QatarJuly 21 2022, 14:10 pm

New Book Details How Qatar Uses Islamists and Media Outlets To Wield ‘Rented Power’

Rout­ledge has recent­ly pub­lished a book by Oxford aca­d­e­m­ic Dr. Diana Galee­va on Qatar’s prac­tice of ‘rent­ed pow­er’ which details how the gas-rich ren­tier state wields pow­er through engag­ing with non-state actors such as polit­i­cal Islamists and media out­lets. The book argues that Qatar’s engage­ment with such actors allows it to ‘rent’ the well-estab­lished influ­ence of non-state actors due to their transna­tion­al nature. Accord­ing to the book description:

May 2022 This book explains the para­me­ters of Qatar’s polit­i­cal growth by devel­op­ing an alter­na­tive the­o­ry of pow­er – ‘rent­ed’ pow­er.  The author demon­strates how Qatar’s emer­gence as a region­al pow­er can be sole­ly explained by its capac­i­ty as a gas-rich ren­tier state. By using Qatar as an empir­i­cal case study of the ‘rent­ed’ pow­er the­o­ry, read­ers will gain insight into Qatar’s engage­ment with non-state actors (polit­i­cal Islam, tribes, media, sports, and oth­ers) to wield its pow­er, allow­ing Qatar to ‘rent’ the well-estab­lished influ­ence of non-state actors due to their transna­tion­al nature. The Qatari case demon­strates a state’s abil­i­ty to estab­lish a patron-client rela­tion­ship with non-state actors, over­com­ing lim­i­ta­tions set by size or mil­i­tary strength to gain inter­na­tion­al influence.

Read the rest and buy the book here.

The book defines ‘rent­ed pow­er’ as “the pow­er employed by a well-endowed state to back a non-state actor in return for access to the latter’s transna­tion­al influ­ence.” Galee­va ded­i­cates a chap­ter to Qatar’s engage­ment with Islamist actors, includ­ing the Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and its spir­i­tu­al leader Youssef Qaradawi, which she says has “offered notable prag­mat­ic polit­i­cal oppor­tu­ni­ties since 1995”. Accord­ing to the chapter’s introduction:

This chap­ter demon­strates Qatar’s wield­ing of rent­ed pow­er by exam­in­ing its engage­ments with polit­i­cal Islam non-state actors. Although Qatar sub­scribes offi­cial­ly to Wah­habism and fol­lows the Han­bali School of Islam­ic Law, it has engaged for prag­mat­ic rea­sons with a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ide­o­log­i­cal groups, includ­ing both Sun­ni and Shi’a move­ments. These include the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, the Libyan Islam­ic Fight­ing Group, al- Nah­da, Hamas, the Lebanese Hizbul­lah, Tal­iban, the Houthis and Chechen sep­a­ratists. This chap­ter focus­es ini­tial­ly on the scope of rent­ed pow­er, demon­strat­ing how a state dealt with non-state actors. Qatar has devel­oped close per­son­al con­nec­tions with mem­bers of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, al-Nah­da, the Libyan Islam­ic Fight­ing Group and Chechen sep­a­ratists; as well as indi­rect­ly being involved in medi­a­tion efforts, exam­ples of such engage­ments are demon­strat­ed in the case stud­ies of Hamas, the Houthis, Hizbul­lah and Tal­iban. Sec­ond­ly, the chap­ter illus­trates the domain of Qatar’s rent­ed pow­er, the geo­graph­i­cal extent of Qatar’s influ­ence over transna­tion­al Islamist move­ments. Then it dis­cuss­es the weight of rent­ed pow­er, the influ­ence that Qatar rent­ed due to such engage­ments. Final­ly, the chap­ter looks at the cost that Qatar paid because of its engage­ments with polit­i­cal Islam non-state actors.

Anoth­er chap­ter illus­trates how Qatar overt­ly and covert­ly backs var­i­ous non-state media actors who share the state’s agen­da and have clear con­nec­tions with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Qatar’s lead­er­ship, includ­ing Al Jazeera and the Mid­dle East Eye. Accord­ing to the chapter’s introduction:

This chap­ter exam­ines Qatar’s wield­ing of rent­ed pow­er by back­ing media non- state actors. Qatar, direct­ly and indi­rect­ly (scope), has backed media non- state actors, includ­ing al- Jazeera, Mid­dle East Eye (MEE), al-Ara­by TV, Arabi21, Libya al-Ahrar TV, The New Arab (al-Ara­by al- Jadeed) and Ara­bi Post (for­mer­ly known as Huff­Post Ara­bi). Engag­ing with these media non- state actors will be pre­sent­ed in the scope (of rent­ed pow­er) by detailed analy­ses of both meth­ods. First­ly, the chap­ter focus­es on al-Jazeera, demon­strat­ing the domain and weight gained as a result of this engage­ment. The glob­al reach of the domain will be exam­ined and Qatar’s rent­ed nar­ra­tives for com­pet­ing with polit­i­cal oppo­nents, rent­ing the pop­u­lar­i­ty of Islamist nar­ra­tives and espe­cial­ly ben­e­fit­ing from these dur­ing the Arab Spring, and rent­ing the recog­nis­able voice of al-Jazeera to gain self-recog­ni­tion world­wide. How­ev­er, fund­ing al- Jazeera also came at a cost for Qatar, which was accused of fund­ing the ‘mouth­piece of Al Qae­da’ (Zayani, 2005:23), and which led to a dete­ri­o­ra­tion in rela­tions with some Mid­dle East states, par­tic­u­lar­ly Qatar’s neigh­bours. Sec­ond­ly, the chap­ter exam­ines Qatar’s links with oth­er less well- known media non-state actors that emerged pri­mar­i­ly after the Arab Spring, and their con­tri­bu­tion to Qatar’s rise. This is dis­cussed in the scope of the back­ing of oth­er media non-state actors. Using the tra­di­tion­al mea­sure­ment, rent­ed pow­er will be exam­ined by demon­strat­ing the domain and weight that Qatar achieved (and the cost to Qatar) using this method.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) appears to be the only pub­li­ca­tion world­wide that reg­u­lar­ly reports on Qatar’s influ­ence oper­a­tions, includ­ing how it uses Al Jazeera to advance its goals, how it sup­ports Mus­lim Broth­er­hood net­works in Europe, and how it spends mil­lions on lob­by­ing efforts in the US.


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