supplied secretly across the Algerian border.

In a statement yesterday, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry said: “None of all that is true. We are acting strictly within the framework of United Nations resolutions 1970 and 1973 and we are not supplying weapons to the Libyan insurgents.”

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “We are committed to fully implementing both UNSCR 1970 and 1973. We are not supplying arms to the National Transitional Council and we have no plans to do so.”

Qatar has so far declined to comment on what products it has delivered to Libya, but western and rebel sources say it is supplying the rebels with money, fuel and now arms. These are believed to include French-made anti-tank missiles.

Though its support is less publicised than that of Benghazi`s western allies, Qatar`s investment in the three-month-old revolution has been huge, and indicative of the major role that the affluent Gulf monarchy is taking in the region`s political affairs.

“Qatar is our biggest Arab donor,” said Othman Mohammed Rishi, of the revolution`s Ministry of Finance and Oil. “They have given us fuel, credited us millions of dollars, and paid the bills for imports we could not afford. We are very grateful to them.”

Though it was primarily Nato powers who saved the revolution from extinction at the hands of Colonel Gaddafi`s forces, the Qataris have stepped in to help eastern Libya stave off an economic collapse caused by the stalling of the country`s oil production.

“We have fuel requirements worth $270,000,000 (£169m) a month in the liberated areas,” Mr Rishi claimed. “$120,000,000 of that is required for diesel just to run our power plants.”

Rocket attacks by Gaddafi`s troops in March damaged electrical engines and pumps at the rebels` key oilfields at Misla and Sarir, halting eastern Libya`s oil production and threatening to shut down Benghazi`s massive power plant.

Frozen financial assets have also caused a shortage of liquid cash in the rebel economy. Initially, rebel officials say they made a deal with the trading house Vitol to receive fuel in three stages of shipments — enough for their short-term power needs — in return for a guarantee of future trade in raw oil once the Misla and Serer fields are functioning.

The first Vitol shipment of diesel, benzine and gas was delivered to Benghazi on credit. But Libyan oil officials say that they could not afford to pay off the bill before the second shipment was delivered. So Qatar stepped in with another loan in May.

“Qatar paid off $90,000,000 for that first installment,” Mr Rishi added. “They also gave us one tanker for free with 11,000 metric tons of diesel and 21,000 metric tons of gasoline.”

When the Libyan Contact Group, the anti-Gaddafi coalition that includes Britain, France and America, agreed in May to set up a fund to help the rebel economy, Qatar immediately pledged the largest sum — between $400-500 million.

Officials in Misrata said that Qatar had taken the leading role in supporting the besieged city`s fuel needs as well as providing medical supplies, milk and some food supplies. Qatar also supplied a shipment of gas, the first to reach the city since the start of the siege, and has promised a further shipment of fuel.

A British security source in Libya said that Qatar was also fronting a programme to provide trainers — hired through British security companies — to rebel forces. The trainers include specialists in close air support.

(Source: The Times © 2011 Times Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved)

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