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WikiLeaks Reveals Al Thani Royal Family Maintains A “Tight Grip On Power”

Posted: November 2nd, 2017

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The journalistic transparency group WikiLeaks has publically disclosed millions of internal diplomatic documents and cables leaked from the U.S. Government. The documents reveal the realities of international diplomacy—often with unvarnished candor. In particular, the diplomatic communications reveal much about Qatar, its royal Al Thani family, the nation’s sovereign wealth fund, and relations with the United States. has already cited many WikiLeaks sources throughout our Qatar reporting. Today we want to assemble the WikiLeaks sources in one location.

You can search the documents for yourself at, but below we have highlighted the documents and cables we found interesting.

Doha, Qatar

Al Thani Family’s “Tight Grip on Power”

The Al Thani family have controlled Qatar for approximately 140 years, maintaining a “tight grip on power” during British colonial rule and after independence. The Qatari constitution enshrines hereditary rule by the Emir’s branch of the Al Thani family. Accordingly, the Al Thani name can be “a ticket to opportunity,” as local and foreign businesses prefer working with a royal.

The Al Thani royal family occupy the highest levels of government. At least nine of Qatar’s twenty-four leading government positions, including the Emir and his cabinet, belong to members of the Al Thani family.

The United States government, in a diplomatic communication dated 2008 and publically divulged by WikiLeaks, writes: “the distinction between the State and the Al Thanis is thin, varying, and uncertain.” Per the same communication: “On the domestic front, the [Emir] and a small circle of family members [make] all the major decisions in the country”.

Regarding foreign policy, “the foreign policy of Qatar can be considered little more than Al Thani family policy, determined by a few Al Thanis at the very top” (SOURCE).

The U.S. government maintains that a primary objective of Qatari foreign policy is “to mitigate the strategic risk to the Al Thani family and its control of the state and its hydrocarbon resources.” The document continues, “The strategic risks to Qatar are as much to the ruling Al Thani family as they are to the State of Qatar.”

Perhaps most concisely, the U.S. government declares “the foreign policy of this micro-state is both personality-driven and the product of an unceasing evaluation by the Al Thanis of the domestic and international risks to their family's 140-year grip on power.”

Per Cables: QIA Investments Based on “Personal Predilections” of Al Thani’s

Elsewhere, the U.S. Government has characterized the nation’s sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), along similar lines. The QIA was reportedly founded to manage the country’s windfall profits from liquefied natural gas sales, of which Qatar is the world’s biggest exporter. However, the QIA has been dogged by accusations that it is, in reality, the royal family’s investment vehicle in a country where personal and state wealth are blurred. Per leaked U.S. Government cables, American diplomats have stated that the QIA's investments appear to be based as much on the “personal predilections” of the Emir and his family as on any economic logic.

The cables reveal more about the QIA. Per a 2008 cable, the then-Prime Minister of Qatar and CEO of QIA, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, was “the main investment broker within the QIA”. The cable noted that “the [QIA] Chairman (the Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim) is informed of major decisions but does not actively manage or interfere in the fund.”

The same cable also noted that the QIA manages funds for other parts of the Qatari government, specifically citing the Qatar Foundation’s endowment. The Qatar Foundation is a quasi-governmental educational, social, and cultural organization, seeded by billions of dollars in government money and run by the seventh Emir’s second wife, Sheikha Mozah.

Sheikha Mozah is the second wife to Hamad bin Khalifa, the seventh Emir of Qatar (1995 to 2013). A separate Wikileaks cable indicates a rivalry between Sheikha Mozah and the former Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim.