The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, says that Arab troops should be deployed to Syria to stop the killing there that, so far, has claimed the lives of some 5,000 Syrians since unrest began in the country nearly a year ago. The leader of Qatar speaks to Bob Simon for a "60 Minutes" interview to be broadcast Sunday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Simon asks: "Would you be in favor of Arab nations intervening in Syria?" The emir, the first Arab leader to publically suggest sending troops answers, "For such a situation to stop the killing...some troops should go to stop the killing."
It is a dramatic turnaround for the emir who describes himself as a "friend" of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. But after trying and failing to convince the Syrian president to halt the killing, the emir has become one of his harshest critics.
The emir has emerged as the most influential leader in the Arab world following the chaos, violence and killings that have rocked the Middle East for the past year. Many observers say that the emir himself bears some responsibility for the Arab revolutions because of the 24-hour Arabic language satellite news channel he created called Al Jazeera. They say that Al Jazeera's coverage of news in the Middle East is the engine that drives the widespread unrest that has shaken the region known as the "Arab Spring."
Since it went on the air 15 years ago, Al Jazeera has been controversial. From the beginning it upset the autocratic rulers in neighboring countries. The emir tells Simon: "[Al Jazeera] caused us a lot of problems with the top people in the Arab countries," but he stops short of saying the news channel was directly responsible for the overthrow of dictators like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Libya's Muammar Qaddafi.
But he does admit that Al Jazeera is very influential in the region and gives a voice to protesters demanding change and reform. When it comes to his own growing influence in the Arab world - he's reluctant to admit it, telling Simon: "We are supporting the people of those countries...[who are] asking for justice and dignity. "If this [is] influence, I think this is a healthy influence. I think all the world should support this," says the emir.
Simon's story examines Qatar's emergence as the most influential country in the region. It also looks at the lifestyle the citizens of the tiny country enjoy because of the phenomenal wealth Qatar earns from its vast natural gas deposits which are the third largest in the world. It has made Qatar one of the richest countries in the world. According to the International Monetary Fund, its 250,000 citizens have the highest per capita income in the world. There are no taxes and healthcare is free. No wonder, unlike the rest of the region, there's been no demand for change in the Qatari's oasis of prosperity.