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The Art of Geopolitics: Qatar's New Museum

The Art of Geopolitics: Qatar's New Museum

Last week Qatar hosted a star-studden event to unveil a new National Museum, designed by star French architect Jean Nouvel.

Fashioned out of hundreds of randomly intersecting discs meant to look like a 52,000 square meter "desert rose," the museum tells the history of Qatar from prehistoric to modern times, devoting special attention to how the discovery of natural gas rapidly transformed a society of pearl-divers, falconers, fishermen, and nomads into the wealthiest country on earth.


But the museum is also, as Nouvel says, "a testimony of this time in Qatar, which is a very powerful period."

Powerful indeed.

For the last two years, Qatar has been the target of a severe sanctions campaign, led by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt. Those countries take issue with Qatar's support for Islamist political movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as its warm ties with their regional rival, Iran. The Qatari government has responded with a public relations blitz meant to boost its image in Western capitals.

Closer to home, the museum's opening is meant to send two signals to Doha's regional rivals.

First, that despite an ongoing blockade against Qatar, the kingdom is doing fine. After all, splurging half a billion dollars on a museum isn't exactly what you do if you're living hand to mouth.

Second, while Saudi Arabia is struggling mightily with its image in the West (murdering a dissident journalist hasn't helped), Qatar – for all its well-documented human rights abuses – is successfully casting itself as an arty and cosmopolitan place to do business.

It remains to be seen how much buzz the museum will generate outside of Doha once the initial fanfare is over. And whether ordinary Qataris will be drawn to its exhibits is an open question.

But at the very least we are happy to see Middle East rivalries play out in galleries rather than in trenches.

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As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

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