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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Qatar reacts as Donald Trump elected next US President


Donald Trump
Donald Trump

Shock turned to dismay turned to horror this morning for many people in Qatar as they learned Donald Trump will be the next American president.

Trump, who ran partly on an anti-Muslim, anti-immigration platform, appears to have defeated former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by a narrow margin.

She had been a favorite to win by pollsters, but proved unpopular with voters disenfranchised with the status quo.

The Associated Press called the election for Trump at 10:30am, Qatar time.

With votes still being counted in the US, Clinton opted not to give a concession speech yet, and is instead expected to address supporters in the morning (afternoon in Qatar).

However, Trump said she had called to concede and congratulate him.

Trump will officially be inaugurated in January. Barack Obama remains the serving US President until then.

At around 10:50am Qatar time, Trump took to the stage at the Hilton Hotel in New York City, flanked by family members, to speak for the first time as President Elect of the United States.

He was greeted with loud clapping, cheers and chanting of “USA” by his supporters, as he gave them the thumbs up sign.

He paid tribute to Clinton for putting up a “very, very hard fought campaign,” and thanked her for her service to the country, adding: “We owe a major debt of gratitude.”

Trump talked of now bringing the country together as “one united people”, despite political and ideological differences.

He went on: “Working together we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our nation and renewing the American dream.”

Plans for the country include overhauling infrastructure, working with veterans and doubling the growth of the US economy, Trump said.

And in a message to those outside of the US, he added: “I want to tell the world community that while we will always put America’s interests first, we will deal fairly with everyone, with everyone.

All people and all other nations. We will seek common ground, not hostility, partnership, not conflict.”


Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, has congratulated Trump on twitter.

Meanwhile, many Qatar residents were quick to voice their opinions about the outcome, which caused global markets to fall due to uncertainty about what a Trump presidency would mean.

‘Steadfast partner’

This morning, the US Embassy in Qatar held an early breakfast reception to watch the first results coming in.

Ambassadors, academics and senior Qatari officials joined Americans and US Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith from 5am.

US Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith at election results reception
US Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith at election results reception

They stood alongside life-size cut-outs of Trump and Clinton, while masks of the candidates’ faces around the tables were used as selfie-props.

Following the breakfast, Smith sought to reassure Qatar that the US would continue to maintain strong ties with the country under Trump.

In a short speech, she said:

“The US remains a steadfast partner to Qatar. Me and the embassy are here to advance and enhance US relations with Qatar.”

She cited education, business, military, culture and innovation as examples of collaboration between the two states, adding:

“Our relationship is strong today and will continue to be after our next president in inaugurated.”

Following the event, the ambassador said in a statement: “The people of the United States have exercised their most fundamental right in a democracy – the right to vote.  We pride ourselves in fair, impartial elections, and the voters have spoken.”

Foreign policy

However, Qatari columnist Reem Al-Harmi told Doha News that she felt Trump would take a more “isolationist” stance internationally in the coming years.

“Donald Trump’s policies towards the region are still not clear: he offers simple solutions and general statements, for much (more) complicated problems and crucial developments in the region.

Given his past statements, we can see that Trump is advocating for isolationism. Something that would have its impact on global market and world politics.”

But she added that Trump’s likely tougher stance on Iran could win him some friends in the region.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Meanwhile, Abdullah Al-Arian, an assistant professor of history at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar, told Al Jazeera English that the US could now step up its regional efforts against terrorism.

“Trump has given us a tremendous amount of rhetoric as far as the idea of being in this perpetual war against ‘radical Islamic terrorism,’ ” he said.

“The idea that they’re at war with Islamic militants around the region means that he will not be at all shy about the use of US military force in the region.”

Economic incentive

Politics aside, some analysts forecast that Trump’s business background would help him realize the importance of a strong Qatar-US relationship.

John McHugh, former Secretary of the US Army and now a government affairs counsellor in Washington, DC for US law firm K&L Gates, was in Doha as the results came in.

US election results reception
US election results reception

He told Doha News:

“I would expect him to quickly learn and value the U.S/Qatari partnership. The cooperation of our two nations should serve as a model for developing other alliances in the region that can join in our shared quest for a more stable and vital Middle East.”

Before Trump’s inauguration, there remains much to be done.

Speaking to Doha News, Clyde Wilcox, Professor of Government at Georgetown University in Qatar, said:

“Donald Trump’s victory has caught everyone by surprise, even Donald Trump. The Democrats were ready with a transition to a Clinton presidency, and the GOP was ready with a plan to oppose her.

Now Trump must scramble to assemble a transition team, and Trump himself will presumably scramble to get a deeper understanding of public policy. And the Democrats must come up with a strategy for opposition. Meanwhile political scientists need to understand how all of their polls and models were so seriously wrong.”

How do you feel about the results? Thoughts?

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