By closing Al Jazeera America after spending $2 billion, Qatar lowers global profile

Special to WorldTribune.com

Qatar’s decision to pull the plug on Al Jazeera America is seen as an indication of its new leader’s “more cautious” approach in the international arena.

Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani shut down Al Jazeera America after Qatar pumped some $2 billion into a U.S. network that had abysmal ratings since its founding.

static1.squarespaceAnalysts say Tamim is lowering the Qatari profile as the nation retreats from confrontation with Gulf Arab neighbors over Qatar’s promotion of Islamists in the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

“Sheik Tamim wants Qatar to remain relevant on the world stage, but he wants to do that without squandering money or angering neighbors … he doesn’t want to be sucked into conflicts in the region,” said a former Qatari diplomat, who declined to be named.

“The new approach is less noisy, it’s more cautious.”

While Al Jazeera initially boosted Qatar’s influence in the Arab world, it also brought the country new enemies, analysts say.

“The more successful Al Jazeera became, the higher the stakes became,” said William Youmans, a professor at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.

“Qatar started paying a political price for the channel. Its popularity incurred new pressures and costs.”

With its rich natural gas reserves, Qatar is still a power broker in the Middle East, but the days of using Al Jazeera as “a megaphone” of support may be over.

Tamim, who succeeded his father Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in 2013, is said to prefer a route of “soft power” through trade and investment for Qatar, diplomats say.

“The era of throwing money at Jazeera is ending,” said Hafez al-Mirazi, a former Washington bureau chief at Al Jazeera Arabic who directs the Kamal Adham Center for Television and Digital Journalism at Cairo’s American University.

“Al Jazeera fulfilled its mission: making Qatar a household name, influencing politics, at one point it was a powerful tool of foreign policy but all of that is over now,” he said, adding that current low oil prices had given the Qatari leadership an excuse to end “the extravagance of Jazeera which has lost credibility in parts of the Arab world.”

“It no longer represents both sides of the argument in the Arab world,” said Mirazi.

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