Qatari editor tells Obama not to export democracy to Middle East

April 20, 2011

An editorial in a Qatari newspaper has told US President Barack Obama that Qatar was not keen on the US “exporting” democracy to the Gulf country.

“Mr. President, we have often written about US foreign policy having double standards and being unmindful of the process of change in the Middle East. We do not want US to export democracy to us because we do not want to repeat the Iraq experience,” wrote Khalid Al Syed, the editor-in-chief of the Doha-based daily The Peninsula in his editorial.

“We believe Qatar is on the learning curve and we are making progress in practicing democracy, from media to public debate and education. It is true, we do not have party labels and a representative house, but all Qataris are one party behind the Emir and parliament and that will come sooner than later.”

Rejecting Obama’s remarks that he “was not impressed by the pace of democratic progress in Qatar”, Al Syed wrote that “maybe in Qatar, our pace is slow, but we have no doubt we are in the right direction”.

“We strongly believe that change and democracy should come from within and should never be imported or we will have what happened in Iraq.”

Al Syed said that his editorial on Tuesday – titled “We’ll be there, Mr. Obama” – was in reaction to Obama’s off-the-record comments on Qatar and its Emir, Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Thinking that he was speaking in confidence to Democratic donors, Obama on Thursday said the Emir “is a big booster, big promoter of democracy all throughout the Middle East”.

“Reform, reform, reform — you’re seeing it on Al Jazeera. Now, he himself is not reforming significantly. There’s no big move towards democracy in Qatar,” Obama said.

He reportedly said that the fact that Qataris enjoy a very large per-capita income will “dampen a lot of conflict”.

The diplomatic gaffe was recorded by CBS News’s Mark Knoller and made its way to Internet sites.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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