OPINION: Is Qatar Abandoning the Muslim Brotherhood?
by Dalia Ziada
Qatar has not only returned to pour huge investments in the Egyptian tourism and natural gas markets, but it also stopped funding the Istanbul-based media outlets of the Muslim Brotherhood.
On his first visit to Cairo, after six years of diplomatic tensions and media wars, the Qatari Prince, Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, made sure to congratulate his Egyptian counterpart, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, on the June 30th anniversary. The kind diplomatic gesture by the Qatari ruler, who is known for his substantial support to the agenda of political Islamism in the region, is raising a lot of questions about the future of the Muslim Brotherhood group, if Qatar eventually decides to abandon it, in compliance to the demands of its neighbor Arab states, especially in the Gulf region.
The June 30th anniversary represents two significant events for the current Egyptian state. Initially, it is the day, in 2013, when the Egyptian people rallied nation-wide to protest the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood regime and call upon the military institution to take over. After three days of protesting, the Egyptian Armed Forces, under the leadership of El-Sisi, who served then as minister of defense, had to respond to people calls by forcing the Muslim Brotherhood regime out of power.
On this same day, one year later, in 2014, an overwhelming majority of Egyptians elected El-Sisi to become the new president of the state, in reward to his historic role in ridding Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood rule. The people, also, thought that he is the best candidate that can lead the country through an economic renaissance, while making sure it remains protected against the vengeful acts of violence that the Muslim Brotherhood members organized and committed between 2013-2015, against Coptic Christian citizens, policemen, and state facilities, allegedly with generous funding from Qatar.
Most of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, who fled Egypt after the June 30th revolution, were welcomed mainly in three cities: Doha, Istanbul, and London. From there, they organized themselves into independent civil organizations; some of them claimed being representatives of the Egyptian political opposition, while others called themselves defenders of human rights in Egypt. They roamed the western forums, from Washington to Brussels and Geneva, with the goal to lobby the international community to treat Egypt as a politically and economically secluded country.
Sadly, several reports by local and international observers have referred to Qatar as the main sponsor and financier of the Muslim Brotherhood activities in that regard. In fact, Qatar-owned Al-Jazeera TV was among the first media outlets, worldwide, to promote that the June 30th uprising was a coup d’état. For years, the Qatari prominent media platform turned into an open stage for promoting the claims of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders, in the diaspora, about the Egyptian state. Qatar has, also, been funding some media outlets that the Muslim Brotherhood and their sympathizers were running from Istanbul and London to attack the Egyptian state and president.
Ultimately, Egypt alongside Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain formed an Arab quartet to fight against the Muslim Brotherhood and its sponsors, especially in Qatar and Turkey. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was also one of the strong supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, to the extent that he explicitly attacked and threatened to punish the current Egyptian president, on their behalf. That caused a deep political rift between Turkey and Egypt that has not been resolved up till this day.
One of the most shocking actions that the Arab quartet had to take to control the Muslim Brotherhood, at that time, was to announce a diplomatic boycott of Qatar, in May 2017, unless it abstains from supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and shuts down Al-Jazeera. The Arab boycott of Qatar, which was latter labeled as the ‘Gulf Crisis’ continued for four years, until the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, took the initiative to reconcile and unite Arabs, by signing Al-Ula declaration, in Saudi Arabia, in January 2021.
Since then, the relationship between Qatar and all of its Arab neighbors, especially Egypt, has been steadily improving. Qatar has not only returned to pour huge investments in the Egyptian tourism and natural gas markets, but it also stopped funding the Istanbul-based media outlets of the Muslim Brotherhood. In coordination, the Turkish government took serious steps to prevent the Egyptian affiliates and sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood, living on its land, from attacking the Egyptian state, either via traditional or social media platforms.
Obviously, Qatar, Egypt, and all the other Arab countries are keen to restore stability to the region, especially during the unjustified withdrawal of the United States Administration of President Biden from the Middle East. In the process, the countries of the region are growing more pragmatic and strategic in managing their intra-affairs. Qatar’s Prince, despite his relatively young age, is one of the craftiest leaders, when it comes to setting long-term strategies and appropriately following them to a successful end result.
In that sense, should we assume that Prince Tamim is making an overall change to his strategy of supporting political Islamist activities against established regimes in neighbor Arab countries. Or, is it only a partial modification to Qatar’s existing strategy, in preparation for Biden’s prospected visit to the region, in mid-July?
Let me be optimistic and assume that Prince Tamim is already changing his strategy, in good will, to a new one that prioritizes cooperation, rather than conflict, with his Arab neighbors. That new approach, in addition to his already successful relationships with Turkey and Iran, should guarantee making Qatar, in a positive way, one of the most influential countries of the Middle East.
Article first published in Levant News.
Dalia Ziada is Director of Liberal Democracy Institute. She writes on Militancy and Islamism, and about MENA affairs. She tweets under @DaliaZiada.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Milli Chronicle’s point-of-view.