Qatar: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

Qatar: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy
April 7, 2021
The State of Qatar, a small Arab Gulf monarchy which has about 300,000 citizens in a total
population of about 2.4 million, has employed its ample financial resources to exert regional
Kenneth Katzman
influence, often independent of the other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC: Saudi
Specialist in Middle
Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Oman) alliance. Qatar has
Eastern Affairs
fostered a close defense and security alliance with the United States and has maintained ties to a

wide range of actors who are often at odds with each other, including Sunni Islamists, Iran and
Iran-backed groups, and Israeli officials.

Qatar’s support for regional Muslim Brotherhood organizations and its Al Jazeera media network have contributed to a
backlash against Qatar led by fellow GCC states Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and
Bahrain, joined by Egypt and a few other governments, severed relations with Qatar and imposed limits on the entry and
transit of Qatari nationals and vessels in their territories, waters, and airspace. The Trump Administration sought a resolution
of the dispute, in part because the rift was hindering U.S. efforts to formalize a “Middle East Strategic Alliance” of the
United States, the GCC, and other Sunni-led countries in the region to counter Iran. Qatar has countered the Saudi-led
pressure with new arms purchases and deepening relations with Turkey and Iran. On January 5, 2021, Saudi Arabia, the
UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt agreed to lift the blockade, and Qatar agreed to drop its pursuit of legal cases against those
countries in international organizations.
Qatar’s leaders work with the United States to secure the Persian Gulf, as do the other GCC leaders. The United States and
Qatar have had a formal Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) that reportedly addresses a U.S. troop presence in Qatar,
consideration of U.S. arms sales to Qatar, U.S. training, and other defense cooperation. Under the DCA, Qatar hosts more
than 8,000 U.S. forces and the regional headquarters for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) at various military facilities,
including the large Al Udeid Air Base. U.S. forces deployed at these facilities participate in operations throughout the region.
Qatar is a significant buyer of U.S.-made weaponry, including combat aircraft. In January 2018, Qatar and the United States
inaugurated a “Strategic Dialogue” that has included discussion of efforts to improve accommodations for U.S. personnel
deployed to Al Udeid Air Base. In 2017, the United States and Qatar signed a broad memorandum of understanding to
cooperate against international terrorism.
The voluntary relinquishing of power in 2013 by Qatar’s former Amir (ruler) departed from GCC patterns of governance in
which leaders generally remain in power for life. At the same time, Qatar is the only one of the smaller GCC states that has
not yet held elections for a legislative body. U.S. and international reports, which are scrutinizing Qatar as its hosting of the
World Cup soccer tournament approaches in 2022, criticize Qatar for not adhering to international standards of labor rights
practices, but credit it for taking steps to improve the conditions for expatriate workers.
Like other GCC states, Qatar is wrestling with the fluctuations in global hydrocarbons prices that started in 2014 and were
compounded by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). As of early April, Qatar has reported about 178,000 infections
and 290 deaths from the disease, which has affected Qatar’s expatriate population disproportionately. Qatar has been able to
weather economic headwinds because of its small population, substantial financial reserves, and its favorable business
conditions for entrepreneurs. But, Qatar shares with virtually all the other GCC states a lack of economic diversification and
reliance on revenues from sales of hydrocarbon products. On December 3, 2018, Qatar withdrew from the Organization of
Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in order to focus on its natural gas export sector; Qatar has the third largest proven
reserves of natural gas in the world.
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Brief History .................................................................................................................................... 1
Governance ...................................................................................................................................... 3
Human Rights Issues ................................................................................................................. 3
Freedom of Expression ....................................................................................................... 4
Women’s Rights .................................................................................................................. 6
Trafficking in Persons and Labor Issues ............................................................................. 6
Religious Freedom .............................................................................................................. 7
Foreign Policy ................................................................................................................................. 8
Qatar and the Intra-GCC Dispute .............................................................................................. 8
Iran .......................................................................................................................................... 10
Israeli-Palestinian Issues/Hamas ............................................................................................. 10
Afghanistan/Taliban Office ...................................................................................................... 11
Other Qatari Relationships and Mediation Efforts .................................................................. 12
U.S.-Qatar Defense and Security Cooperation .............................................................................. 12
Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) ................................................................................ 13
Al Udeid Air Base (Air Force/CENTCOM) ..................................................................... 13
As Saliyah Facility (Army) and Hamad Port .................................................................... 14
U.S. Arms Sales to Qatar ......................................................................................................... 14
Other Defense Partnerships ..................................................................................................... 16
Counter-terrorism Cooperation ............................................................................................... 17
Terrorism Financing Issues ............................................................................................... 17
Countering Violent Extremism ......................................................................................... 18
Economic Issues amid COVID-19 and the GCC Rift ................................................................... 18
U.S.-Qatar Economic Relations .............................................................................................. 19
U.S. Assistance ................................................................................................................. 20

Figure 1. Qatar at-a-Glance ............................................................................................................. 2
Figure 2. Map of Qatari Energy Resources and Select Infrastructure ........................................... 21

Table 1. Senior Leaders of Qatar ..................................................................................................... 1

Author Information ........................................................................................................................ 21

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Qatar: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

Brief History
Prior to 1867, Qatar was ruled by the family of the leaders of neighboring Bahrain, the Al
Khalifa. That year, an uprising in the territory led the United Kingdom, then the main Western
power in the Persian Gulf region, to install a leading Qatari family, the Al Thani, to rule over what
is now Qatar. The Al Thani family claims descent from the central Arabian tribe of Banu Tamim,
the tribe to which Shaykh Muhammad ibn Abd Al Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism,
belonged.1 Thus, Qatar officially subscribes to Wahhabism, a conservative Islamic tradition that it
shares with Saudi Arabia.
In 1916, in the midst of World War I and after the Ottoman Empire relinquished its territorial
claims over Qatar, the Al Thani family signed an agreement under which Qatar formally became a
British protectorate. In 1971, after Britain announced it would no longer exercise responsibility
for Persian Gulf security, Qatar and Bahrain considered joining with the seven emirates
(principalities) that were then called the “Trucial States” to form the United Arab Emirates
(UAE). However, Qatar and Bahrain decided to become independent rather than join that union.
The UAE was separately formed in late 1971. Qatar adopted its first written constitution in April
1970 and became fully independent on September 1, 1971. The United States opened an embassy
in Doha in 1973. The United States is currently represented by Charge D’Affaires Greta Holtz,
appointed to that post on June 14, 2020.
Table 1. Senior Leaders of Qatar
Amir (ruler) and Minister of Defense
Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (since 2013)
Deputy Amir and Crown Prince (heir apparent)
Abdullah bin Hamad Al Thani (since 2014)
Prime Minister and Minister of Interior
Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani (since 2020)

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for
Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah (since 2017)
Defense Affairs
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani (since 2017)
Minister of Finance
Ali Sharif al-Imadi (since 2013)
President of the Shura Council
Ahmad bin Abdallah bin Zaid Al Mahmoud (since 2017)
Ambassador to the United States
Mishal bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (since 2017)
Source: Qatari Government Websites

1 Information in this section is taken from Bernard Haykel, “Qatar and Islamism,” Policy Brief: Norwegian
Peacebuilding Resource Centre, February 2013.
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Qatar: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

Figure 1. Qatar at-a-Glance

11,586 sq. km (slightly smaller than Connecticut)
Population: 2.3 million, of which about 90% are expatriates
Religions: Muslim 68%, of which about 90% are Sunni; Christian 14%; Hindu 14%; 3% Buddhist; and
1% other. Figures include expatriates.
Ethnic Groups: Arab 40%; Pakistani 18%; Indian 18%; Iranian 10%; other 14%. Figures include
expatriates. Virtually all citizens are Arab.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP): $350 billion on purchasing power parity (ppp) basis
GDP per capita: $125,000 on ppp basis
Inflation: 0.6%
GDP Growth Rate: 1.5% in 2019; -3% in 2020
Export Partners: (In descending order) Japan, South Korea, India, China, Singapore, UAE
Import Partners: (In descending order) United States, China, Germany, Japan, Britain, Italy
Oil and Gas
Oil Exports: Slightly more than 700,000 barrels per day. Negligible amounts to the United States.
Producer of condensates (light oil) vital to S. Korean petrochemical industry.
Gas (LNG) Exports: 126 billion cubic meters per year
Sources: Graphic created by CRS. Map borders and cities generated by Hannah Fischer using data from
Department of State; World Bank Group, Esri; and Google Maps. At-a-glance information from CIA World
Factbook, Economist Intelligence Unit Country Report: Qatar; World Bank;
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Qatar: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

Qatar’s governing structure approximates that of the other states of the Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman) in that it is led by a hereditary
Amir (literally “prince,” but interpreted as “ruler”), Shaykh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.2 He
became ruler in June 2013 when his father, Amir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, relinquished
power voluntarily—an unprecedented move in the modern Gulf. The Amir governs through a
prime minister, who is a member of the Al Thani family, and a cabinet, several of whom are
members of the Al Thani or other prominent families. On January 28, 2020, the Amir appointed a
new Prime Minister, U.S.-educated Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani. The Amir’s
younger brother, Shaykh Abdullah bin Hamad, is deputy Amir and the heir apparent.
Political parties are banned and authorities prohibit politically oriented associations. Political
disagreements in Qatar are aired mainly in private as part of a process of consensus building in
which the leadership tries to balance the interests of the country’s families. There have been no
significant protests by Qatari citizens in many years, but some in the large expatriate community
have sometimes protested for improved working conditions.
Qatari citizens approved a constitution in a 2003 referendum, by a 98% vote in favor. The
document affirms that Qatar is a hereditary emirate, specifies Islamic law as a key source of
legislation,3 and provides for elections for 30 of the 45 seats of the country’s Advisory Council
(Majlis Ash-Shura), a national legislative body. After it is elected, the Majlis would be able to
remove ministers (two-thirds majority vote), to approve a national budget, and to draft and vote
on proposed legislation (subject to concurrence by the Amir). Naturalized Qataris who have been
citizens for at least 10 years are to be eligible to vote, and those whose fathers were born in Qatar
can become candidates. In October 2019, the Amir ordered the establishment of a committee,
chaired by the Prime Minister, to organize the first Council elections.4 In November 2020, the
Amir announced the first Advisory Council elections will take place in October 2021.
The country holds elections for a 29-seat Central Municipal Council, which advises the
government on local public services. Elections for the fifth Council (each serving a four-year
term) were held in April 2019. Voter registration was lower than expected; roughly 1 in 13 Qatari
adults cast ballots.5
Human Rights Issues6
The State Department human rights report for 2020 identifies the most significant human rights
problems in Qatar as:
restrictions on free expression, including criminalization of libel; restrictions on peaceful
assembly and freedom of association, including prohibitions on political parties and labor
unions; restrictions on migrant workers’ freedom of movement; limits on the ability of
citizens to choose their government in free and fair elections; lack of investigation of and

2 Shaykh is an honorific term.
3 Amy Hawthorne, “Qatar’s New Constitution: Limited Reform from the Top,” August 26, 2008.
4 “Qatar takes step toward first Shura Council election: QNA agency,” Reuters, October 31, 2019.
5 Justin Gengler, “Qatar’s first elections since 2017 reveal unexpected impact of GCC crisis,” Al Monitor, April 24,
6 Much of the information in this section is based on: U.S. Department of State, 2020 Country Reports on Human
Rights Practices: Qatar,
March 30, 2021.
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Qatar: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

accountability for violence against women; criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual
conduct; and reports of forced labor.
A National Human Rights Committee (NHRC), which investigates allegations of human rights
abuses, operates independently, but it is funded largely by the Qatar Foundation that is run by the
Amir’s mother, Shaykha Moza. Among the NHRC’s functions is to monitor the situation of about
1,000-2,000 stateless residents (“bidoons”),7 mostly members of families whose citizenship was
revoked decades ago for opposing Qatar’s leaders. Although the constitution provides for an
independent judiciary, the Amir appoints all judges.
Freedom of Expression
Despite the absence of open opposition among the citizenry, since the 2011 “Arab Spring”
uprisings, Qatar has adopted some laws that increase penalties for criticizing the leadership. In
2014, the government approved a cybercrimes law that provides for up to three years in prison for
spreading “false news.” One law, enacted in January 2020, authorizes the imprisonment of
“anyone who broadcasts, publishes, or republishes false or biased rumors, statements, or news, or
inflammatory propaganda, domestically or abroad, with the intent to harm national interests, stir
up public opinion, or infringe on the social system or the public system of the state.”8 Qatari
officials assert that the law targets those who organize violent opposition activities.
Al Jazeera Media Network
According to the 2020 State Department human rights report, the government owns and partially
funds the Al Jazeera Media Network, which has evolved since its establishment in the mid-1990s
into a global media organization. A U.S.-based representative for Al Jazeera says that, in 2011, its
legal standing was changed to an independent legal entity with characteristics similar to a U.S.
non-profit.9 The network features a wide range of guests from all over the region debating issues;
Arab leaders have sometimes reacted to the network’s critical coverage by closing Al Jazeera’s
bureaus or imprisoning its journalists. The network has run stories that criticize Qatar, including
on the situation of expatriate laborers.10 The State Department quotes “some observers and former
Al Jazeera employees” as alleging that Qatar’s government “influences” Al Jazeera content.11
Officials in the United Arab Emirates and other neighboring countries have sometimes criticized
Al Jazeera for providing a platform for Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and other Islamists to
promote their ideology.12 Some Members of Congress have asserted that Al Jazeera is an arm of
the Qatar government and that its U.S. bureau should be required to register under the Foreign
Agents Registration Act (FARA).13

7 Bidoon is the Arabic word for “without,” and refers to persons without documentation for their residency in country.
8 Amnesty International, “Qatar: Repressive new law further curbs freedom of expression,” January 20, 2020.
9 Information provided to CRS in August 2020 by CLS Strategies, a firm that represents Al Jazeera in the United
10 See, e.g., “Renewed Calls for Qatar to Address Treatment of Migrant Workers,” Al Jazeera, September 19, 2019.
11 U.S. Department of State, 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Qatar, March 30, 2021.
12 Jared Malsin, “In the Eye of the Storm: Can Al Jazeera Survive the Gulf Crisis?” Time, August 21, 2017.
13 Office of Senator Tom Cotton, “Lawmakers Seek FARA Evaluation of Qatari-owned Al Jazeera,” press release, June
19, 2019.
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Qatar: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

Qatari Leadership

Shaykh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani
Shaykh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was born on June 3, 1980. He is the fourth son of
the former Amir, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and the ninth Al Thani ruler in Qatar.
He was appointed heir apparent in August 2003 when his elder brother, Shaykh
Jasim, renounced his claim, reportedly based on his father’s lack of confidence in
Shaykh Jasim’s ability to lead. Shaykh Tamim became Amir on June 25, 2013, when
Amir Hamad stepped down in a voluntary transfer of power that was unprecedented
for Qatar and the Gulf region. Amir Tamim was educated at Great Britain’s
Sherbourne School and graduated from its Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in
1998, from which his father graduated in 1971. Amir Tamim heads the Qatari
Investment Authority, which has billions of dollars of investments in Europe, the
United States, and elsewhere. He is reportedly highly popular for resisting Saudi-led
pressure during the intra-GCC crisis.

Shaykh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
Amir Tamim’s father, Shaykh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, seized power from his
father, Amir Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, in June 1995, during his father’s absence in
Europe. In 1972, after finishing his education in Britain and assuming command of
some Qatari military units, Hamad had helped his father depose his grandfather in a
bloodless seizure of power while then-Amir Ahmad bin Ali Al Thani was on a
hunting trip in Iran.
While Shaykh Hamad is no longer Qatar’s ruler, he, his wife, and several of their
other children remain key figures in the ruling establishment. Qatari media refer to
Shaykh Hamad as “The Father Amir” and acknowledge that he has some continuing
role in many aspects of policy. His favored wife (of three), Shaykha Moza al-Misnad
Al Thani, continues to chair the powerful Qatar Foundation for Education, Science,
and Community Development (QF). The QF runs Doha’s Education City, where
several Western universities have established branches and which is a large investor
in the United States and Europe. One daughter (and full sister of the current Amir),
Shaykha Mayassa, chairs the Qatar Museums, a major buyer of global artwork.
Another daughter, Shaykha Hind, is vice chairman of the QF. Both daughters
graduated from Duke University. Another relative, Hamad bin Jasim Al Thani,
remains active in Qatar’s investment activities and international circles. During Amir
Hamad’s rule, Shaykh Hamad bin Jasim was Foreign Minister, Prime Minister, and
architect of Qatar’s relatively independent foreign policy. Shaykh Hamad’s father,
former Amir Khalifa bin Hamad, died in October 2016.
Sources: various press, and Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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Qatar: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

Women’s Rights
According to the State Department, social and legal discrimination against women continues,
despite the constitutional assertion of equality.14 The World Economic Forum ranks Qatar 142nd
out of 156 countries for achieving gender parity across economic, political, social and health
measures.15 The application of Islamic law, which is not gender-neutral on marriage, divorce,
child custody and guardianship, and inheritance, as well as a lack of laws against domestic
violence, contribute to this gender inequality.16 Laws prevent women from passing citizenship to
their children, though a 2018 permanent residency law has created a mechanism for children born
to Qatari women married to non-Qatari men to access government health and education.
Guardianship laws require women to obtain permission from their male guardians to travel alone
before the age of 25 if they are unmarried, as well as “to marry, obtain a government scholarship
to pursue higher education, work in many government jobs, and obtain some reproductive health
Women in Qatar drive and own property, and constitute about 15% of business owners and more
than a third of the overall workforce, including as professionals. Women serve in public office,
such as minister of public health, chair of the Qatar Foundation, head of the General Authority for
Museums, and ambassadors to the United Nations and several countries. Qatar’s constitution
recognizes the right of women to vote and hold office, and two women have been elected at the
municipal council level. In November 2017, the Amir appointed four women to the Majlis As-
for the first time in the body’s history.18 In December 2019, the spokeswoman for the
Foreign Ministry, Lolwah Al Khater, was appointed “assistant minister” of Foreign Affairs
(number two at the Foreign Ministry).19
Trafficking in Persons and Labor Issues20
The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report for 2020 maintained Qatar at a Tier 2
ranking on the basis that the government makes significant efforts to comply with the minimum
standards for the elimination of trafficking. Qatar has enacted a Domestic Worker Law to better
protect domestic workers and it has established a coordinating body to oversee and facilitate anti-
trafficking initiatives. But, Qatar remains a destination country for men and women subjected to
forced labor and, to a much lesser extent, forced prostitution. Female domestic workers remain
particularly vulnerable to trafficking due to their isolation in private residences. Alongside the
January 2018 U.S.-Qatar “Strategic Dialogue,” the two countries signed a memorandum of
understanding to create a framework to combat trafficking in persons.21
The State Department assesses Qatar’s labor laws as not adequately protecting the rights of
workers to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, or bargain collectively. Qatari
law does not prohibit anti-union discrimination or provide for reinstatement of workers fired for

14 U.S. Department of State, 2020 Country Report on Human Rights: Qatar, March 2021.
15 World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2021, March 30, 2021.
16 CRS Report R46423, Women in the Middle East and North Africa: Issues for Congress, by Zoe Danon and Sarah R.
17 Human Rights Watch, “Everything I Have to Do is Tied to a Man”: Women and Qatar’s Male Guardianship Rules,
March 29, 2021.
18 Inter-Parliamentary Union, “IPU welcomes appointment of four women to Qatar’s Parliament,” November 13, 2017.
19 “Amir appoints Lolwah AlKhater as Assistant to FM.” Gulf Times, December 2, 2019.
20 This section is based on the U.S. Department of State, 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, June 25, 2020.
21 U.S. Embassy in Qatar, “Joint Statement of the Inaugural United States-Qatar Strategic Dialogue,” media note,
January 30, 2018.
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union activity. Yet, the State Department credits the country with taking steps to protect labor
rights, including for expatriate workers. In 2016, a labor reform law went into effect that provided
for changes to the “kafala” system (sponsorship requirement for foreign workers) to enable
employees to switch employers at the end of their labor contracts rather than having to leave
Qatar. The law abolished the kafala system entirely at the end of 2019, and further reforms that
took effect on August 30, 2020 established a monthly minimum wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals
($275) and provide for stricter penalties that fail to provide their mostly expatriate labor force
with adequate housing. The government also has increased its cooperation with the International
Labor Organization (ILO) to take in worker complaints and inform expatriate workers of their
Scrutiny of Qatar’s labor practices has centered on the plight of the many additional, mostly
expatriate, engineers, construction workers, and other laborers hired to prepare for the 2022 FIFA
World Cup soccer tournament. An Amnesty International report from September 2019 alleged
that workers sometimes are not paid for work and adequate dispute resolution mechanisms are
lacking.22 The Qatar government responded to the report by stating: “Many of the cases included
in the report precede recent legislative amendments—including the establishment of the
Committees for the Settlement of Labour Disputes. These have significantly improved the
processes and increased the speed for resolving labour disputes.” Hundreds of expatriate workers
demonstrated in August 2019 against poor working conditions and unpaid and delayed wages.
The State Department reported that during the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, “the
government gave the private sector the right to alter employee contracts without legal liability due
to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies forced workers to take a combination of
unpaid leave, decreased salaries, or premature contract terminations, negatively affecting tens of
thousands of workers.” The government also instructed directed state employers to “reduce
monthly costs for non-Qatari employees by 30%, by either cutting salaries or laying off workers
with a two-month notice.”23 Some studies suggested that crowded conditions for expatriate
laborers in Qatar fueled a relatively high per capita infection rate from COVID-19 in the spring of
Religious Freedom25
Qatar’s constitution stipulates that Islam is the state religion and Islamic law is “a main source of
legislation,” but Qatari laws also incorporate secular legal traditions. The law recognizes only
Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. The overwhelming majority (about 95%) of Qatari citizens are
Sunni Muslims, possibly explaining an absence of observable sectarian tensions. The government
permits eight registered Christian denominations to worship publicly at the Mesaymir Religious
Complex, and it has allowed the Evangelical Churches Alliance of Qatar to build a church. Hindu,
Jewish, Buddhists, or other non-Muslim religious groups are registered with the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs and they have established villas and private homes as houses of worship.
According to the International Religious Freedom report for 2019, in January 2019, a delegation
led by the Secretary of State met with senior counterparts in Doha and signed a statement of
intent to “support the shared ideals of tolerance and appreciation for diversity.”

22 Amnesty International, All Work No Pay: The Struggle of Qatar’s Migrant Workers for Justice, September 19, 2019.
23 U.S. Department of State, 2020 Country Report on Human Rights: Qatar, March 2021, p. 24.
24 “These two countries are tiny, rich and have the world’s highest coronavirus infection rates,” Associated Press, July
23, 2020.
25 This section draws from the U.S. Department of State, 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom, June 10,
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Foreign Policy
Qatar uses its ample financial resources to support a foreign policy that attempts to influence a
wide range of regional actors. Its policies have enabled Qatar to mediate some regional conflicts,
as well as to back regional actors at odds with those supported by some of the other GCC states.
Qatar has at times also used its military forces to intervene in regional conflicts. Regional and
bilateral issues have reportedly constituted the focus of high-level U.S.-Qatar meetings.26
Qatar and the Intra-GCC Dispute
A consistent source of friction within the GCC has been Qatar’s relationship with Muslim
Brotherhood movements. Qatari officials argue that the Brotherhood is a moderate political
Islamist movement that can foster regional stability through participation in the legitimate
political process. UAE leaders, in particular, assert that the Brotherhood seeks to destabilize
established governments in the region. In 2014, differences over this and other issues erupted and
Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, returning them several
months later after Qatar pledged to implement a November 2013 commitment to end support for
Muslim Brotherhood-linked organizations.27 The differences erupted again in June 2017 when
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain, joined by Egypt and Jordan, cut diplomatic relations with
Qatar, expelled Qatar’s diplomats, recalled their ambassadors, and imposed limits on the entry
and transit of Qatari nationals and vessels in their territories, waters, and airspace. These
countries presented Qatar with 13 demands as conditions for lifting the blockade, including
closing Al Jazeera, severing relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, scaling back relations with
Iran, and closing a Turkish military base in Qatar.28 Amir Tamim expressed openness to
negotiations but said Qatar would not “surrender” its sovereignty and argued that Qatar has
historically given refuge to Islamists from the region, including Brotherhood adherents.
President Trump initially echoed criticism of Qatar’s policies, and mediation of the rift was
spearheaded by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who, working with Kuwaiti leaders,
conducted “shuttle diplomacy” in the region during July 2017. A U.S. envoy appointed in 2017 to
work on the issue, General (retired) Anthony Zinni, resigned in 2019. In July 2019, Jordan broke
with the boycotting states by restoring diplomatic relations with Qatar,29 and the then-Prime
Minister of Qatar attended the annual GCC summit during December 10-11, 2019.30 During
October 2019-January 2020, Qatar and Saudi Arabia held high-level direct talks, but Qatar’s
Foreign Minister stated that the talks were suspended in early January 2020.31
At the 41st GCC summit in Al Ula on January 5, 2021, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and
Egypt announced that they would be restoring diplomatic relations with Qatar, while Qatar agreed
to drop its pursuit of legal cases against those countries in international organizations. The Al-Ula
Declaration does not make direct reference to the 13 demands originally articulated in June 2017,

26 U.S. Embassy in Qatar, “Joint Statement of the Third U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue,” media note, September 18,
27 Cable News Network released the text of the November 2013 agreement, which was signed between Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, and Qatar. The November 2014 agreement was among all the GCC states except Oman.
28 The list of demands can be found at “List of demands on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, other Arab nations,” Associated
, June 23, 2017.
29 “Inching Away from Saudi-UAE Axis, Jordan Restores Ties with Qatar,” Al Jazeera English, July 9, 2019.
30 GCC summit calls for unity amid hopes of easing Gulf crisis, Al Jazeera, December 10, 2019.
31 Qatar says talks to end GCC crisis were suspended in January, Al Jazeera, February 15, 2020.
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but rather to restoring “collaboration among all Member States” and strengthening “the bonds of
brotherhood among them.”32 Direct flights between Doha and Riyadh resumed on January 11, and
flights between Qatar and the other blockading nations resumed on January 18.33 Analysts expect
the normalization between countries to boost Qatar’s tourism sector, improve attendance at the
2022 World Cup in Doha, and improve economic cooperation in the region more generally.34 It is
not clear whether the Biden Administration will continue the Trump Administration’s efforts to
assemble a new “Middle East Strategic Alliance” (MESA)—to consist of the United States, the
GCC countries, and other Sunni-led states—to counter Iran and regional terrorist groups.
The intra-GCC rift had roots in and implications for the broader region:
 Qatar supported, politically and financially, the government of Muslim
Brotherhood-linked figure, Muhammad Morsi, who was elected president of
Egypt in 2012. The UAE and Saudi Arabia backed Morsi’s ouster by Egypt’s
military in 2013 and have financially backed the regime of former military leader
and now President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
 In Libya, Qatar joined the United States and several GCC and other partner
countries in air operations to help oust Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi in
2011. Subsequently, Qatar, reportedly in partnership with Turkey, has supported
the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, which has Muslim Brotherhood-linked
factions supporting it. The UAE, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia support ex-military
commander Khalifa Haftar, who has taken control of large parts of eastern and
northern Libya and who attempted to seize control of Tripoli in 2019.35
 In Yemen, in 2015, Qatar joined the Saudi-led military coalition to battle Iran-
backed Zaidi Shiite Houthi rebels, including deploying about 1,000 military
personnel, along with armor, to guard the Saudi border from Houthi incursions.
The Qatari Air Force also flew air strikes against the Houthis.36 As a result of the
intra-GCC rift, in mid-2017 Qatar withdrew from the mission.
 In Syria, Qatar provided funds and weaponry to rebels fighting the regime of
President Bashar Al Asad, including those reportedly linked to the Muslim
Brotherhood and which competed with anti-Asad factions supported by Saudi
Arabia.37 Qatar also claimed that its ties to Jabhat al Nusra (JAN), an Al Qaeda
affiliate that was designated by the United States as a Foreign Terrorist

32 Tuqa Khalid, “Full transcript of AlUla GCC Summit Declaration: Bolstering Gulf unity,” Al Arabiya, January 6,
2021; Sultan Barakat, “Qatar-GCC agreement: A victory for measured diplomacy,” opinion, Al Jazeera, January 8,
33 Isabel Debre, “Qatar-Saudi Arabia direct flights resume amid Gulf detente,” AP News, January 11, 2021; Egypt,
UAE resume first Qatar flights after blockade,” Al Jazeera, January 18, 2021.
34 Davide Barbuscia and Saeed Azhar, “Gulf economy gets a boost from healing of Saudi-Qatar rift,” Reuters, January
5, 2021; Aarti Nagraj, “AlUla agreement: What does resetting ties with Qatar mean for the GCC region?” Gulf
Business, February 11, 2021.
35 U.N. Security Council, Final Report of the Panel of Experts on Libya Established Pursuant to Resolution 1973
(2011), March 9, 2016. For information on the conflict in Libya, see CRS In Focus IF11556, Libya and U.S. Policy, by
Christopher M. Blanchard.
36 Author conversations with Qatar Embassy personnel, 2019.
37 Anand Gopal and Jeremy Hodge, Social Networks, Class, and the Syrian Proxy War, International Security Report,
New America, April 6, 2021.
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Organization (FTO), were instrumental in persuading the group to sever its ties to
Al Qaeda in 2016, and to release its Lebanese and Western prisoners.38
Qatari leaders have consistently pursued dialogue with Iran to reduce regional tensions, while
simultaneously cooperating with U.S. efforts to counter Iran strategically. In February 2010, as
Crown Prince, Shaykh Tamim visited Iran for talks with Iranian leaders, and as Amir, he has
maintained direct contact with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.39 Qatar withdrew its Ambassador
from Tehran in January 2016 during a Saudi-Iranian rift over the Saudi execution of a dissident
Shiite cleric.
Iran helped Qatar cope with the GCC rift by exporting additional foodstuffs to Qatar and by
permitting Qatar Airways to overfly its airspace. In return, Qatar Airways has paid Iran over $130
million per year in overflight fees.40 In August 2017, Qatar formally restored full diplomatic
relations with Iran, and Qatar did not support the May 8, 2018, U.S. withdrawal from the 2015
multilateral Iran nuclear agreement, instead stating that efforts to “denuclearize” the region
should not lead to “escalation.”41 Through mutual visits of high-ranking officials, Qatar and Iran
sought to de-escalate the U.S.-Iran tensions in the Gulf in 2019.42 Qatar and Iran have shared a
large natural gas field in the Persian Gulf without incident, although some Iranian officials have
occasionally accused Qatar of cheating on the arrangement.43
Israeli-Palestinian Issues/Hamas44
Qatar has maintained contact with all parties in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. In 1996, then-Amir
Hamad hosted a visit by then-Prime Minister of Israel Shimon Peres and in 2000, it allowed Israel
to open a formal trade office in Doha. The trade office has been closed since the 2009 Israel-
Hamas conflict, but small levels of direct Israel-Qatar trade, as well as visits to Doha by Israeli
security officials, athletes, doctors, and other Israelis, reportedly continue.45
Despite these Israel-Qatar contacts, Amir Tamim regularly accuses Israel of abuses against the
Palestinians and expresses consistent support for Palestinian efforts for full United Nations
membership and recognition, while at the same time backing negotiations between the
Palestinians and Israel.46 Qatar reacted to the Trump Administration’s January 2020 unveiling of
its Israel-Palestinian peace proposals by saying that it welcomed efforts to broker “longstanding
peace,” but warned that was unattainable without concessions to the Palestinians.47

38 “Analysts: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, pushed al-Nusra Front to break with al-Qaeda,” Agencia EFE, July 29, 2016.
39 “Iran, Qatar Seek Improved Relations despite Differences,” Al Arabiya, June 19, 2015.
40 “UN aviation ruling could deny Iran hundreds of millions of dollars,” Fox News, July 14, 2020.
41 Qatar Foreign Ministry Statement, May 9, 2018.
42 The Latest: Qatar trying to defuse tensions amid Iran crisis, Fox News, May 16, 2019.
43 “Iran, Qatar, Face Off Over North Field, South Pars, Oil and Gas News,” June 6-12, 2016.
44 See CRS Report R44245, Israel: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief, by Jim Zanotti, and CRS Report RL34074,
The Palestinians: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti
45 “Qatar cozies up to Israel, again,” Electronic Intifada, February 26, 2020.
46 “Israel Doesn’t Want Peace: Emir,” Qatar The Peninsula, September 29, 2015.
47 Qatar welcomes US Mideast peace plan, but urges changes, AFP, January 29, 2020.
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Qatar has engaged with the Islamist group Hamas, a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot and U.S.-
designated terrorist group that has exercised de facto control of the Gaza Strip since 2007. Qatari
officials assert that their engagement with Hamas can help foster Israeli-Palestinian peace.48
Some of Hamas’s top leaders have been based in Doha, and the current leader of its political
bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, reportedly relocated there in 2020.49 Much of Qatar’s leverage with
Hamas and Israel comes in the form of substantial financial aid it provides to the people of Gaza,
which Israeli officials support as a means of promoting calm on the Israel-Gaza border.50 Qatar’s
aid is provided through a “Gaza Reconstruction Committee” headed by Qatari official
Mohammad Al-Emadi, who serves informally as an envoy to Israel. In March 2020, Qatar
donated $10 million to the Palestinian Authority to help it cope with the COVID-19 outbreak. In
June 2020, Qatar reportedly threatened to suspend the payments to Gaza if Israel proceeded with
its plans to annex some West Bank areas.51 Qatar criticized the August 13, 2020 UAE-Israeli
announcement of a commitment to normalized relations as a UAE betrayal of the Palestinian
cause, despite the simultaneous Israeli suspension of its annexation plans. Hamas announced on
August 31, 2020, that, through Qatari mediation, a deal had been reached to avoid Israel-Hamas
escalations and restore calm along the border with Israel after several weeks of high tensions.52
Qatar’s critics assert that Hamas leaders are too often featured on Al Jazeera and that Qatar’s
relations with Hamas constitute support for a terrorist organization. In the 115th Congress, the
Palestinian International Terrorism Support Act of 2017 (H.R. 2712), which was ordered to be
reported to the full House on November 15, 2017, appeared directed at Qatar by sanctioning
foreign governments determined to be providing financial or other material support to Hamas or
its leaders. Versions of that bill introduced in the 116th Congress, H.R. 1850 and S. 2680 did not
directly reference Qatar as supporting Hamas and contained exceptions if aid to Hamas or related
groups is purely humanitarian.53 H.R. 1850 passed the House on July 23, 2019 by voice vote. The
Act has been reintroduced in the 117th Congress (H.R. 261).
Afghanistan/Taliban Office
Seeking to contribute to a potential political solution in Afghanistan, Qatar has brokered and
hosted many rounds of talks between the United States and Taliban representatives. Even though
Qatar did not recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan when the
movement ruled during 1996-2001, it allowed the Taliban to open a representative office in Qatar
in 2013. U.S.-Taliban talks led to the May 2014, exchange of captured U.S. soldier Bowe
Bergdahl for five Taliban figures who subsequently joined the Taliban office in Doha. Doha
hosted the U.S.-Taliban talks that culminated in a U.S.-Taliban peace agreement that was signed
in Doha on February 29, 2020. Qatar has hosted several rounds of talks between the Afghan
government and the Taliban on a political solution for Afghanistan since September 2020.54
Qatar’s contacts with the Haqqani Network, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization

48 Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Press Conference of His Excellency Minister of Foreign Affairs in Paris,” June
12, 2017.
49 “Hamas leader Haniyeh decides to settle in Qatar – report,” Jerusalem Post, February 2, 2020.
50 Neville Teller, “What Do You Make of Qatar?,” The Jerusalem Post, September 19, 2019.
51 “Qatar to suspend Gaza payments to pressure Israel over annexation,” Axios, June 23, 2020.
52 “Hamas Announces Qatar-brokered Deal to Avoid Escalation with Israel,” Haaretz, August 31, 2020.
53 “Eliot Engel Weakens Hamas Sanctions Bill After Lobbying from Qatar,” New York Post, September 21, 2019.
54 Mjuab Mashal, “Afghanistan Peace Talks Open in Qatar, Seeking End to Decades of War,” New York Times,
September 12, 2020. See also CRS Report R45122, Afghanistan: Background and U.S. Policy: In Brief, by Clayton
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(FTO) that is a semi-autonomous component of the Taliban, bore some fruit in a November 2019
prisoner exchange that included the release from Afghan custody of Anas Haqqani, the brother of
the deputy leader of the Taliban movement—a release that might have built confidence between
U.S. and Taliban negotiators.55
Qatari ground forces have not deployed to Afghanistan, but Qatari facilities are used in U.S.
operations there. Qatar’s air force has delivered cargo and provided other logistical support to the
U.S.-led security operations there.
Other Qatari Relationships and Mediation Efforts
Elsewhere in the region:
 Reports in March 2021 suggest that Qatar, along with Turkey and Russia, have
launched a new trilateral consultation process to reach a political settlement to
the Syrian civil war, in line with U.N. resolutions, as well as to discuss
mechanisms to deliver humanitarian aid.56
 In Sudan, Qatar provided funds and promises of investment to achieve a series of
agreements between the government and various rebel factions in Darfur.57
Qatar’s influence in Sudan in the aftermath of the ouster of longtime President
Omar Hassan Al Bashir in 2019 is uncertain, amid competition with other GCC
states for influence there.
 Qatar has forged relationships with several countries in Central Asia.58 Amir
Tamim exchanged visits with the President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly
Berdymukhamedov, in 2016 and 2017. The two countries are major world gas
suppliers. The leader of Tajikistan, Imamali Rahmonov, visited Doha in February
2017 to reportedly discuss Qatari investment and other joint projects. Qatar
funded a large portion of a $100 million mosque in Tajikistan’s capital,
Dushanbe, which purports to be the largest mosque in Central Asia.
U.S.-Qatar Defense and Security Cooperation59
U.S.-Qatar defense and security relations are extensive. The two countries established a
“Strategic Dialogue” that first convened in January 2018 and senior U.S. officials have praised
Qatar as a longtime friend and military partner for peace and stability in the region. The U.S-
Qatar defense relationship emerged after the six Gulf monarchies formed the GCC in late 1981 to
back Iraq against the threat posed by Iran in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War. In the latter stages of that
war, Iran attacked international shipping in the Gulf and some Gulf state oil loading facilities, but
none in Qatar. GCC forces participated in the U.S.-led military coalition that expelled Iraq from
Kuwait in February 1991, and Qatari armored forces helped defeat an Iraqi attack on the Saudi
town of Khafji in January 1991. U.S.-Qatar defense relations subsequently expanded.

55 “Afghan Government Releases Militants In Apparent Exchange For American, Australian Captives,” RFE/RL,
November 11, 2019.
56 “Turkey, Russia, Qatar to push for political resolution in Syria,” Reuters, March 11, 2021.
57 UNAMID, “Doha Document for Peace in Darfur,” May 31, 2011.
58 See Natalie Koch, “Qatar and Central Asia,” PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo No. 484, 2017.
59 Much of this section is derived from: U.S. Department of State, “U.S. Security Cooperation With Qatar,” fact sheet,
January 20, 2021.
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Qatar is a member of the U.S.-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS (the Islamic State
organization). In 2014, Qatar flew some airstrikes in Syria against Islamic State positions.
However, by the end of 2014, the coalition ceased identifying Qatar as a participant in coalition
strikes inside Syria. In 2019, Qatar indicated it would join the U.S.-led maritime security mission
(Operation Sentinel) intended to deter Iran from further attacks on commercial shipping in the
Gulf, which includes Bahrain, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.60 The Qatar government has not
announced whether it is participating in that mission, which began operations in late 2019.
Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA)
The United States and Qatar signed a formal DCA on June 23, 1992, and it was renewed for 10
years, reportedly with some modifications, in December 2013. The text of the pact is classified,
but it reportedly addresses U.S. military access to Qatari military facilities, prepositioning of U.S.
armor and other military equipment, and U.S. training of Qatar’s military forces.61 More than
8,000 U.S. military personnel are deployed at the various facilities in Qatar, including Al Udeid
Air Base, discussed further below.62
Qatar’s force of about 16,500 is the smallest in the region except for Bahrain. Of that force, about
12,000 are ground forces, 2,500 are naval forces, and 2,000 are air forces. Qatar has sought to
compensate for the small size of its force with purchases of advanced weaponry such as U.S.-
made combat aircraft and German-made Leopard tanks,63 as discussed further below.
Al Udeid Air Base (Air Force/CENTCOM)64
Most of the U.S. military personnel in Qatar are U.S. Air Force personnel based at the large Al
Udeid air base southwest of Doha.65 Al Udeid Base also hosts the forward headquarters for
CENTCOM. U.S. personnel deployed to Qatar participate in U.S. operations such as Operation
Inherent Resolve (OIR) against the Islamic State organization and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel
in Afghanistan, and they provide a substantial capability against Iran. In conjunction with U.S.-
Iran tensions since mid-2019, the United States deployed F-22 combat aircraft to Al Udeid.
The U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue has produced agreements to expand defense and security
cooperation, including the possibility of “permanent” U.S. basing there, centered on the
expansion and improvements of Al Udeid over the next two decades. In January 2019, during the
second U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue, the Qatar Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Department of
Defense signed a memorandum of understanding that DOD referred to as a “positive step towards
the eventual formalization of Qatar’s commitment to support sustainment costs and future
infrastructure costs at [Al Udeid Air Base].”66Al Udeid has been steadily expanded and enhanced

60 “Qatar, Kuwait told U.S. they will join naval coalition, official says,” Reuters, November 25, 2019.
61 U.S. Library of Congress, Country Studies: Persian Gulf States, 1994. Some provisions of DCA’s with other GCC
states are discussed in Sami Hajjar, U.S. Military Presence in the Gulf: Challenges and Prospects (U.S. Army War
College: Strategic Studies Institute), March 2002, p. 27.
62 U.S. Department of State, “Coordinator for Counterterrorism Ambassador Nathan A. Sales Travels to Qatar,” media
note, August 12, 2020.
63 “Qatar is now one of the most well-equipped military forces in the Middle East,” Army Recognition, July 20, 2020.
64 U.S. Department of State, “Joint Statement of the Inaugural United States-Qatar Strategic Dialogue,” media note,
January 30, 2018.
65 Adam Taylor, “As Trump tries to end ‘endless wars,’ America’s biggest Mideast base is getting bigger,” The
Washington Post
, August 21, 2019.
66 U.S. Department of Defense, “U.S. and Qatar sign MoU Reaffirming Qatar’s Commitment to Supporting U.S.
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with Qatari funding (over $8 billion to support U.S. and coalition operations at Al Udeid since
2003) and about $500 million in U.S. military construction funding since 2003.67 Qatar reportedly
is providing another $1.8 billion for the Al Udeid expansion plan.68 The FY2021 National
Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 116-283) authorized $790 million for military construction
projects for Al Udeid, pursuant to an agreement with the State of Qatar for required in-kind
contributions. In 2018, the State Department approved the sale to Qatar of equipment, with an
estimated value of about $200 million, to upgrade its Air Operation Center.
As Saliyah Facility (Army) and Hamad Port
The U.S. Army component of U.S. Central Command prepositions armor (enough to outfit one
brigade) at Camp As Sayliyah outside Doha. U.S. armor stationed in Qatar was deployed in
Operation Iraqi Freedom that removed Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq in 2003. Because the
ground force threat to the Gulf from Iraq has largely ended since the 2003 Iraq war, it is likely
that the Defense Department will de-emphasize prepositioning armor in Qatar. Qatar has been
expanding the Hamad Port to be able to potentially accommodate larger U.S. Navy operations.
U.S. Arms Sales to Qatar
Over the past two decades, Qatar has shifted its weaponry mix more toward U.S.-made
equipment.69 According to the State Department military cooperation factsheet cited above, the
United States has $25 billion dollars in active government-to-government sales cases with Qatar
under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system, and, since 2014, the United States has authorized
the permanent export of over $2.8 billion in defense articles to Qatar via the Direct Commercial
Sales (DCS) process. Qatar has a 100% favorable rate on Blue Lantern end-use monitoring
(EUM) checks for direct commercial sales and a “satisfactory” rating for the FMS Golden Sentry
EUM monitoring program.
Tanks. Qatar fields 30 French-made AMX-30s main battle tanks and, since 2016,
Germany has delivered 62 “Leopard 2” tanks to Qatar. Qatar has not purchased
U.S.-made tanks, to date.
Combat Aircraft. On November 17, 2016, based on a Qatari request in 2013, the
Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of the potential
sale to Qatar of up to 72 U.S.-made F-15s, with an estimated value of $21
billion.70 The approval came after an evaluation of the sale with respect to the
U.S. legal requirement to preserve Israel’s “Qualitative Military Edge” (QME).71
During June-December 2017, the United States and Qatar signed agreements for
Qatar to purchase of all 72 of them, with deliveries to be completed by 2023.
Qatar signed a $7 billion agreement in May 2015 to buy 24 French-made Rafale

Military Activities at Al Udeid Air Base,” press release, January 14, 2019.
67 Figures compiled by CRS.
68 “’ America’s biggest Mideast base is getting bigger,” op. cit.
69 Information on Qatar’s existing military forces and equipment is derived from The International Institute for
Strategic Studies, “The Military Balance: The Middle East and North Africa.”
70 Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) Transmittal Number 16-58. The FY2016 National Defense
Authorization Act (Section 1278 of P.L. 114-92) required a DOD briefing for Congress on the sale, including its effect
on Israel’s QME.
71 For information on the QME requirement, see CRS Report RL33222, U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel, by Jeremy M.
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aircraft,72 and deliveries began in early 2019. In September 2017, Qatar signed a
“Statement of Intent” with the United Kingdom to purchase 24 Typhoon combat
Attack Helicopters. In 2012, the United States sold Qatar AH-64 Apache, UH-
60 M Blackhawk, and MH-60 helicopters, with an estimated value of about $6.6
billion. On April 9, 2018, DSCA announced that the State Department had
approved a sale to Qatar of 5,000 Advanced Precision Kill Weapons Systems II
Guidance Sections for use on the Apaches, with an estimated value of $300
million. On May 9, 2019, DSCA notified Congress of a possible sale of another
24 AH-64E Apaches to help Qatar defend its oil and gas platforms, at an
estimated cost of $3 billion. S.J.Res. 26 was introduced on May 14, 2019, to
prohibit the sale but, after the Administration stated an intent to veto the bill, a
motion to discharge the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from further
consideration of the bill failed 42-57.73
Short-Range Missile and Rocket Systems. During 2012-2016, the United
States sold Qatar Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, Javelin guided missiles, the
M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), the Army Tactical
Missile System (ATACMS), and the M31A1 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket
System (GMLRS). The total value of the sales was about $665 million. On April
22, 2016, DSCA notified to Congress a potential sale to Qatar of 252 RIM-116C
Rolling Airframe Tactical Missiles and 2 RIM 116C-2 Rolling Airframe
Telemetry Missiles, at an estimated cost of $260 million.74 The July 9, 2019 joint
Trump-Tamim statement said that Qatar had recommitted to a 2018 agreement to
buy 40 National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAM) at an
estimated value of $215 million. On July 10, 2019, Raytheon announced that
Qatar will be the first country to purchases its Advanced Medium Range Air-to-
Air Missile – Extended Range (AMRAAM-ER) weapon.75
Ballistic Missiles. At its national day parade in December 2017, the Qatari
military displayed a newly-purchased SY 400-BP-12A ballistic missile, which
has a 120-mile range and is considered suited to a surface attack mission. 76
Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD). Qatar has purchased various U.S.-made BMD
systems, consistent with U.S. efforts to promote a coordinated Gulf missile
defense capability against Iran’s missile arsenal. In 2012, the United States sold
Qatar Patriot Configuration 3 (PAC-3, made by Raytheon) fire units and missiles
at an estimated value of nearly $10 billion. Also that year, the United States
agreed to sell Qatar the Terminal High Altitude Area Air Defense (THAAD), the
most sophisticated ground-based missile defense system the United States has
made available for sale.77 No THAAD purchase has been finalized.

72 Tom Hussain, “Is France Positioning Itself for Lead Role in Persian Gulf?” McClatchy, May 1, 2015; Awad Mustafa
and Joe Gould, “Senators Begin Push for Jet Sales to Kuwait, Qatar,” Defense News, January 22, 2016.
73 Marianne Levine, “Senate fails to block arms sales to Bahrain and Qatar,” Politico, June 13, 2019.
74 DSCA Transmittal Number 16-07.
75 Jane’s Defence Weekly, July 11, 2019.
76 “Why is Qatar Showing Off its New Short-Range Ballistic Missile Arsenal?” Al Arabiya English, December 20,
77 DSCA announcement, November 5, 2012,
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Naval Vessels. In 2016, DSCA transmitted a proposed sale to Qatar of an
unspecified number of U.S.-made Mk-V fast patrol boats, along with other
equipment, with a total estimated value of about $124 million. In August 2017,
Qatar finalized a purchase from Italy of four multirole corvette ships, two fast
patrol missile ships, and an amphibious logistics ship, estimated at $5 billion.78
Other Defense Partnerships
Qatar has developed defense relations with several other partners.
NATO. Qatar established relations with NATO under the “Istanbul Cooperation
Initiative” (ICI). Qatar’s Ambassador to Belgium serves as the interlocutor with
NATO, the headquarters of which is based near Brussels. In June 2018, Qatar’s
Defense Minister said that his country’s long-term “ambition” is to join NATO.79
France. Prior to 2000, Qatar bought most of its major combat systems from
France. In March 2019, France and Qatar signed agreements on defense
information exchange, cooperation to combat cybercrime, and culture and
Turkey. Turkey helped Qatar cope with the intra-GCC rift by increasing food
exports to Qatar. Turkey also added more than 1,500 troops to its Tariq bin Ziyad
base in Qatar, which was established in 2014, and it opened a second military
base in Qatar in September 2019.81 Given Turkey’s support for Qatari regional
policies, one of the “13 demands” of the Saudi-led bloc has been that Qatar close
the Turkish bases.82
Russia. Since 2016, Qatar has broadened its relationship with Russia, including
with several visits to Russia by Amir Tamim, apparently in recognition of
Russia’s heightened role in the region. One of Qatar’s sovereign wealth funds has
increased its investments in Russia, particularly in the Rosneft energy firm, and
Qatar Airways has bought a 25% stake in a Moscow’s airport. Qatar is reportedly
considering buying the S-400 sophisticated air defense system,83 but U.S.
opposition and the potential for U.S. sanctions for the sale apparently has
contributed to Qatar’s lack of movement to complete the purchase. Section 231
of the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA, P.L.
115-44) sanctions persons or entities that conduct transactions with Russia’s
defense or intelligence sector.

78 “Qatar’s EUR5 Billion Naval Deal with Italy Sees Three Ship Types to Be Delivered,” IHS Jane’s Navy
, June 17, 2016.
79 Benas Gerdziunas, “NATO dashes membership hopes of Qatar,” Politico, June 6, 2018.
80 “Qatar, France sign 5 defense, security deals,” Xinhua, March 28, 2019.
81 Stasa Salacanin, “Turkey expands its military base and influence in Qatar,” The New Arab, September 10, 2019.
82 “UAE official says Turkish base in Qatar destabilises region,” Reuters, October 10, 2020; “How Qatar and Turkey
came together,” The Economist, January 21, 2021.
83 “Qatar still studying Russian defense system, minister says,” Reuters, March 4, 2019.
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Counter-terrorism Cooperation84
According to the State Department report on international terrorism for 2019, released in June
The United States and Qatar continued to increase CT [counter-terrorism] cooperation in
2019, building on progress made after the U.S. Secretary of State and Qatari Foreign
Minister signed a CT MOU [memorandum of understanding] in July 2017. At the U.S.-
Qatar Counterterrorism Dialogue in November 2019, the two governments declared their
fulfillment of the MOU largely complete and committed to set shared priorities for 2020.
The State Department report adds that
U.S. technical assistance to Qatari law enforcement and judicial agencies increased during
2019. The U.S. Departments of Justice, State, and the Treasury, as well as the FBI, led or
participated in several capacity-building initiatives involving [the Ministry of Interior, the
Central Bank, and several other Qatari agencies]. A [Department of Justice] resident legal
advisor has been stationed in Qatar since April 2018, providing technical assistance to
Qatar’s CT efforts and building prosecutorial capacity. In November 2018, Qatar began
using its own funds to pay for a three-year U.S. Department of State Anti-Terrorism
Assistance (ATA) training program, including training pertinent to Qatar’s preparations to
host the FIFA World Cup in 2022; the primary recipients are [Ministry of Interior and
Internal Security Force] officers.
U.S. and Qatari officials sometimes differ over the threat posed to the region by some groups,
such as Hamas. In an effort to implement the U.S.-Qatar MoU, in 2018, the Qatar Ministry of
Interior issued a list of 19 individuals and eight entities that it considers as “terrorists.” The list
includes 10 persons who are also are also named as terrorists by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. At
least one high-ranking Qatari official provided support to Al Qaeda figures residing in or
transiting Qatar, including suspected September 11, 2001, attacks mastermind Khalid Shaykh
Mohammad.85 None of the September 11 hijackers was a Qatari national. There were no terrorist
incidents in Qatar in 2019 or 2020.
Terrorism Financing Issues
The State Department 2019 report on terrorism states that Qatar is taking steps to prevent
terrorism financing and the movement of suspected terrorists into or through Qatar. According to
the report:
The Qatari government passed a new AML/CFT [anti-money laundering/countering the
financing of terrorism] law in 2019 and sought feedback from the International Monetary
Fund and the U.S. government during the drafting process. Qatar continued to maintain
restrictions, imposed in 2017, on the overseas activities of Qatari charities, requiring all
such activity to be conducted through one of two approved charities in an effort to better
monitor charitable giving for terrorist financing abuse.
The State Department announced on August 12, 2020 that then-Coordinator for Counterterrorism,
Ambassador Nathan Sales, met in Doha with Qatar’s Attorney General and other senior

84 Much of the information in this section is taken from: U.S. Department of State, Office of the Coordinator for
Counterterrorism, “Country Reports on Terrorism 2019: Qatar,” released June 2020.
85 Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States.
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government officials to discuss Qatar’s role as a partner in combating the financing of terrorism,
including implementation of its new AML/CFT legislation.86
The country is a member of the Middle East North Africa Financial Action Task Force
(MENAFATF), a regional body that coordinates efforts combatting money laundering and
terrorism financing. In February 2017, Qatar hosted a meeting of the “Egmont Group” consisting
of 152 country Financial Intelligence Units. Qatar is also a member of the Terrorist Financing
Targeting Center (TFTC), a U.S.-GCC initiative announced in May 2017 and Qatar joined the
United States and other TFTC countries in designating terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda and IS
later in 2017.
Countering Violent Extremism
According to the 2019 State Department report on terrorism: “Qatar has made significant strides
in addressing state-sourced internal and external support for educational and religious content
espousing intolerance, discrimination, sectarianism, and violence, although examples are still
found in textbooks and disseminated through satellite television and other media.” Qatar has
hosted workshops and participated in regional meetings on the issue.
Economic Issues amid COVID-19 and the GCC Rift
Qatar has been wrestling with a decline in world energy prices since mid-2014, and the economic
effects of the intra-GCC rift and the COVID-19 pandemic. As of early April 2021, Qatar has
reported about 181,000 COVID-19 cases and 300 deaths from the disease. After an initial spike of
COVID-19 cases in the spring of 2020, government-mandated lockdowns, social distancing, and
travel restrictions resulted in a relatively low number of deaths through the end of 2020. An
increase in cases led the government to announce new measures in February 2021 to reduce
communal spread.87 Close to 800,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered;
both the Pfizer and BioNTech, and Moderna vaccines have been approved for emergency use.88
Qatar’s 2020 budget, announced in December 2019, anticipated a surplus of about $1.2 billion,89
but the economic effects of COVID-19 and an expected oil price of $40 per barrel are expected to
put the country’s budget into deficit in 2021.90 As a public health crisis, observers have noted that
the infection spread most rapidly among Qatar’s expatriate labor population that often live in
crowded conditions.91
Large oil and gas reserves and its small citizen population have combined to make Qatar the
country with the world’s highest per capita income. Oil and gas still account for over 90% of
Qatar’s export earnings, and over half of government revenues. Proven oil reserves of about 25
billion barrels enable Qatar to continue its current levels of oil production (about 700,000 barrels
per day) for over 50 years. Its proven reserves of natural gas are about 13% of the world’s total

86 U.S. Department of State, “Coordinator for Counterterrorism Ambassador Nathan A. Sales Travels to Qatar,” media
note, August 12, 2020.
87 World Bank, Macro Poverty Outlook for Middle East and North Africa: Qatar, April 2, 2021.
88 World Health Organization, “Qatar,” Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard, accessed April 2, 2021; State of
Qatar, Ministry of Public Health, “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19),” 2021.
89 “Qatar Announces 2020 Budget, its Biggest in Five Years,” Al Jazeera, December 19, 2019.
90 David Barbuscia, “Qatar expects $9.5 billion deficit next year on lower revenues,” Reuters, December 11, 2020.
91 “Coronavirus spreads “exponentially” in Qatar’s labor camps,” CBS News, March 15, 2020.
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and it is the second largest exporter of natural gas in the world. 92 In 2018, Qatar withdrew from
the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in order to focus on its more
high-priority natural gas exports. Qatar is the source of the gas supplies for the Dolphin Gas
Project established by the UAE in 1999 and which became operational in 2007. The project
involves production and processing of natural gas from Qatar’s offshore North Field, which is
connected to Iran’s South Pars Field (see Figure 2), and transportation of the processed gas by
subsea pipeline to the UAE and Oman.93 Qatar did not reduced its gas supplies to the other GCC
states as retaliation for the blockade.
Qatar’s main sovereign wealth fund, run by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), as well as
funds held by the Central Bank, total about $350 billion, according to Qatar’s Central Bank,
giving the country a substantial cushion to weather financial demands.94 The joint statement of
the January 2018 U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue “recognized” QIA’s commitment of $45 billion
in future investments in U.S. companies and real estate.
About 40% of Qatar’s food was imported from Saudi Arabia pre-crisis, and there were reports of
runs on stocks of food when the blockade began in June 2017. The government’s ample financial
resources enabled it to procure similar goods from Turkey, Iran, and India. The effects of the rift
on Qatar’s international air carrier, Qatar Airways, have been significant because of the
prohibition on its overflying the blockading states. In July 2020, the International Court of Justice
decided in Qatar’s favor on its complaint that the denial of air overflight rights is a violation of
international civil aviation conventions.95 Some economic data is presented in Figure 1.
U.S.-Qatar Economic Relations
In contrast to the two least wealthy GCC states (Bahrain and Oman), which have free trade
agreements (FTAs) with the United States, Qatar and the United States have not negotiated an
FTA. However, in April 2004, the United States and Qatar signed a Trade and Investment
Framework Agreement (TIFA). Qatar has used the benefits of the more limited agreement to
undertake large investments in the United States, including the City Center project in Washington,
DC. Also, several U.S. universities and other institutions, such as Cornell University, Carnegie
Mellon University, Georgetown University, Brookings Institution, and Rand Corporation, have
established branches and offices at the Qatar Foundation’s Education City outside Doha.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Foreign Trade Statistics” compilation, in 2020, U.S.
exports to Qatar were about $3.4 billion, and U.S. imports from Qatar were about $1.2 billion.
U.S. exports to Qatar consist mainly of aircraft, machinery, and information technology. U.S.
imports from Qatar consist mainly of petroleum products, but U.S. imports of Qatar’s crude oil or
natural gas have declined to negligible levels in recent years, reflecting the significant increase in
U.S. domestic production. State-run Qatar Petroleum is a major investor in the emerging U.S.
LNG export market.96 The White House statement after the meeting between President Trump
and Amir Tamim on July 9, 2019 stated that the Chevron-Phillips Chemical Company and Qatar
Petroleum had agreed to develop a petrochemical complex in Qatar. Qatar Petroleum announced

92 CIA, The World Factbook.
93 Dolphin Energy website,
94 “Qatar Has $340 Billion in Reserves, Can Withstand ‘Any Kind of Shock,’ Central Bank Says,” Istanbul Sabah
, July 10, 2017; Arwa Ibrahim, “Beating the blockade: How Qatar prevailed over a siege,” Al Jazeera, June 5,
95 “Qatar Airways Statement on Judgment of the International Court of Justice,” press release, July 15, 2020.
96 Adam Schreck, “AP Interview: Qatar Energy Minister Wants ‘Fair’ Oil Price,” Associated Press, May 24, 2016.
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Qatar: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

in early 2021 that it will boost LNG output by about 40% by 2026 through expansion projects at
its North Field.97
Qatar’s airline, Qatar Airways, has been a major buyer of U.S. commercial aircraft, although the
status of additional planned purchases of U.S. aircraft is unclear in light of the effects of the
COVID-19 pandemic on air travel.98 Some U.S. airlines have challenged Qatar Airways’ benefits
under a U.S.-Qatar “open skies” agreement. The U.S. carriers assert that the airline’s privileges
under that agreement should be revoked because the airline’s aircraft purchases are subsidized by
Qatar’s government, giving it an unfair competitive advantage.99 The United States and Qatar
reached a set of “understandings” on civil aviation on January 29, 2018, committing Qatar
Airways to financial transparency and containing some limitations on the airline’s ability to pick
up passengers in Europe for flights to the United States. Some assert that Qatar Airway’s 2018
purchase of Air Italy might represent a violation of those limitations.
U.S. Assistance
Qatar, one of the wealthiest states in the world on a per capita gross domestic product (GDP)
basis, receives virtually no U.S. assistance. At times, small amounts of U.S. aid have been
provided to help Qatar develop capabilities to prevent smuggling of arms and narcotics, and the
movement of terrorists or proliferation-related gear into Qatar or around its waterways. In
FY2016, the United States spent about $100,000 on programs in Qatar, about two-thirds of which
was for counter-narcotics programming. In FY2017, the United States provided a total of $78,000
in aid to Qatar, of which $53,000 was for programs to support Qatar’s counter-narcotics
capabilities. The remainder was for maternal and other health programs. Virtually no U.S. aid of
any kind was provided for Qatar programs in FY2019, the last fiscal year for which precise data
is available.

97 Jessica Jaganathan, “Analysis: Qatar tightens global gas market grip with bold expansion moves,” Reuters, March
16, 2021.
98 The White House announced after the July 9 Trump-Tamim meeting that Qatar Airways would buy (1) five Boeing
777 Freighters; (2) large-cabin aircraft from Gulfstream; and (3) GE jet engines and services to power its 787 and 777
aircraft. White House, “U.S.-Qatar Joint Statement,” July 9, 2019.
99 Frank Kane, “Open Skies Dispute Between US and Gulf Airlines Escalates,” The National, January 30, 2016.
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Figure 2. Map of Qatari Energy Resources and Select Infrastructure

Source: U.S. Energy Information Agency, as adapted by CRS.

Author Information

Kenneth Katzman

Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

This report was prepared with the assistance of Sarah Collins, Research Assistant, Middle East and Africa

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Qatar: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

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