Qatar, a small peninsular country in the Persian Gulf, emerged as a partner of the United States in the mid-1990s and currently serves as host to major U.S. military facilities. Qatar holds the third largest proven natural gas reserves in the world, and is the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas. Its small citizenry enjoys the world s highest per capita income. Since the mid-1990s, Qatari leaders have overseen a course of major economic growth, increased diplomatic engagement, and very limited political liberalization. The Qatari monarchy founded Al Jazeera, the first all-news Arabic language satellite television network, in 1995. Over time, the network has proven to be as influential and, at times, as controversial as the policies of its founders, including during recent unrest in the Arab world. In June 2013, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani abdicated in favor of his son Tamim bin Hamad, marking the first voluntary and planned transition of power in Qatar since it became an independent country in 1971. In an April 2003 referendum, Qatari voters approved a new constitution that officially granted women the right to vote and run for national office. The constitution envisions elections for two-thirds of the seats in a national Advisory Council. However, such elections have not been scheduled, and the term of the current Advisory Council has been extended to 2016. Central Municipal Council elections were last held in May 2011. Following joint military operations during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Qatar and the United States concluded a Defense Cooperation Agreement that has been subsequently expanded and was renewed in 2013. In April 2003, the U.S. Combat Air Operations Center for the Middle East moved from Prince Sultan Airbase in Saudi Arabia to Qatar s Al Udeid airbase southwest of Doha, the Qatari capital.