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Qatar’s new PM Sheikh Mohammed is ‘a trusted people’s person’: analysts

The diplomat has gained the trust of the local and international community since his appointment as foreign minister in 2016.

Doha witnessed a major domestic development on Tuesday with the appointment of Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani as the country’s new prime minister.

The appointment by Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to appoint Sheikh Mohammed as Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani’s successor has been welcomed internationally and locally.

The move was also met with surprises as members of the local community expected Sheikh Mohammed’s appointment.

Analysts noted that Sheikh Mohammed is a Qatari diplomat that has gained the trust of politicians globally and locally, describing him as “the man of the people”.

أفضل من أنجبت الدبلوماسية العربية الشيخ محمد بن عبدالرحمن. رجل متواضع حكيم رصين نجح في تفكيك أخطر الألغام الخارجية ضد ⁧#قطر⁩ قبل الحصار وخلاله وبعده وكنت شاهدا على ذلك. موفق دائما يا رجل ✌️

— محمد هنيد (@MohamedHnid) March 7, 2023
“The best that Arab diplomacy has birthed, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani. A humble, wise man who succeeded at dismantling the most dangerous mines against Qatar before and during the blockade and I witnessed that. Good luck, always.”

“He’s one of those ministers who is not very transactional but very transformational[…]he’s a diplomat, not just outside, but he’s a diplomat also within the ministry and within the cabinet,” Dr. Andreas Krieg, assistant professor at the School of Security Studies at King’s College London, told Doha News.

Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business Administration from Qatar University, Sheikh Mohammed has been serving as Qatar’s foreign minister since January 2016.

The following year after his appointment, Qatar was at the centre of the Gulf region’s worst diplomatic rift.

From 2017 until 2021, Qatar was subjected to an illegal air, land and sea blockade by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt over claims that it supported terrorism.

Those claims, however, were vehemently rejected and dismissed as “baseless” by Qatar.

Throughout the crisis, Qatar stood as a resilient country, though geographically small, it has proved its influence primarily through its diplomacy.

During the crisis, Sheikh Mohammed was praised for his steadfast efforts in rising from the crisis, even gaining the nickname “Knight of the blockade” among the local community.

At the height of the blockade, which took the region and the rest of the world by surprise, Sheikh Mohammed travelled to meet with key officials—all while “not attracting too much limelight”.

“He’s a good people’s person and throughout the blockade already he’s shown quite a lot of leadership, humble leadership, making sure that he did not only represent Qatar well, but was able to turn the international community’s response to the crisis around,” Dr. Krieg said.

Prior to his appointment as a foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed had served as the Chairman of the Qatar Investment Authority in 2018, which is now led by Central Bank Governor Sheikh Bandar bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani. 

In 2009, he became the Director of the Department of Public and Private Sectors Partnership at the Ministry of Business and Trade, and launched “Enterprise Qatar”.

As Qatar faced a wave of criticism in the lead up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Sheikh Mohammed repeatedly, and diplomatically, dodged all critics, displaying the country’s welcoming and hospitable culture before the event.

“These are people who are very good technocrats who are humble, down to earth, and they’re able to lead without making too much fuss or trying to attract too much limelight,” Dr. Krieg said.

Trusted locally and globally

Since his appointment, Sheikh Mohammed led numerous mediation efforts between conflicting parties.

Most notably, the Gulf state managed to bring the former Afghan government and the Taliban to the table of negotiations in 2020 in an effort to reach a peaceful settlement. 

During the same year, Qatar brought the United States and the Taliban together following more than a decade of war, resulting in the Doha Agreement.

Qatar continued to hold mediation talks until the last stretch, just days before the Taliban captured Kabul in 2021.

At the time, Qatar also led history’s largest airlift of people and successfully evacuated more than 80,000 Afghans and foreigners from the country. Its efforts in Afghanistan has gained the country the status of the major non-NATO ally in 2022 by the US.

To date, Sheikh Mohammed continues to advocate for Afghans’ rights, especially women and girls following the Taliban’s ban on work and education. The diplomat has also vowed to maintain contact with the Taliban, calling on the world to avoid isolating Kabul.

Beyond Afghanistan, Qatar succeeded in holding talks between more than 50 parties in Chad last year in an effort to end a long period of violence. After months of mediation, different sides signed the Chad Peace Agreement.

Qatar has also been a key communicator between the US and Iran in an effort to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). 

In the Middle East, Sheikh Mohammed continuously made headlines for his powerful statements on Palestine in the face of the ongoing Israeli occupation, displaying to the world Qatar’s unwavering stance towards the Palestinian cause.

“He has actually quite a lot of allies, partners and people who trust him across the government, which I think is very important when you lead the cabinet because as the prime minister you, first and foremost, you have to enable the government to do its job as efficiently as possible,” Dr. Krieg said.

Analysts have pointed to the trust Sheikh Mohammed managed to gain at the local and international front, mainly through his deep diplomatic experience.

“I think that’s the kind of the prime minister that Qatar needs at the moment in order to kind of streamline all the different ministries and push them forward[…]I think he’s the right guy for it,” Dr. Krieg said.