Qatar's longtime ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani transferred power to his son, thirty-three-year-old Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in an address to the nation on Tuesday (WSJ). The move was seen by some as unusual in a region where few rulers willingly abdicate while alive. Sheik Hamad, who has ruled for eighteen years, took power in the Gulf state after overthrowing his own father in 1995 (al-Arabiya). Under the emir, Qatar has been outspoken in foreign policy: it has supported rebels in Libya, Syria, and other Arab revolutions, and riled Saudi Arabia with its backing of regional Muslim Brotherhood parties. While Qatar has given no official explanation for the transition, which had been anticipated for weeks, Sheik Hamad is believed to be suffering from chronic health problems (AP).
"No one appears to expect any sudden change in foreign policy under the new emir. Considering Sheikh Tamim's age and the amount of financial and political clout he will wield internationally, there may be a little nervousness amongst the country's allies until his vision for Qatar's future becomes clear," writes Aleem Maqbool for the BBC.
"His decision came as Qatar's hand—more precisely its checkbook—can be felt throughout the Middle East, raising questions about whether the son will continue Qatar's high-profile interventionist policy. In recent days, Qatar has let the Taliban open an office in Doha and has helped keep the Syrian rebels armed. And while it is allied with Washington, it has also raised the West's ire by financing radical Islamist rebels in various arenas," writes Rod Nordland for the New York Times.
"To his admirers, Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani is a champion of the common man's struggle against tyranny, and a visionary who turned billions of dollars in energy revenues into strategic international investments. To his critics, the 61-year-old ruler only pretends to be a friend of the masses, for while he backed Arab Spring revolts against autocracy, he clamped down on freedoms at home," writes Regan Doherty for Reuters.
China Rebukes U.S. Over Snowden Comments
China lashed out at the United States on Tuesday (Reuters), saying Washington's accusations that it facilitated the flight of fugitive CIA contractor Edward Snowden were "baseless and unacceptable." Snowden, wanted by the U.S. government on espionage charges, fled Hong Kong on Sunday.
SOUTH KOREA: Hackers attacked the websites of South Korea's presidential office and other organizations on Tuesday, the anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War (Yonhap).
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Taliban Raids Afghan Presidential Palace
The Taliban attacked the Afghan presidential palace in Kabul in a Tuesday raid (al-Jazeera) that also targeted the nearby U.S. Central Intelligence Agency office. The militant grouped claimed responsibility for the attacks, in which at least three Afghan guards and four of the attackers were killed.
INDIA: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday during his first trip to India that the United States sympathized with India's reservations about the Taliban peace talks. Taliban affiliates have been blamed for attacking Indian reconstruction projects in Afghanistan and the Indian embassy in Kabul.
EU Delays Turkey Membership Talks
The EU postponed the resumption of Turkey's membership talks, on hold since mid-2010, by at least four months in protest of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's harsh treatment of protesters (Bloomberg).
Obama Preps for Africa Trip
President Obama will begin his first extended visit to Africa (Guardian) on Wednesday, visiting Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. South African trade unions called for mass protests, including a march at the U.S. embassy in Pretoria.
CFR's John Campbell writes about Obama's overdue trip to Africa in this new expert brief.
SOUTH AFRICA: Former South African leader Nelson Mandela remains in critical condition (NYT) in a Pretoria hospital. He is being treated for a lung infection.
An Italian court sentenced former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to seven years in jail and banned him for life from public office after finding him guilty (WSJ) of paying for sex with a minor and abusing his office for a cover-up.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff proposed a referendum on political reforms in a bid to assuage the protests (BBC) that have swept the country. She promised to boost spending on public transport and focus on health and education.
Brazil's government must reassure citizens that it is committed to implementing economic strategies that ensure inclusive growth, writes CFR's Isobel Coleman in this blog post.