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Qatar learns money buys cooperation only within its own borders

Billions of dollars into bankrolling revolutions in Libya, Syria, and Egypt, the Qataris are finding that money can't deliver an airtight foreign policy.

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As protests swept across the Middle East in 2011, Qatar, one of the region's smallest countries, sought to make itself one of the biggest players. Using its massive wealth to fund dissidents and new governments, it helped reshape the region’s political order.

But billions of dollars into bankrolling revolutions in Libya, Syria, and Egypt, the Qataris are finding that money can’t buy an airtight foreign policy.

When protests began, the heir apparent to crumbling Middle Eastern dictatorships seemed to Qataris to be conservative Islamists. The election of Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt’s first freely contested election seemed a clear signal and Qatar went on to provide $8 billion in assistance to the Egyptian government.

But Mr. Morsi's ouster and the subsequent demonization of the Muslim Brotherhood in the last month have forced the Qataris to reconsider their revolutionary investments. It's unlikely that Qatar will scale back its foreign commitments, but amid the ever-shifting Arab political landscape, it’s become apparent that the Persian Gulf nation must reassess its strategy if it’s to remain relevant.

“They are extremely enthusiastic about the way they go about things, and that’s fine, but they are inexperienced. They stepped into the limelight of the region and frankly their toes got burned off a little bit. They overextended, not because of dangerous interests, but because they were a bit naive,” says Michael Stephens, a researcher at Royal United Services Institute in Qatar.

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