Browsing 'Donald Trump' News

Lesley Walker / Doha News

US Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith at the election results reception

US Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith raised eyebrows this week after posting a tweet that appeared to criticize President Donald Trump and his government.

Smith, a career diplomat who began her Doha post in 2014, tweeted that it was becoming “increasingly difficult” to explain US democracy and institutions to others.

The post came just a few hours after news broke that Trump had fired FBI director James Comey. The FBI had been investigating potential ties between Trump’s 2016 campaign team and Russian officials.

The US Embassy has not yet responded to a request for comment about the tweet.

But the message has gotten nearly 10,000 likes on Twitter. However, it also drew criticism from people who said it was inappropriate for diplomats to criticize the president.

In apparent response to the backlash, Smith explained the next day that she is regularly called upon “to explain and defend” her nation’s political system.

She added that this is particularly difficult “when partisan acrimony is so high.”

A career diplomat

Shortly after Trump was sworn in as president in January, he fired all US Ambassadors who had been directly appointed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

MOFA

Assistant Foreign Minister for Foreign Affairs Sultan bin Saad Al Meraikhi with US Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith.

However, Smith remained in her post, as she was not a political appointment.

At the time, the US Embassy in Qatar told Doha News that as such, Smith “looked forward to continuing her service to the United States as Ambassador to Qatar under the next Administration.”

Strong ties

Many in the US and internationally were shocked when Trump won the election in November, instead of his opponent Hillary Clinton.

At the time, the US Embassy held an early breakfast reception at the W Doha to watch the results coming in.

Donald J. Trump/Facebook

US President Donald Trump

Smith wore a cream-colored pant suit – a possible nod to Clinton’s outfit of choice – and sought to reassure people about Qatar-US ties, saying:

“Our relationship is strong today and will continue to be after our next president is inaugurated.”

Smith is fluent in Arabic and has served in the UAE, Jordan, Israel, the Gaza Strip, Egypt and Taiwan during her time with the US State Department.

Thoughts?

Ameer Abdul Razak/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar is likely to remain one of region’s most stable economies in the coming years due to its strong economy, top-heavy governance and politically inactive population, a new report has found.

According to BMI Research, the government’s ability “to provide its citizens with generous subsidies and economic opportunities” is a main reason for the stability.

However, Qatar has implemented some austerity measures in recent years due to lower oil prices and budget deficits.

Reem Saad / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only

But when asked about actions such as rising utility and gas prices, BMI told Doha News that these were “unlikely” to have a negative effect on stability.

Andrine Skjelland, MENA Country Risk Analyst at BMI, said:

“The scope of fiscal consolidation remains limited, and the overall impact on Qatari citizens’ living standards will be minimal.

In any case, we believe the government would be quick to scale back measures at first signs of significant popular discontent, preventing unrest from spreading.”

However, BMI’s report noted that political involvement from Qatari citizens is expected to remain “minimal.” Additionally, it forecast that foreign workers will continue to be subject to “heavy restrictions.”

It added that national policies will continue to be shaped by “a small group of elite decision makers” who face few constraints, “in turn ensuring broad policy continuity.”

Trump effect

BMI was also optimistic in terms of the big picture. For example, it asserted that Qatar’s diplomatic ties with the US will remain strong.

This is despite Donald Trump’s presidency and his views on radical Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Donald J. Trump/Facebook

US President Donald Trump

The report concluded that the continued US military presence at the Al Udeid air base and deep economic ties between the two countries will outweigh other US foreign policy concerns.

BMI’s experts added that a softer focus on human rights by the US would likely work in Qatar’s favor.

“Compared with the previous administration, we expect the US government under Trump to focus less on human rights issues and the spread of democracy in its foreign policy – a trend that will likely be welcomed in Doha, as it limits the potential for external pressure on it to implement political and social reforms.”

Muslim Brotherhood links

Trump’s team is also currently debating whether to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

This move could strain diplomatic relations between the US and Qatar, whose support of the group in Egypt has caused past conflict with its neighbors.

European External Action Service

Deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi

However, BMI asserted that Qatar’s ability to act as a peace-broker in the region, coupled with financial and military concerns, guarantee that the two countries won’t fall out over the issue.

“Doha’s ties to a broad range of state and non-state actors mean it is still considered a facilitator of MENA negotiations in Washington,” the report stated.

“The two countries also have deep trade links, particularly in the energy sector, and Doha has announced plans to invest $45bn in the US over the next five years.”

BMI added that Qatar would likely yield to US pressure over its Muslim Brotherhood ties if required to do so.

This is because relations with the US and other GCC countries are becoming increasingly important amid regional instability, according to the report’s authors.

Thoughts?

JFK Airport/Twitter

JFK International Airport

A Qatar high school student and her father were detained and handcuffed at a New York airport late last month after a new travel ban on visitors from certain countries was put into place.

The ban has since been suspended, but caused chaos and confusion at airports around the US for several days.

Since then, several stories have come out detailing mistreatment of travelers from the seven-Muslim majority countries on the banned list – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The teen from Qatar has shared the details of her harrowing experience in a video posted on Youtube.

26 hours in an airport

In the video, she introduces herself as Iman Bakir Sudki.

The Iraqi national and her parents left Hamad International Airport (HIA) to go to New York’s JFK airport in January, unaware of the new rules.

Full of excitement about her trip, Sudki filmed the beginning of her journey, including scenes of her ride to the airport, as well as shopping and getting a manicure at HIA.

Chris Hoare / Flickr

HIA

She continued to film throughout the flight and after the family’s arrival at JFK, but then the screen goes dark.

The rest of her experience – being detained at the airport for 26 hours – is narrated through a series of statements written in white text on the screen.

Handcuffed

Sudki explains that after a long wait at customs, her mother – who is Qatari – is told that she can enter the US.

But she must leave her Iraqi husband and daughter behind.

You Tube

Video still

Sudki and her father are told they will need to wait more than 12 hours for the next Qatar Airways flight, which will return them to Doha.

Her mom opts to wait in the airport with them, but just before the flight is due to take off that evening, she is told to leave.

YouTube

Video still

Afterwards, Sudki – a minor – said she was handcuffed and moved to another terminal, before being told that she and her family may not have to fly back to Qatar after all.

Hours later, the pair are finally told they will be able to enter the US after all, and are greeted by Americans holding supportive placards in the arrivals terminal.

Legal assistance

It remains unclear why Sudki and her family were reunited. They have not spoken publicly about what happened, and their lawyer did not return a request for comment.

But a US firm did file a legal request for Sudki and her father’s release on Jan. 28.

JFK Airport/Twitter

JFK International Airport

Signed by her mother, the document stated that the family had been awarded Diversity Immigrant Visas to enter the US last August.

Under that program, 50,000 permanent resident visas are made available each year to people from countries deemed to have low rates of immigration to the US.

Thus, the family’s green card status may have helped them enter the US.

Many other families were not so lucky, and there have been several reports of other travelers being sent back to HIA.

However, the US courts have so far found the travel ban to be unconstitutional so it remains on hold for now.

Thoughts?