The tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar, a Connecticut-sized thumb of a nation sticking out of the side of Saudi Arabia, played a huge role in the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, pushing for a no-fly zone and sending significant amounts of weapons, advisers, and supplies to support the Benghazi-based rebels. Qatar's Al Jazeera satellite channel cheered on the rebel fighters and hosted prominent opposition figures on its airwaves. The country also helped set up a satellite channel for the interim National Transitional Council, and provided its leaders with housing in swank hotels in downtown Doha. Last week, I attended a victory party hosted by Qatar in the capital city's restored souq, which was festooned with banners congratulating the new Libya on its liberation.
In recent weeks, however, some Libyan political figures have been ramping up their criticism of Qatar for allegedly favoring Islamist leaders like exiled cleric Ali Sallabi and Tripoli Brigade leader Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a former head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, over more secular-minded folks, and for circumventing the NTC.
Until now, such criticism has been couched in polite, but firm terms: Thanks for helping liberate us, but you need to butt out now. Qatar even signed an agreement pledging non-interference in Libya's internal affairs.
But yesterday, Abdel Rahman Shalgham, Qaddafi's longtime foreign minister and later U.N. ambassador who broke with the old regime in a dramatic, tear-filled speech in New York on Feb. 25, unloaded on Qatar. Shalgham, mind you, is still Libya's ambassador to Turtle Bay.
On possible Qatar led coalition in Libya - Shalgam: I don't understand this coalition & I don't accept it
Shalgam: Even the Libyans don't understand this (possible Qatar led coalition) Qatar leading America & France? Who is Qatar?
Shalgam: Does Qatar even have an army? Qatar only has mercenaries, from Nepal & from Bangladesh & from Pakistan.
Shalgam: What capability does Qatar have? Our brothers from Qatar helped us but I fear Qatar will meet the fate of Gaddafi's megalomania.
Shalgam: Qatar might have delusions of leading the region. I absolutely do not accept their presence (in Libya) at all.
Shalgam: The number of Libyan martyrs & injured & missing, if you count them, is greater than the number of Qatar's residents.
Shalgam: What is Qatar doing there (in Libya)? Qatar isn't neutral with all parties. Qatar will gather these weapons & give them to others.
Shalgam: Libya is in no need of Qatar's money. It was Nato that played a decisive role.
Shalgam: The professionals who run the oil & banking industries in Qatar are Libyans.
Shalgam: What makes Qatar so special that it sets up an operations room (in Libya) to lead Britain & the US, this is totally unacceptable.
Shalgam: All of Qatar isn't worth a neighbourhood in Libya. The Libyan experts are the ones who are leading Qatar.
Shalgam: We don't need Qatar in anything, thanks for their efforts, we will decide our own destiny, we don't want them to interfere
Shalgam: We don't consider them neutral in Libya, they are backing certain people, we know their names.
Shalgam: We don't need America or Qatar, we have officers and everything. | Question from anchor - "Was Qatar forced on the Libyans?"
Shalgam: This is unacceptable. There was no document. They gathered in meeting in Doha. Qatar forced Qatar (on Libya)
Shalgam: Sheikh Mustafa Abdul Jalil (NTC head) went to Qatar with apolitical people who don't know the background & didn't read the document
Shalgam: They accepted the document. I warn our brothers in Qatar, if they continue this path to dominate Libya they would be delusional.
Shalgam: We will resist the Qataris by all means. We will not accept to be used by Qatar.
Shalgam: We will not accept to be a new emirate that belongs to the new "Emir of the Believers" in Qatar.
Shalgam: I do not rule out Qatar setting up a Hezbollah party in Libya. We don't want a foreign country to interfere.
So much for gratitude! Let's see how the Qataris respond.