France enjoys a privileged partnership with one of Iran’s main competitors, namely Qatar. Under Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency, Emir Hamad Ben Khalifa al-Thani was the first Arab State leader to be received at the Elysées Palace in 2007. It is now François Hollande who continues this special relationship. Since his election, Qatar is the country which was received the most at the Elysées with a visit of the Emir on August 22 and two more discreet visits of Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasem al-Thani.
This economic power invests billions in real estate, in the capital of CAC 40 companies (such as Total, Vivendi, Veolia, Lagardère, Suez, LVMH or even Bouygues and Vinci for the different sites of the world to the Qatar 2022 and also the construction of the Friendship Bridge between Qatar and Bahrain), sport (with the purchase of the Parisian club PSG — soccer and handball), the media (Al Jazeera acquired French Champions League rights) and most recently in projects in the Parisian suburbs.
With the European economic crisis, Qatar’s partnership with France gives the small Emirate the ability to sway the French decision-making, something Qatar denies.
Same investments in Germany where Qatar holds 17 percent of the capital of Volkswagen, 10 percent of Porsche, 9 percent of the Hochtief construction giant or even more recently 3 percent of Siemens.
The Qatari investments are also important in Great Britain. With 20 percent of the shares of the London Stock Exchange, Qatar is the main shareholder of Barclays. The Emirate has also invested massively in the Olympic Games, it has financed 95 percent of the highest building in London (the Shard) and British homes are supplied by up to 59.3 percent by Qatar’s Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).
As a result, Qatar advances its long-term interest by investing and signing important contracts with the European governments in crisis. Therefore, Qatar — the first Arab country to propose Arab military intervention — has more leverage to increase pressure against Damascus and through the U.N. Security Council (leverage Qatar also has in the Arab world through al Jazeera).