Special Guest: Ambassador Chase Untermeyer
Chase Untermeyer served as the United States Ambassador to Qatar from 2004-2007. He has also had a long career in politics at all levels from local to national and is currently working in international business consulting.
1. How does Qatar view its political-military relationship with the US — are we a protector, full-fledged ally, or something else?
Qatar has hosted US forces since 1996 and the forward headquarters of the Central Command since 2003. The mutual-defense relationship is apparent without being advertized. Although Qatar is clearly a “major non-NATO ally”, neither side has ever used this phrase.
2. Many defense experts warn that Iran is extending its influence in the region, with deleterious effects–possibly fueling an arms race. Are the Gulf states like Qatar really afraid of Iran?
Gulf states have ample reason to be wary of an aggressive Iran, and the presence of US and other western forces on their soil at one time or another has served as a critical shield. But Qatar does not view its relationship with Iran as hostile.
3. What role does Qatar play in the Middle East region? Is it politically close to the Saudis, an independent power broker, or something else?
Qatar pursues an independent foreign policy. Its overt ties to Iran, Syria, Sudan, Cuba, Venezuela, Hamas, and Hezbollah have distressed past and current US administrations. But Qatar maintains that the breadth of its diplomatic relations allow it to play a useful role in seeking to resolve disputes such as those in Lebanon and Darfur.
4. It must have been quite a change to go from Texas to the Middle East. What is it about the Middle East region, and Qatar in particular, that drew you to serve there?
Asked how he became a war hero, John F. Kennedy once said, “They sank my boat.” I was drawn to the Middle East when President Bush asked me to be his ambassador to Qatar. It is rare for a non-Foreign Service Officer to be made an envoy in the Middle East, with the major exceptions of Saudi Arabia and Morocco. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to represent the US in such a sensitive area, and my entire family welcomed the chance to become immersed in a wholly new, different, and exciting culture.
5. Georgetown University also operates a campus in Qatar – what do you think the value of exchange programs between the two campuses are?
Georgetown-Qatar has been an enormous success. I was glad to have been posted in Doha when the campus opened in 2005. It was said at the time only half-jokingly that its students barely have time to study because of all the VIPs who come to speak to them and the many other special opportunities they have.