The emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, recently became the first head of state to visit Gaza since it came under the control of Hamas in 2007. In an email interview, Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, discussed the Qatari leader’s visit.
WPR: What was the emir of Qatar hoping to achieve by the visit?
Simon Henderson: It is not clear. Officially, Sheik Hamad was showing support for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Unofficially, his principal motives seem to have been to project Qatar’s growing diplomatic profile. In particular, he was displaying backing for an Islamist regime, one that has been largely isolated. It will take some time before it is possible to make a judgment of the impact of the visit.