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About Michael Stephens

Michael Stephens is Deputy Director of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Qatar, follow him on Twitter @MStephensGulf

Articles by Michael Stephens

This week’s front page editor

Rosemary Bechler is a mainsite editor of openDemocracy

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Obama’s strategy beyond an abnormal war

To defeat IS you have not only to beat it militarily, but to undercut the financial and ideological underpinnings upon which it rests, and replace it with something that ensures that it cannot manifest again in future times.

Qatar in change

The young Emir presides over a bustling city that grows with each passing day, it must be fed, housed and paid for. Growing pains are everywhere, and the spotlight shines fiercely on Doha and the way of life here as never before.

Workers' rights in Qatar

Reform will come, because it is increasingly clear that the system has become untenable.

Qatari foreign policy: a way out

It’s been a bad month. Rather than put money into the central bank in Cairo, why not help subsidise staple foods for Egypt’s poorest, or support relief aid in North Africa? 

The Egyptian crisis and its regional effects

Should Egypt collapse into violence and disarray, supporting the Army might well make the UAE look similar to how Iran and Qatar appear in Syria - one sided backers in a conflict that pulls the country apart rather than unifying it.

Qatar’s future a quieter one?

Perhaps being a little less interesting from now on in would help ensure the country a more stable and prosperous future. 

Is Qatar guilty of sectarianism in Syria?

Let’s be clear here, Qatar lost in Qusair. It is embarrassing and undermines two years and $3bn of financial support to the rebel movement. And it is time that Qatar began to take some responsibility for things Qaradawi has said, and is saying with regards to Syria.

Qatar’s dark side

The influx of journalists, writers, thinkers and generally socially engaged expatriates, alongside a growing class of civically minded Qataris ensures that these dark sides no longer remain hidden from view.

Qatar and the US have a working relationship

The differences concerning Israel, the occasionally troublesome Al Jazeera network, and Qatar’s hosting and funding of hard-line Islamists have been papered over in favour of larger strategic visions which ensure the interests of both parties.

The Qatari reaction to the Egyptian crisis

From this side of the political divide the Egyptians appear ungrateful, rude and disrespectful.

Qatar’s top diplomat tackles the rumours

A plethora of rumours, some of which originated from very reputable media sources, are circling around Qatari mega-purchases of the Pyramids and the Suez Canal.

Does Qatar have a stake in the nuclear debate?

Qatar refuses to allow its American airbase to be used as a launching pad for a strike against Iran should Israel or the US decide to go in. This certainly adds to the restrain factor that is so badly needed at this point in time.

Qatar’s embassy handover: masterstroke or gamble?

We see a curious pattern in which Qatar breaks ranks, then sits back and admires its handy work allowing bigger states to push the Syrian issue forward down the path Qatar has paved. The problem is, Bashar hasn’t lost.

Qatar’s public diplomacy woes

When the rumours get so large that answers are demanded they are met with walls of silence, not because Qatar has anything to hide, but because that is the culture of governance here.

All change in Saudi Arabia? Not quite yet

It should never be underestimated with the Saudi ruling family, the importance of regime stability at all costs.

Qatar and national identity

Up until 2008 Qatar had always marked its National Day celebration by commemorating the day the British upped sticks and left the country in the hands of the Al Thani to rule fully independently. The change to December 18 therefore was an interesting move.

Ashura in Qatar

The thought of ruining your two thousand riyal thobe and fifteen thousand riyal diamond cufflinks by covering them in blood does not make an awful lot of sense in the materialistically infused world of Doha.

Syrians in the Sheraton; a lesson in time wasting

Riad Seif is quietly impressive, and will no doubt play a positive role in a post-war Syria. But he exudes none of the characteristics of a leader everyone can unite behind.

A new dawn in Saudi?

Two men are now heading the virtual entirety of the Kingdom’s intelligence gathering apparatuses. MbN’s control over the Mabahith (secret police) and Bandar’s control over the Mukhabarat will link them closely into western counter terrorist efforts.

Shuttle diplomacy: Qatar playing politics in Palestine

The Palestinians rolled out the red carpet for Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, the first head of state to officially set foot on the territory under Hamas' control. The visit essentially legitimized Hamas as the de facto controller of the Gaza Strip.

Standing up for unity: building bridges through comedy in the Gulf

Whilst there are inevitable irritants to living in such a multicultural society, these are far outweighed by the positive aspects of the interactions that everyone has to experience in their daily lives.

Qatar’s Plan B for Syria: a wise choice?

Although Saudi forces are largely untested in war it is doubtful Assad’s forces could withstand a full scale Saudi offensive launched from Jordan. This may well be the key to understanding what Qatar is doing.

Qatar and protest: a difficult combination

There is a marked difference however in the way khaleejis and especially in this case, Qataris expressed their anger and displeasure at the film, with very little anger outside the electronic sphere.

Syria: silent war in the Gulf

The military conflict becomes more domestic and parochial, while the war of ideas spreads further afield and takes root in countries far outside Syria’s borders. This ideational war is the ‘Silent war’.

What does Qatar want in Syria?

The ruling Emir is putting his money where his mouth is, and opposition fighters in Syria are receiving the benefits.

The day Syria came to Doha

Whatever the agenda of Al Jazeera as it pertains to the Syrian crisis, one thing is for certain, there was no agenda in Fahad’s tears, nor in the embraces of his colleagues.

Is Qatar becoming the new Dubai?

Dubai’s failure to maintain its culture is not something most Qataris wish to repeat; the key is balancing modernisation with westernisation, taking the good and filtering out the bad.

Fires and politics in Doha, a worrying combination

No smoke without fire? Events in the Arab world are becoming more and more interlinked, and more and more - sectarian tensions cloud thinking.


Qatar’s social divide: hindering a pathway to the future?

Conversations in the majlis are now more alive with the idea that Qataris must play a more active role in being the change they wish to see.

Doha: a city of contrasts

Doha may not have experienced the Arab Awakening, but the Arab Awakening has experienced Doha. The international political life of this city is in overdrive.

Gulf union or merger? Assessing calls for a Saudi and Bahrain-led Gulf Union

The push for a Gulf Union is not the first step in a regional alliance, but the beginning of a merger between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to fend off the chance that Shi’a political mobilisation will destroy vital Saudi interests.

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