By Ray Fleming

When Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani became the Emir of Qatar in 1995 it was by means of a bloodless coup against his own father.
On Tuesday, in rather different style, he announced on TV that he had decided to hand over power to his fourth son Sheik Tamin bin Hamad al-Thanin.
Qatar is a small country with a population of abut two million but its limitless oil and gas reserves have made it immensely rich and under Sheik Hamad's rule its wealth has been used in a remarkable variety of ways to give Qatar an importance far in excess of its size. For many people in the Middle East and Europe Qatar's enhanced role has been symbolised by its creation and funding of the Al Jazeera TV network.

On a political level its mainly moderating influence has been felt in several Middle East crises; it was a strong supporter of Egypt's Arab Spring and is a leading figure in helping the rebel opposition to Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

The new 33-year-old Emir, who was educated in the UK at Sherborne School and at Sandhurst, is not known to have any strong interest in international affairs (although he was probably behind Qatar's rather controversial success in getting the 2022 soccer World Cup).

There will be a keen interest and some anxiety about the direction he will take.