Qatar is an LNG juggernaut, sending liquified natural gas all over the world, but as Nick Butler reports for the FT, the country is using wealth generated from its premier position in this rapidly growing industry to fund terrorist organizations in the Middle East:
Qatar, or to be precise, part of the Royal Family under the new ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Khalifa al-Thani, has become ever more involved in the religious politics of the region. Qatar has become the main financial supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood – including Mohamed Morsi, the former Egyptian president. The country also funds Hamas, whose leader lives in comfort in a 5 star hotel in Doha. Qatar may be the home to two US military bases at Al Udeid and As Sayliyah but it is also partly responsible for the survival and success of some aggressive terrorist groups. The transformation of the Arab Spring into the current open conflict across the region could not have happened without Qatari funding. This is a dangerous game to be playing. As The Economist put it a few weeks ago, Qatar is too rich for its own good. The resource curse takes many forms.
But Qatar isn’t just flirting with undermining the stability of the Middle East, it’s also a potential threat to the stability of global energy markets:
The emirate of Qatar is governed by an absolute monarchy which according to the Basic Law is above the law. No opposition parties are tolerated. The al-Thani family also obviously regard themselves as being equally exempt from the norms of international behaviour. The family is weak and divided – the product of a dangerous combination of immense wealth, absolute power and foreign sycophancy. […] None of this feels very stable and the situation poses risks for the energy market. Many different countries from China to members of the European Union are becoming more dependent on Qatari supplies. Helped by low unit costs which provide an immediate competitive advantage against other suppliers such as Australia and Brazil, Qatar is the largest supplier of LNG in the world and accounts for a third of the global market.
Read the whole thing; it’s a good introduction to the world’s biggest supplier of liquified natural gas. Butler notes that Europe has recently looked to LNG as its best option for decreasing its reliance on Russian gas, but with Qatar currently providing so much of the global supply, this option might not necessarily be less fraught.Of course, there is a new player in the LNG game. The United States is slowly doling out permits for LNG export facilities, which once completed will unleash the bounty of natural gas that fracking has provided in recent years on the world. If that unseats Qatar as the global LNG king, all to the good.