Qatar is an oil-rich nation occupying a small peninsula in the Persian Gulf and boasts the highest per capita income of any country in the Middle East. Once a protectorate of Great Britain, Qatar’s first ruler was Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, who laid the groundwork for his powerful family to rule for decades following World War I. The Qatar Petroleum Company was given a 75-year oil concession in 1935, however, World War II delayed the exploitation of this resource until 1949. Qatar’s economy thrived during the 1950s and 1960s, and this led to increased immigration and social progress. When Britain ended its treaty relationships with the gulf sheikdoms, they tried but ultimately failed to form a union of Arab emirates. Instead, Qatar declared its independence in 1972. Since then, Qatar has been ruled by a series of Amirs, most recently Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, who has announced his intention to move his nation toward democracy. This has occurred in small steps thus far, with the Qataris approving a new constitution that went into effect in June 2005.
Lay of the Land: In southwest Asia, Qatar is a small peninsula (100 miles long and 35-50 miles wide), which juts northward into the Persian Gulf from the Saudi coast west of Abu Dhabi.
Humans have inhabited the Qatar Peninsula for 50,000 years, dating back to the Stone Age. Nomadic tribes wandered the peninsula for millennia, from Najd and Al Hasa regions in Saudi Arabia, with seasonal encampments around sources of water. Some were fishermen, or traded in precious pearls. Over time, they added to the population by importing slaves from East Africa.
Diplomatic relations between Qatar and the United States began in 1971, and the US embassy opened in March 1973. The first ambassador arrived in July 1974, and since that time, the two nations have enjoyed warm bilateral relations and cooperation on a number of trading and other measures.
In April 2003, the Bush Administration announced that the US Combat Air Operations Center for the Middle East would be moved from Prince Sultan Airbase in Saudi Arabia to Qatar’s
Trade between the United States and Qatar is quite lopsided. The US exported $2.7 billion in 2008 to Qatar, while importing only $484 million.
Qatar Currency Issue Raises Questions, Inflation
The State Department reports that while there were allegations of police abuse against incarcerated suspects during interrogations to elicit confessions, no cases were investigated during 2007. Documentation of abuses was very limited, due partly to hesitancy by alleged victims to make public claims of torture or abuse.
The new ambassador to the United States from the Persian Gulf oil emirate of Qatar is a former career military officer turned diplomat since 2001. Born in 1956, Mohammed Bin Abdullah Bin Mutib Al Rumaihi graduated from the St. Cyr Military Academy in Coëtquidan, France, in 1980, and completed various officer training courses, mainly for artillery officers, in France and Pakistan, between 1981 and 1988.
Al Rumaihi was an officer in the Qatar military from 1980, when he was commissioned as a lieutenant, until 2001, when he retired as a major general, closing out his career as director of the joint Qatari-French Sagr al-Khaleej military exercise in 2001. Along the way, he served as an artillery brigade commander starting in 1982, an artillery battalion commander beginning in 1986, and a corps artillery commander starting in 1992.
Al Rumaihi transitioned from war to diplomacy by becoming an ambassador at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2001. The following year, he was named ambassador to France, resident in Paris with concurrent representation to Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the European Union. Since 2003, Al Rumaihi has been assistant foreign minister for Follow Up Affairs. As head of the Permanent Committee for Organizing Conferences, he is responsible for organizing and attending international conferences on behalf of Qatar.
Al Rumaihi is married, and has four sons and three daughters. He is fluent in Arabic, French and English.
Susan L. Ziadeh was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Qatar on September 12, 2011, for what is her eighth tour of duty in the Middle East.
Joseph Evan LeBaron has served as the United States Ambassador to Qatar since July 18, 2008. LeBaron studied Arabic and Middle Eastern Affairs at the American University of Beirut and was a Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Khartoum. He is a graduate of Portland State University in Oregon and an alumnus of MIT’s Seminar XXI on International Relations. He also earned his PhD in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University in 1980, and joined the US Foreign Service shortly thereafter. He is a career member of the United States diplomatic corps.