The 13-year-old lion was not only a tourist favorite, but also, a research animal. The beloved lion was being studied by the Oxford University Conservation Unit.
“Qatar rescued us,” is what one of the heads of the Libyan opposition said this week when asked how the rebels have financed their fight again the Gadhafi regime.
Qatar is the tiny Arab emirate that’s been playing a major role in the democratic rebellions across the Middle East.
It’s only about a third bigger than Delaware and has only around 2 million people.
But it’s proving more critical in the region, in many ways, than its heavyweight neighbors like Saudi Arabia.
Qatar has openly helped the Libyan rebels, and it’s helped mediate disputes in Yemen and Lebanon.
Qatar also owns the increasingly influential Arab news channel Al Jazeera, which is housed in Qatar’s capital city of Doha.
And it is home to key U.S. military bases — including the US Forward Command in charge of the war in Iraq.
Veteran Middle East observer Lawrence Pintak told Here and Now‘s Sacha Pfeiffer that “anywhere you look in the Arab world today, there is a Qatari foothold.”
Some have called it the “Doha effect.”
Pintak says recent events have left traditional Arab powers like Saudi Arabia “with egg on their face,” while there is a growing image in the region that “all roads lead to Doha,” the Qatari capital.