Why Sheikh Tamim Matters
The emir (ruler) of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim, heads one of the richest countries in the world, and one of the most influential Arab states. Tamim’s father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (r. 1995-2013), transformed the small Gulf Arab emirate into a regional diplomatic power, while investing the lucrative proceeds from massive exports of natural gas to acquire an ownership stake in some of the world's leading companies and high-profile properties.
Tamim faces the challenge of protecting and expanding Qatar’s new-found wealth and influence. The change unleashed by the Arab Spring protests in 2011 created new opportunities for Qatar to assert its role in the Middle East, but Tamim will have to be careful not to antagonize other Gulf Arab states, and avoid an open confrontation with Iran.
What to Expect From Sheikh Tamim
Tamim’s accession to the throne introduced a new generation of Qatari technocrats, many of whom have worked with the new emir since his appointment as Crown Prince in 2003. Tamim will work to prove he is his own man, though most observers expect a great deal of continuity with his father’s policies.
- Foreign policy: In his opening speech in 2013, Tamim pledged not to "take direction" from anyone, in continuation of his father’s independent-minded foreign policy. This will include close ties with the US. Tamim pledged to work with all Arab governments, in an apparent rebuttal of claims in some regional media that Qatar allied itself with Islamist parties.
- Democratization: The chances for dramatic changes in Qatar’s political system are low. Tamim may introduce partially-elected advisory institutions, but no genuine checks on the power of the royal family.
- Economy: Although Qatar will continue to rely on foreign labor in developing its economy, the younger generation of rulers will probably place greater emphasis on shifting Qatari citizens away from government employment toward highly-skilled jobs in private companies.
Career and Personal Life
Tamim was born in 1980 to Sheikh Hamad’s second wife Mozah bin Nasser Al Misnet, one of the most glamorous first ladies in the region, and a champion of charitable work and social reform in Qatar.
Tamim followed the traditional path of Gulf Arab royals by attending the prestigious Sandhurst military academy in the UK, where he graduated in 1998. Following his appointment as Crown Prince in 2003, Tamim was gradually introduced both to symbolic positions and key policy-making bodies.
He was appointed deputy commander-in-chief of Qatar’s armed forces in 2009, while chairing the 2030 Vision project, a program of Qatar’s development goals. Tamim was chairman of the board of directors of the Qatar Investment Authority, a body in charge of strategic global investments aimed at securing Qatar’s financial security future in the era when gas resources dry up.
Little is known about Tamim’s private life. He has married twice, first in 2005 to his second cousin Sheikha Jawaher bint Hamad bin Suhaim Al Thani, and in 2009 to Sheikha Anoud bint Mana al-Hajri.
Dynastic Succession in June 2013
Tamim’s predecessor, Sheikh Hamad, took power from his father Sheikh Khalifa in 1995 in a bloodless coup backed by Western powers. By contrast, the royal succession to Tamim in June 2013 was a smooth, carefully planned transfer of power to a new generation of royals.
Sheikh Hamad’s voluntary abdication at the age of 61 was also at odds with the tradition of life-long rulers in the Gulf Arab monarchies. In contrast to the uncertainty surrounding the royal succession in Saudi Arabia, Qatar showcased a high degree of royal unity and stability, which was generally received well in Western political circles.
In his farewell speech, Sheikh Hamad said: "The time has come to open a new page in the journey of our nation that would have a new generation carry the responsibilities ... with their innovative ideas". Also departing was Qatar’s long serving foreign minister and head of the government cabinet, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, who was considered the main architect of Qatar’s push onto the global diplomatic and investment stage.Go to Current Situation in the Middle East / Qatar