Qatar and Saudi Arabia are not firm friends. Qatar supported Islamist powers in Libya, Egypt and Syria, criticises the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia, and allows the Muslim Brothers to congregate in the Qatari capital, Doha. In 1995, Qatar almost walked out of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a regional grouping of Gulf States. Now the GCC has walked out on Qatar, mostly because its members do not like Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, who has been throwing geopolitical muscle around after a decade of top-dollar gas prices. He has nominally handed over to his son, the 33-year old Emir Tamim. That could just be an internal matter for the region. But a new face on the scene, the new heir to the throne in Saudi Arabia, the 31-year-old Mohammed bin Salman, may spell problems. Some see him as the moderniser Saudi Arabia needs to shake up the national oil company and make good the Kingdom’s attempt to diversify away from energy. But his critics say he is impulsive. He is also the architect of the Gulf ’s recent diplomatic and economic isolation of Qatar and a hardline opponent of Iran, a Qatar ally. Expect a rocky road ahead, as these thirty-somethings go head to head.
Princes of power: Qatar’s Emir Tamim (L) and Saudi heir Mohammed bin Salman (R)