(CNN)Qatar is on its way to becoming a major non-NATO ally of the United States, a sign of its growing relevance to Washington's global agenda.
Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani became the first Gulf Arab leader to visit the Biden White House on Monday. It's a trip that underscores the tiny state's unrelenting ambition to remain a key international player and its ability to walk back from the brink five years after a regional embargo risked turning it into a Middle East backwater.
In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut off diplomatic and economic ties with Doha, accusing it of cozying up to their adversaries including Islamist groups and Iran. Then-President Donald Trump appeared to take credit for the move, and it seemed as though it was only a matter of time before Doha caved, with its regional clout diminished.
But Qatar persevered, and its fortunes have now seemingly turned. It will be the third Gulf country after Kuwait and Bahrain to be designated the title of major non-NATO ally, granted to close friends that have strategic working relationships with the US military. "I think it's long overdue," Biden said.
Ironically, the very policies Qatar was demonized for by its neighbors may have been what catapulted it back into the international limelight.
In 2020, Qatar brokered Washington's talks with the Taliban, a fruit of the decades long, often controversial ties it maintained with the extremist group. Those talks served as a precursor to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Doha also cushioned the botched exit last year by facilitating evacuations and became a hub for travel to Kabul.
Doha's cordial ties with Tehran also appear to have paid off. As Iran and the US arrive at a critical juncture in negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, Doha seems to be engaging in shuttle diplomacy. Sheikh Tamim's visit to Washington comes just days after his top diplomat visited Tehran. It's unclear if the emir was carrying a message.
Qatar, the world's biggest exporter of liquified natural gas, is also playing a role in another global flashpoint offering to help with contingency planning in case of disruptions to energy supplies in Europe should Russia invade Ukraine.
The contrast between the Biden and Trump administrations' view of the Gulf couldn't be starker. Trump made history by picking Saudi Arabia for his first overseas trip and his family forged close ties with de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. A year into his presidency, Biden is yet to have a phone call with the prince.
UAE to introduce corporate tax rate
The United Arab Emirates is introducing its first ever federal corporate tax on business profits in June 2023, as the country seeks to realign with newly introduced global taxation standards. The standard statutory tax rate will be 9%, but 0% on profits up to Dh375,000 ($102,000) "to support small businesses and startups".
- Background: The Gulf oil exporter had previously only imposed corporate tax on oil companies and banks. In October 2021, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) introduced a deal, agreed by 136 countries -- including the UAE -- that ensured multinational enterprises worldwide will become subject to a minimum 15% tax rate from 2023.
- Why it matters: The UAE has long benefited from its tax-free status to carve out a role as an international commercial, energy and tourism hub. The move will be seen as its first step to committing to the OECD target.
US says Iran talks entering 'final stretch'
It's time for the US and Iran to start making tough political decisions as talks on a nuclear agreement enter the "final stretch," a senior State Department official said Monday. Some of the most critical decisions are yet to be made, he said.
- Background: A landmark deal was reached between the two countries in 2015 aimed at reining in Iran's nuclear program. The Trump administration pulled out of the deal in 2018; President Biden has promised to reenter the deal, but a conclusive agreement has not yet been reached.
- Why it matters: This could be the closest the two sides have been to reaching a new deal, and only a handful of weeks remain to conclude it, considering Iran's pace of nuclear production, said the US official.
UAE intercepts Houthi missile during Israeli president's visit
The United Arab Emirates blocked a Houthi missile attack, intercepting the projectile and destroying it on Monday. The third such attack in the last fortnight came during Israeli President Isaac Herzog's first visit to the Gulf state.
- Background: Monday's attempted strike comes after a drone attack on Abu Dhabi which killed three foreign workers, along with another foiled missile attack. All three were claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are fighting a Saudi-led coalition.
- Why it matters: Life has continued as normal in the UAE since the assaults began, but repeated strikes could quell expat appetite to stay in the country.
What we're watching
Libya was supposed to hold presidential elections in December, but they were postponed again, raising questions about the legitimacy of the political process.
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Iran qualified for the soccer World Cup 2022 on Thursday. But that alone isn't what made news in the Islamic Republic -- it