Reaching Out to a Powerful Friend

A sheikdom welcomes the U.S. while dabbling in modernity

The ceremony, with Qatari and American VIPs in attendance, made history. Inside a huge tent on the outskirts of Doha, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani arrived with his wife Sheika Mouza, shattering an old taboo against Persian Gulf leaders appearing in public with their spouses. While the emir remained seated, it was his wife who got up and delivered the speech--in English, wearing a loose head scarf that took nothing away from her film-star looks.

Mouza's recent appearance was a blow to gender apartheid in the ultra-traditional gulf. Beyond that, the occasion sent another provocative message through the region. By...

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