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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Qatar and Libya: Who’s really getting the last laugh?

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It all started in February, when revolution hit Libya, and the battle to oust embattled leader Muammar al-Qaddafi took new life.

Even then, Qatar was among the first countries to denounce Qaddafi’s harsh response to protesters. Qaddafi’s son in turn had a few harsh words for Qatar.

Since then, Qatar has:

  • Lost one of its own journalists in Libya, an Al Jazeera cameraman who the network says was targeted and killed by Qaddafi’s men
  • Sent fighter jets to Libya to patrol the UN-backed no-fly zone, the first Arab country to do so
  • Recognized Libya’s rebel national council as the representative of the North African nation, again the first Arab country to do so
  • Agreed to sell the oil now controlled by the opposition, according to a senior rebel leader (Qatar has yet to confirm this, but the US has expressed approval of the idea, saying sales would not be subject to sanctions)
  • Helped stave off a fuel crisis in rebel-controlled areas by providing petrol, diesel and cooking gas
  • Agreed to host Libya TV, the country’s first independent satellite channel, on its soil, donating the facilities and technical staff of Al-Rayyan, a local channel focused on cultural programming

Whew! I think Foreign Policy’s Blake Hounshell sums it up best:

Last year, at a regional summit, Qaddafi made a crude joke about the bulky Qatari leader being “better than me at filling a void” and cackled maniacally afterwards, to the obvious embarrassment of the Libyan diplomats around him.

On Monday, Qatar became the first Arab state to recognize the NTC as the “sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people.” With the allied bombing taking a punishing toll and with Qaddafi down to his few remaining strongholds, and Libya TV about to launch, it seems the emir is getting the last laugh.

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