Qatar`s “new” phase

A follow up to my last post, where I had briefly discussed the move of Sheikh Hamad, former Emir of Qatar, of stepping down in favour of his son, Sheikh Tamim. 

QatarnewoldEmir

Few days ago, the big question was: is Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani (HBJ), former PM and Minister of Foreign Affairs (the brain, together with the former Emir, behind Qatar`s foreign policy and the country`s prominent role in supporting the uprisings in the Arab world, particularly in Libya and Syria) going to maintain his position in the next government?

Now we know the answer: HBJ has been replaced by Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, another member of the royal family seen as very close to the new Emir, who has long served in the interior ministry. Sheikh Abdullah is not only taking over HBJ in his former position as PM, but also as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

So, the HBJ era is over. It is unclear whether the former PM would retain his position as vice chairman of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), “a sovereign wealth fund with assets believed to be $100-200 billion, although Qatar watchers expect him to keep that job”, according to Reuters` analysis. This is a very strategic position not only for the sake of this tiny state which is one of the wealthiest in the world; but also on a private level, and in fact HBJ`s personal fortune is estimated to be in the billions. 

Going back to Qatar`s foreign policy and its involvement in the geopolitics of the region, analysts like French scholar Nabil Ennasri and Foreign Affairs` David Roberts, have estimated that, despite the fact that HBJ is gone, continuity in the country`s strategy should be expected. Maybe with a different style, marked by less unilateralism and more cooperation with other regional powers, notably Saudi Arabia, especially on the Syria file.

Other relevant changes after the government`s reshuffle include the appointment of Al Jazeera network`s director general Sheikh Ahmed Bin Jassim Al Thani as the new Minister of Economy and Trade. His career within the media network has been indeed quite short; he had took over Wadah Khanfar who resigned in September 2011, with the aim of  restructuring Al Jazeera`s assets in a corporate direction.

The new Emir has also appointed a woman, Dr Hessa al Jabar, former head of  ICT Qatar (the government body which oversees the ICT policy in the country, and which introduced many innovations in the country and founded Creative Commons Qatar) as new Minister of Communication and Information Technology. It has to be noticed, though, that the former Emir had abolished this ministry in 1996, one year after seizing power, with a decree which aimed at “freeing Qatar’s media from any dependence to a ministry constraining it through numerous legislations and laws from going forward to wider horizons, especially at a time witnessing a noticeable spread of satellite channels” (source: Qatar`s Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage).

It is not by chance that, at the time, a reference was made to the “noticeable spread of satellite channels”: 1996 is, in fact, the year when Al Jazeera, Sheikh Hamad`s media masterpiece, was launched with the aim of being the first independent news outlet in the Arab world.

Now the fact that the Minister of Communication has been restored leaves lots of room for speculation about Qatar`s future plans in terms of media policy and, more generally, about the way of managing the country. In the past couple of years after the Arab uprisings broke out, Al Jazeera`s “independence” from Qatar`s foreign policy has already been heavily questioned, and maybe more to come in the next future…

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What`s next for Qatar (and for the Arab region)?

As announced yesterday, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, Emir of the state of Qatar, has handed power to one of his sons, the 33 years old Tamim bin Hamad al Thani.

Today, in a 7 minutes televised speech (English transcript available here) the Emir made the formal announcement, although speculations about the succession of power in the tiny but rich and powerful Gulf state have been ongoing for a while. Last year, Sheikh Hamad declared to the Financial Times that Tamim was in charge of ruling the country for 80%. Tamim has been officially the Heir Apparent since 2003; being the son of the Emir`s favorite wife, the influential and glamorous Sheikha Mozah, he was already believed to have the greatest chance among Hamad`s children to become the next Emir.

But maybe not everybody was expecting this to happen right now, when Hamad was still pretty much in control of a country whose profile — financially, politically, culturally speaking — he has widely contributed to raise in his 18 yrs of rule. As speculated in this thoughtful piece by French scholar Nabil Ennasri, author of a book about Qatar, one of the reason for stepping down in favor of his son — besides the Emir`s deteriorating health — could be to stop the criticism that the country has received in these past two years for the aggressive role played in the Arab Spring, particularly in the case of Libya and Syria. By handing power to his son, Sheikh Hamad would prove that he is not preaching democracy and reforms in the Region while being attached to absolute power in his own country. Stepping down would provide the other Arab countries with a “model” (this is the word that Al Jazeera Arabic`s analysts have extensively used today in their coverage of the event) for the succession of power, in a peaceful and bloodless way. Yet, what Al Jazeera didn`t — and cannot — notice is that power still stays strongly in the hands of the same family, while an impression is given of an open-minded ruler who gives up to his privileges in favors of new generations, as Sheikh Hamad said today in his speech.

Yet maybe the most important question to answer revolves around the fate of Hamad bin Jassem, the powerful –and extremely wealthy, as The Independent reports here –– Prime Minister who also occupies the strategic position of Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Nothing has been said about the government that the new Emir will head. Everybody at the Palace knows that Sheikha Mozah, the mother of the new Emir, and her son, have manifested open hostility vis-a-vis Hamad bin Jassem and his politics. Hamad bin Jassem is deemed a strong man, and very much in charge of Qatar`s strategic choices in terms of foreign policy (and in its investments` deals, too) –which, lately, have been so much criticized –.

Rumors have been circulating, more than one time, that Hamad bin Jassem would likely orchestrate a coup against Sheikh Hamad sooner or later; looking at Qatar`s history this would not have been unlikely, since the succession of power in the country has always happened through coups (including when Sheikh Hamad took over his father, in 1995here there is a rare TV excerpt of his speech at the time–).

Sheikh Hamad has reiterated that Qatar`s policy wont change; and this is also what Al Jazeera`s analysts were stressing today during the speech`s coverage. However, the next days or weeks will tell us what would likely happen to Qatar`s foreign policy and to its masterminder, Hamad bin Jassem.

 

Bassem Youssef on Qatar

“El Bernameg” is an hilarious talk show authored by Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef, a jewel of irony and satire in the Arab media landscape.

Recently, Youssef has made headlines worldwide for being accused of “insulting the president” (Morsi) in his show, but two days ago the case was dismissed by a Cairo court.

This episode n 20 of “El Bernameg” not only documents the solidarity that Youssef has received from journalists and activists worldwide.

Actually, the most interesting part is when the comedian mocks Qatar and its intervention in Egypt`s internal affairs — well, he also mentions how the tiny Gulf state is buying France, UK, Italy, etc–.

There is also a sketch featuring Youssef and two Qatari men who are supposed to be the correspondents for a new version of  “El Bernameg”, a version that should give more prominence to the Gulf state. But eventually Youssef discovers that the two Qataris have bought the entire TV show. When Youssef asks them “what about our audience?”, the two Qataris promptly answer “How much is it?”. “How much are your eyes, Bassem?”, they add.

The most hilarious part is probably the choir mocking Qatar and its “qawmiyya al-arabiyya” (Arab nationalism).

I dont usually like to refer to Memri which is a very questionable organization but, for those who don`t understand Arabic and are curious to learn what this choir is about, here is the English translation provided by the US based research center.

Bassem Youssef`s words towards the end of the show should be kept in mind. He reminds the audience that the real problem does not lie in the one who buys, but in the one who sells. It`s Egypt who is selling everything to Qatar, Qatar only buys what is on sale. A clear accusation to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood who are currently ruling the country.

 

 

 

 

The Al Jazeera controversy over Syria, and why we should say no to nihilism

The controversy over Al Jazeera`s coverage of the Syrian uprising has been ongoing for quite a while. Actually, I remember Al Jazeera`s coverage to have been quite controversial since the very first days of the uprising, as it was pretty much non-existent.  At the time, pro-revolution activists accused the Qatari based-channel to underestimate the protests that started on March 15th 2011 in the country and to have given them almost zero airtime. The channel was accused to serve the diplomatic interests of Qatar, which at the time was pretty close to Bashar al-Asad and his family.

But soon the situation changed and Al Jazeera started to cover Syria extensively. I remember very well those Fridays during which I would sit with friends in Damascus to watch the  Al Jazeera-exclusive live coverage of the demonstrations from places such as Daraa, Homs, or from the suburbs of the capital. Sometimes they would split the TV screen into four, in order to give space and relevance to each city that was protesting.

This was when the majority of the Syrian activists were still in love with Al Jazeera, and when pro-regimes were actively engaged in a campaign aimed at defaming the channel for its allegedly unbalanced and unprofessional coverage of the crisis in Syria. This campaign even took some “creative” aspects as in these posters designed by pro-regime activists and distributed on Facebook.

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(source: anonymous pro-regime activists on Facebook)

After these episodes, which were mostly concentrated in the first six months of the uprising, many things have happened. Criticism is now coming not only from pro-regime activists, but also from some of Al Jazeera`s employees, such as the head of Beirut office Ghassan Ben Jeddo, who resigned in protest of an alleged lack of professionalism of the channel in reporting the Syria crisis; or Ali Hashem, a journalist from Beirut.

Internal criticism coming from the employees of the channel has matched with an increasing criticism coming from Arab analysts, such as Sultan al Qassemi, who in this article accused Al Jazeera to have failed to portray the Syrian uprising in a professional, balanced way. Many Syrian activists, too,  have lamented the alleged sectarian angle of Al Jazeera`s coverage of Syria, which would give prominence and relevance to the Sunni-led component of the uprising, ignoring the contributions given by Syrian minorities (such as Christians, Ismailis and Alawis) to organizing protests and anti-regime civil disobedience actions.

Despite all the criticism and many mistakes made by Al Jazeera (as much as by other channels, I have to say) in terms, for example, of not always verifying information and videos coming from social media before the actual broadcast, I have t to admit that I was pretty interested by the way they covered the “dhikra” of the second year anniversary of the Syrian uprising, few days ago. It was quite comprehensive, touching various angles, from the military one to the humanitarian, and covering different part of Syria in a simultaneous way.

I was particularly touched by the coverage of Aleppo done by Ghada Oweis, who reported from inside the city, focusing on how life goes on, despite all the difficulties, in areas that are under the control of the Free Syrian Army. Al Jazeera has put a different correspondent in each different areas of Aleppo, and sometimes they do a live broadcast going from one neighbourhood to the other, giving a pretty incredible feeling of simultaneity, hence a feeling of life.

Ghada Oweis, according to this post distributed virally on Facebook, is “wanted” by an Aleppian businessman who is ready to pay 50.000 USD dollars to have the journalist (and “terrorist” as it is written in the post) remitted to the Syrian authorities, “dead or alive”.

I dont know this gentleman and have not enough connections to verify if this post is true or is fabricated by other parties in order to suggest that pro-regime activists are ready to kill journalists. I don`t know.

Ghadaoweis

(source: Facebook)

 

There are so many things we don`t know. I watched another news story done by Ghada in Aleppo few days ago, concerning an historical building being reconverted in a school for children after being bombed by the regime. There was a teacher being interviewed who told the story of the building, of the kids, of the attempts to have life back in that building despite all odds. It was a touching story but I felt something strange when the guy mentioned the fact that the building was bombed “an year  and half ago”. At the time, in fact, bombing of Aleppo had not started yet. But, I thought, the guy might have been just a bit emotional and made a mistake (although the journalist should have corrected him). When I switched Twitter on, however, I found something in Edward Dark`s timeline which was pretty incredible. Edward is a nickname for a well-know activist from Aleppo who stood against the regime since the beginning of the revolution, but eventually turned against the revolution itself when it reached an armed phase, and notably when the FSA gained ground in his own city, Aleppo.

So what was in Edward`s timeline? A message from a Facebook account, allegedly that of lawyer Alaa al Sayed who, according to Edward, is a famous pro-civil society activist (and, I gather, not a regime goon). He said:

الاعلامية غادة عويس على الجزيرة غطت منذ قليل بتقرير صحفي بناء تاريخي حلبي تعرض للقصف :
للتوثيق و التاريخ :
—————————
البناء هو للكنيسة اليسوعية التي بنيت عام 1887 م ثم
تم تأجيرها لمديرية التربية في بداية الخمسينات و صارت مدرسة،
بعدما انتقلت الكنيسة الى ساحة الكرنك ثم الى العزيزية .
تم استخدامها كروضة باسم روضة ازهار تشرين حتى اغلاقها منذ ما يزيد على السنتين
و تم تحويلها بعد ترميمها الى متحف وضعت فيه الوسائل التعليمية الاثرية التي كانت مستخدمة في مدرسة المأمون منذ مائة عام والتي وجدت في أقبية المأمون عند ترميمها .
ملاحظات على التقرير :
—————————-
لم تكن الروضة مفتوحة منذ عام و نصف و اغلقت بسبب القصف، فلم يكن هناك قصف بحلب منذ عام و نصف.
و الروضة مغلقة قبل ذلك بكثير .
و الشاب الذي زعم انه معلم في هذه الروضة و توقف طلابه عن تلقي العلم غبر صادق .
لم تكن هذه الكنيسة يوما مدرسة الشمبانيا و هي معهد الاخوة الفرير في منطقة المحافظة، و صورة التلاميذ و الاساتذة المكتوب عليها مدرسة الشمبانيا التي استندت اليها الاعلامية عبارة عن صورة تاريخية وضعت في المتحف .
و الرجل من اهل الحي الذي قابلته و قال ذلك لا يمكن ان يكون من اهل الحي يوما .
الرجل الذي قال انه من اهل الحي و اولاده كانوا طلابا في روضة المدرسة و انقطعوا عن الدوام بسبب الاحوال الحالية ، غير صادق فلا هو من اهل الحي و لا اولاده كانوا في الروضة المغلقة من سنوات .
غادة العويس : في حلب تحديدا يطلب منك مزيدا من المهنية و التدقيق …ديري بالك معنا ما في لعب …

I won`t translate the message, but just the most important part of it, which is that, according to this gentleman, Ghada has been inaccurate in her story about the old building. First, because as I had also noticed, there was no bombing in Aleppo “half an year ago”. “The building was closed much longer before”. Second, because the guy who pretended in the news items to be a teacher in that school would be lying. Third, because the place itself was not what the report pretends it to be, but an historical Jesuit church which then became an institute run by the “Freres” , etc etc etc. Fourth, because the picture featuring the school pupils which the report shows is, according to Mr Al Sayed, an historical picture coming from the museum.

I could continue but I will stop. What does this lesson teach us? Not to trust Al Jazeera? Not to trust Twitter and Facebook? not to trust images?

I don`t know Aleppo enough to establish the truth on that building, or church, or whatever it is. I don`t know either Ghada Oweis or Alaa al Sayed to have enough elements to decide about who is right and who is wrong. This is yet another example of the complexity we are running through, every day, when it comes to Syria coverage.  But we should not embrace nihilism, as many are doing: “since everything can be fabricated by those folks, by both sides, then everything will be fabricated so I wont believe to anything that comes out from Syria”.

At the end of the day, this is the game the regime wants to play. And this is why at the beginning of the revolution, and for a very long time, it was so careful not to allow professional journalists in the country, which has left the entire Syria coverage in the hands of activists.

What we should do is to continue asking questions, to ourselves and to the others, every time we watch a news item -as much as when we read Facebook posts or  a tweet-, in order to understand where the truth lies. It is a time-consuming operation, I know. I have myself not enough time to do it -as journalism is not my daily job, and this blog posts took at least three days before being written, as I had promised  Ryan Smith on Twitter –.

But we should aim at doing it, always. Asking questions is an healthy exercise.

Nihilism is not.

 

Creative Commons celebrates CC Iftar 2012 with a special thought for CC Syria`s Bassel Khartabil

This post was out today on Creative Commons` blog. My thoughts, our thoughts as Creative Commons Arab world community, go to Bassel Khartabil aka Safadi, CC lead in Syria. Together, back in 2010, we started the CC Iftar project across the Arab region. Bassel is a passionate person,  always ready to help others. In a number of projects we have done together to support open source and the open web he has always been ready to help the others, share ideas, thoughts, resources. We all miss him a lot and hope he will be released soon.

THE ARAB CC COMMUNITY CELEBRATES WITH CC IFTARS

Last week, Muslims all over the world celebrated Eid al-fitr, a festivity which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, dedicated to fasting and praying. Since 2010, Arab world–based Creative Commons communities have celebrated Ramadan by organizing “Creative Commons Iftars” (CC Iftar) across the region.

A CC Iftar is a social event where people gather to celebrate the breaking of the fast, socialize, and talk about innovation, creativity, and the open web. CC Iftars are built around the spirit of sharing which lies at the basis of Creative Commons’ vision, and which people in Ramadan celebrate by breaking the fast together, partaking food, and giving to others.

This year, Creative Commons Arab communities have organized and celebrated CC Iftars in four Arab countries: Qatar, Tunisia, Morocco, and Iraq. CC Iftar Doha kicked off in the Qatari capital on August 13 at K108, a restaurant that redistributes its proceeds to charities working on issues such as unprivileged children’s education. Guests at the CC Iftar Doha were asked to share their ideas about inspiration and the outcome was crafted into a collaborative art project.

The day after, August 14, it was CC’s Tunisian community’s turn to join the CC Iftar project, with the first CC Iftar hosted in the country. Since the third Arab regional meeting “Sharing the Spring” was held in the Tunisian capital in summer 2011 to celebrate Arab youth’s blossoming innovation and creativity, Creative Commons Tunisia’s community — largely made up of photographers, cartoonists, musicians and techies — has been growing incredibly. Many community-led events, including the first CC Tunis Salon, have been hosted in the country. CC Tunis community gathered in the beautiful location of the Sidi bou Said park with home-cooked food (and lots of cats!) to discuss future projects to be held not only in the Tunisian capital but all across the country.

August 17 was our Moroccan community’s turn to host its first ever CC Iftar, with lots of people attending the gathering in Rabat. Morocco recently joined the broader CC Arab community by organizing Open Taqafa and the first Creative Commons Salon in Casablanca. The country has a vibrant artistic and musical scene, together with an high-skilled tech community, and many of these techies and artists are now joining their Arab peers’ efforts to bring more open and collaborative culture to the Arab world. CC Iftar Morocco was a big step in the direction of getting more regional cooperation over common open-culture-related projects.

On the very same day, CC’s Iraqi community was also organizing its first CC Iftar. Bloggers from the Iraqi network for social media (INSM) coming from different parts of the country gathered in Baghdad to celebrate openness and sharing with a wonderful CC chocolate cake. For those who were not able to attend the event physically, a skype session was held in order to join the celebrations virtually. Our CC team in Iraq has a Facebook page around which the community is gathering. Some of its members are regulars at CC Arab regional meetings and we hope to be able to hold CC events in Iraq more regularly, in order to familiarize the broader Arab community with the beauty and cultural richness of the country.

Despite the instability, violence, and political unrest still happening in many places in the region, the Arab world still has a strong will to move forward, create, and share. The community-driven enthusiasm and self-organization skills showed by the CC groups in Qatar, Tunisia, Morocco and Iraq prove this; hopefully next year new communities will be able to join and old communities will be able to come back to action.

As we conclude Eid al-fitr this year, our thoughts go out once again to Bassel Khartabil aka Safadi, CC Syria public lead. Bassel was one of the promoters of the CC Iftar project back in 2010, when he hosted an iftar in Damascus to celebrate cultural cooperation and sharing in a remix project with CC Lebanon. Bassel has been detained by Syrian authorities since March 15th, 2012. A campaign has launched to ask for his release and the response of Creative Commons’ communities worldwide has been overwhelming. We encourage you to spread the word and follow updates on the campaign’s site freebassel.org and on Twitter @freebassel.

picture courtesy of Creative Commons Iraq — CC Iftar cake

My friend Dahnon, the “salafi” of free thinking

In the old days in Damascus, Dahnon (as all his friends used to call him: too many Mohameds around!) and I used to sit and engage for hours and hours in discussions about poetry, literature, philosophy. He didnt` have an easy life: he comes from a huge family from Idlib and studied at the Faculty of engineer, despite having a great inclination for literature and poetry. He used to write poems and novels. Despite his passion for literature, he tried to find his own way to make a living by doing different jobs. Life is hard for the “shabab” (youth) in Syria, especially for those like Dahnon, gifted, talented, but without any “wasta” (recommendation).

Yesterday night I got the terrible news that Dahnon was arrested, while he was at a demonstration in Midan, central Damascus. He was a contributor to Lebanese publication as-Safir  where he used to write in the section  dedicated to youth culture.

Dahnon is not a salafi, he is not a terrorist or an agitator. He owns few weapons, though: his words and his thoughts. The Syrian secret service, or whoever arrested him, wants to take these “weapons” away from him, as from the other Syrian people who are only asking to think freely and express themselves.

A massacre was committed yesterday in Idlib, Dahnon`s hometown, while he was arrested. We dont know the exact number, but it`s something outrageous, around 200. Nobody can verify, cause independent reporters are barred from Syria. Those who are inside, like Dahnon, fighting with their words for their freedom, are arrested and prevented from speaking. Who`s gonna tell us the truth if people like Dahnon are taken?

Who`s gonna defend Syria if Syria does not defend people like Dahnon, literature-lovers, free thinkers and not salafis?

How are we expected to believe  the official “salafi conspiracy and armed groups” theory, when each day we see people armed like Dahnon, with thoughts and words, being arrested and silenced?

* A note on the margin: as-Safir, the Lebanese newspaper Dahnon is a contributor to, is traditionally a pro-Syrian regime publication. The last capital injection also confirmed this position. Few days ago, his main investor, Talal Salman wrote an interesting article where he asked the bloodshed and the arbitrary arrests to stop in Syria.  He asks if Bashar al -Assad would be able to put the interests of his country (al watan) above his regime`s (al nizam) interests. I think the answer to this question is pretty clear now that so many old friends are “un-friending” Syria. See also what Saudi backed London based Al Hayat newspaper says today about Hamas and the rumors that his leader Meshaal will be leaving Syria soon (his deputy, Moussa Abu Marzuk, is reported to have left already  for Jordan where he is getting hospitality in exchange of media silence).

The Wadah Khanfar`s file part two

Since Wadah Khanfar stepped down from his position at Al Jazeera network few days ago, lots of speculation have  been going on.

I`ve got lots of emails and questions from friends, colleagues and readers of this blog.

…Why he stepped down, what`s the real story behind?

Of course I`m not aware of the real reason behind this move which left everybody with great surprise, happening just few months before the 15th birthday of the channel (had it been just a “normal” resignation, I dont think it would have occurred only few months before the biggest event planned this year, the celebration of Al Jazeera`s anniversary. That would have been simply more logic and logistically better to have the big boss leaving after, I guess..).

But I`m pretty sure about the reasons which did not play an important role in Khanfar`s resignation.

He did not leave the network because of the Wikileaks affair. The US has never been the real “enemy” for Al Jazeera but a great media story, the giant super power fighting the small channel which eventually wins and gets bigger and bigger. It has been like that since the very beginning.

While Al Jazeera was denouncing the US-led occupation war to Iraq in 2003, it was exactly from Qatar that this war was being initiated and the warplanes sent.

Officially, there are endless disputes between the US administration (much more on the Bush old one, of course) and Al Jazeera.

Under the table, US and Qatar are such best friends, and have been like that for many years. There is an agreement between the two countries, and being Al Jazeera the biggest diplomatic weapon in the hands of Qatar, it can not be out of the deal.

If Al Jazeera pulls its arrows against the US and its policies towards the Middle East, this does not change the fact that we are speaking about media arrows only.  It is a cosmetic battle, fought according the rules of media, not according the rules of politics.

To prove this, it would be enough to read the following piece, which was out few days ago on Kuwait News Agency Kuna. “US officials praise Qatar leadership in Mideast” , it titles.

The article tells about a side meeting between US  State Secretary Hillary Clinton and Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad  bin Khalifa al Thani which occured on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York.

The top issues being discussed during the meeting would have been Libya and Syria. Concerning the latter, a senior US official quoted in the same article by Kuna -but without giving his name- would have said that:

” ..given that Qatar has had a long relationship with Syria, the Secretary also raised our concerns with Syria with the Emir, because the Emir is able to talk to Syria in a different way than we’re able to talk to the Syrians”.

“They compared notes on how the region and the international community can, again, work together to push back against the type of killing and atrocities you see taking place in Syria, and to show support for the struggle of the Syrian people for dignity, freedom, and to participate in how they are governed”.

So what does this article tell us about Khanfar`s resignation?

First, that US-Qatari relations are excellent, so Wikileaks is just a media hype which doesnt ruin the ongoing honeymoon between the two countries.

Second, Qatar is the country to talk to when it comes to the Arab springs and the new Arab world map. The US acknowledges it, by holding separate talks with the Emir at the UN meeting. Indeed, Khanfar has indirectly participated in building this international reputation of Qatar, where Al Jazeera stands as a key diplomatic weapon in the hands of the Emir. And it was under Khanfar`s management that Al Jazeera became the “revolutionary network par excellence”. It was under his visionary leadership that it entered the new media space, becoming the “coolest” broadcast brand on the Internet, enjoying an extraordinary presence in social networks and social media domains. It was under Khanfar`s leadership that the network finally achieved a reputation as a global player even in the US (remember the  success of the “Demand Al Jazeera” campaign).

Third, Syria. This is probably the most obscure point, where Khanfar`s resignation becomes eventually tied to a sort of “political deal”.

the Emir is able to talk to Syria in a different way than we’re able to talk to the Syrians”, says the anonymous US senior official quoted by the Kuna article.

He is right. There is a special relation which ties Qatar and Syria, and this is not only made by the financial ties and investments that were bounding the two countries before the Syrian uprising started last March.

The Qatari royal family has bought lands and castles in Syria, not only for investment reasons and not in the same way they buy land in Switzerland.

There are historical ties which bound the Bin Tamim tribe (from which the Qatar royal family Al Thani descends) and Syria.

A musalsal financed last year by Qatar and produced by the Syrian company SAPI (tied to Dunyia TV channel) celebrated this bound through an historical figure, Al Qa`qa bin Al Tamimi, who is an hero of the Islamic history and an ancestor of the Al Thani family (one of Sheikh Hamad al Thani youngest sons` name is Al Qa`qa..not  by chance).

So Qatar and Syria are historically related. Qatar royal family feels this emotional bound, even before the financial ties. It is clear that Sheikh Hamad knows how to talk to Syrians in a way that nobody else knows, as the US senior official points out in Kuna`s article.

But so far none of the Qatari offers to Syria has worked. Few days ago, an article by Boutheina Shaaban`s close friend Sami Moubayed was titled: “An offer that Syria shouldn`t have refused” . He precisely refers to the “offer” that was made through Qatar. Moubayed calls it “the brainchild of Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifah al Thani, once a close friend of Damascus”.

He calls it a “golden opportunity” but stresses on the fact that Syrians should have taken it and re-brand it as “Syrian initiative“, which would be a “win-win formula both for the Syrian government and for the Syrian street”.

So far, Syria has not jumped on it “precisely because of the Qatari connection”, says Moubayed and adds “the Syrians would not accept it as it stands”.

Rumors have been circulating that Turkey and Qatar are still at negotiations with Syria to stop the violence, and Khanfar`s head might have been part of the deal. In this scenario, probably a Qatari member of the al-Thani family would know much better than a Palestinian born which tribal ties bound Syria and Qatar. Khanfar`s head would have been a sacrifice paid as part of the negotiations with Syria.

This might be just another  “conspiracy theory” coming from the Arabs. It might be a good one though, which takes into account the historical ties between Qatar and Syria and puts the latter in a different, more privileged position vis-a-vis the “revolutionary movement” openly supported by Al Jazeera -and deeply backed by Qatar,too, although in a less direct way-.

This might also match with the “new” Al Jazeera grid that started few weeks ago. An “old new” grid that has been restored after months and months of revolutions-only coverage. Since the beginning of the Egyptian revolution in fact, Khanfar had stopped the normal flow of programs and talk shows in Al Jazeera Arabic and devoted 24 hours coverage to the revolutions. The few programs going on were in any case related to the revolutions –“Hadith at-thawra” and “Iqtisad at’thawra”-. 

Al Jazeera Arabic grid has been a “revolutionary grid” till few weeks ago, when we saw the “old new” programs, like Faisal al Qasem`s show “al Ittijah al moakis” coming back on air weekly. This might be a clear signal of the end of the strictly “revolutionary” period in Al Jazeera Arabic.

This might mean that, after the fall of Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya regimes, all the other ongoing revolutions -Bahrain, Yemen and, of course, Syria- will be dealt in a different way. As a part of the “normal” flow of information, not as a “cause”.

All this might reasonably be true.

But there is something I also know about the history of Al Jazeera, since the very first time I visited the station in early 2000s.

First, the choice of this new director might be a temporary choice, him being just an “interim” director before another one comes into the scene.

Second, Al Jazeera is a “brand”,  a “philosophy” which is bigger than those who lead the network. The journalists who stay will make sure that “the opinion and counter opinion” is preserved, in different ways, of course, but I`m sure the general philosophy will stay.

Third, the Emir of Qatar is  too smart to put somebody from the royal family at the top of Al Jazeera just to strengthen his control over the network. He is much more sophisticated than this. His diplomatic strategy over the past years has been sophisticated,too  and, if Khanfar`s resignation has anything to do with Qatar foreign policy -or with the Syria issue- this will be a clever move. Can`t be such a plain thing as achieving a more direct control over the network by putting there a member of the Al Thani family.

And Khanfar will find another place where to exercise his talent. In the past few years, he has proven to be a clever manager, not a clever Arab manager.

The doors of global networks should be wide open to him.