The glitzy face of Eurabia

Broon isn't the only one snuggling up to an unlovely Arab state for reasons of energy security. Sarko is at it too and not just in the Maghreb.

The glitzy face of Eurabia By Pepe Escobar
The emir and Sarko are so close that whenever there's business to be done - and that's a lot of business - the emir calls Sarko directly, bypassing the usual diplomatic channels. Not for nothing the Qatari royal couple are regular guests of honor in the traditional French parade of July 14.

The emir is indeed a fascinating character. Faithful to the (previous) empire, he studied at the British military academy in Sandhurst. In June 1995 he applied a bloodless palace coup and snatched power from his own father, who happened to be living la dolce vita in Europe. Once again flirting with iconoclasm, the emir then not only famously begged to differ from the House of Saud in virtually all matters but got into no-holds-barred journalism by launching a made in Arabia 24-hour news channel, al-Jazeera.

The emir holds no grudge against the West. Far from it; the best example may be the muscular influence of the Rand Corporation in Qatar. He is now carefully cultivating the profile of an international mediator - as in the Doha accords that led to the 2008 Lebanese presidential election.

The glass pyramid
Anyway, "culture" in Qatar remains predominantly business. And business is definitely booming for Alcatel, Alstom, Areva, GDF Suez, Total - all the big names of French big business. Vinci, for instance, is building no less than the number one bridge in the world between Doha and Bahrain, 43 kilometers long. GDF Suez is installing a desalinization plant in the middle of the desert.

Business is also booming in European territory. Qatar spent over $2 billion this year on five A-380 Airbus jets, not to mention the $17 billion spent two years ago for 80 A-350s. Add to it the 1.5 billion euros for 20 Tigre military helicopters from Eurocopter (a branch of the giant European consortium EADS). The French arms industry especially simply can't get enough of Qatar - betting all its chips on a commercial war against the Americans already doing business with Doha. EADS sold to Qatar their system of border surveillance as well as radars; now the emir wants an anti-missile system.

Qatar is indeed Paradox Central. In the tiny emirate of only 11,000 square kilometers, one finds only 900,000 people - 80% of them expatriates - as well as al-Jazeera, a mega-American military base key for the US Central Command and the wife and daughters of Saddam Hussein. On top of it, Qatar finances Hamas in Palestine. Annual per capita gross national product is a ridiculously high $74,000. Crisis? What crisis?

Qatar's love affair with all things French does not exactly include "liberty, equality, fraternity". Everything in what is technically a constitutional monarchy is in the hands of the al-Thani clan. Socially, it's a hardcore pyramid. What's the place of "Western liberal democracy" in all this ocean/desert of cash? The emir and his ultra-pro team have been skillfully projecting Qatar's global image as an extremely modern country. In Qatar everything seems to be diluted in the overwhelming liquid modernity flux of services, banking and smooth efficiency. As much as Dubai in the United Arab Emirates copied to the hilt the Singaporean model, Qatar is re-mixing the Dubai copy. A haven of social justice it ain't.

France and the European Union for that matter - can live with it. Most of Qatar's gas - the country is the number one exporter of LNG (liquefied natural gas) - goes to Asia. Last year, France bought only 85 million euros in oil and 20 million euros in gas from Qatar. The possibilities of expansion, not only for France but the EU as a whole, are limitless. Especially because Brussels' dream is to escape from the Russian energy stranglehold. The holy grail is North Pars, the largest gas field in the world, which Qatar shares with Iran. Forget about villas in the Cote d'Azur; it's big - energy - business in this node of Eurabia that will be booming for a long time to come.
We Eurovolk have long indulged in sordid affairs with the Gulf Kingships. Their peoples may genuinely hate our freedom but what's not to love when they have things like this.

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