Qatar’s Arab neighbors are out of patience for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood. Three Gulf countries have withdrawn their ambassadors. The Qatari government will no longer be permitted to straddle both sides of the aisle. It must choose.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors in what the New York Times calls “an extraordinary rebuke.” Their joint statement said Qatar supports “hostile media” and forces that “threaten the security and stability of the Gulf states,” referring to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Al-Jazeera network based in Doha.
The three Arab countries emphasized that they have tried to address Qatar privately to no avail. They stated they “have exerted massive efforts to contact Qatar on all levels to agree on a unified policy…to ensure non-interference, directly or indirectly, in the internal affairs of any member state.”
The statement contradicts press reports and statements from Brotherhood leaders indicating they were being expelled and moving to the United Kingdom. The British government said it doesn’t consider the Brotherhood to be an extremist group and is open to giving them asylum.
The diplomatic rift comes as the UAE prosecutes a Qatari citizen for being part of the Muslim Brotherhood branch in the country, named Al-Islah.
The Saudis are most aggressively confronting Qatar, threatening to essentially blockade the country by closing the airspace and border. If the UAE were to join in, Qatar would have no land access to the rest of the world and air travel would be greatly complicated. The Saudis are also undercutting Qatari and Brotherhood influence among the Syrian rebels.
Saudi King Abdullah is seen as a reformer who is gently moving his country away from the puritanical Wahhabist-Salafist brand of Islam. Brotherhood texts have been removed from school libraries and publishers of Brotherhood texts were banned from the recent Riyadh International Book Fair. He also established prison sentences for Saudis that fight abroad or join radical groups.
Abdullah is indirectly recognizing that his country is breeding the radical ideology that ultimately threatens his rule and that of the Royal Family. Dr. Madawi Al-Rasheed explains:
“Saudi Arabia was fighting a battle with its own ideology. The terrorists were simply putting into practice what their government and its agencies had taught them for years…[Saudi Arabia] was not fighting a battle with an external ideological trend, but a very local one, so local in fact that it helped forge the Saudi state itself.”
The UAE originally led the public charge against the Brotherhood. In 2012, its Foreign Minister said a Gulf-wide alliance to counter the Brotherhood and Iran is needed. Last month, the UAE fumed at Qatar for comments made by Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi, who is based in Doha and has a weekly show on Al-Jazeera.
Egypt is also firmly in the camp of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain. Its government banned the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and more recently gave Hamas the same designation. The Egyptian government claims that the Brotherhood is involved in violence, despite its pledges of non-violence.
Salafist supporters of the Brotherhood that technically do not belong to the Brotherhood political party are engaged in widespread violence against Egyptian security forces. The Egyptian government says the Brotherhood is working with them, specifically the pro-Al-Qaeda Ansar Beit Maqdis. It is a good-cop bad-cop routine where the Brotherhood foments violence while not directly carrying it out.
Egyptian media has published transcripts of alleged phone calls between former President Morsi when he was in office and Mohammed Zawahiri, the brother of Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. Raymond Ibrahim translated the text and detailed this secret arrangement.
Jordan has not confronted Qatar yet, but the government’s heart is with the anti-Brotherhood coalition. King Abdullah II describes the group as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” and King Abdullah II politically marginalized the Brotherhood by reaching out to his secular opponents.
When the Brotherhood told the masses to boycott local elections, they were ignored. The opposition Wasat Party took 16 seats, making it the largest opposition force in the Jordanian government. Since then, Brotherhood protests designed to capitalize on resentment over cuts to food and fuel subsidies have had decreasing attendance.
Kuwait seemed to be drifting towards the Qatari-Turkish bloc when it rebuffed Egypt’s demand that it brand the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. The Kuwaiti government still isn’t willing to go that far, but it is becoming friendlier with the Egyptian government and providing it with economic aid.
Qatar’s two regional allies, the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey, are both under extraordinary pressure. The influence of Turkey is not to be dismissed, but Prime Minister Erdogan’s political crisis just gets worse and worse.
Turkey and Qatar are the saviors of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region. Earlier this year, a bi-partisan group of congressmen asked Qatar to stop supporting Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood. The other branches benefit from their propaganda and financial networks in Qatar.
The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies published a new report concluding that Turkey is a state sponsor of terrorism.
The Turkish government, a member of NATO, is allowing Hamas leader Saleh al-Aruri to oversee the terrorist group’s logistics and finances from its soil. Erdogan and his government are also close to an Al-Qaeda financier named Yasin al-Qadi and is supporting radical Syrian rebels. Israeli officials allege that Al-Qaeda-affiliated rebels use three camps in Turkey to train.
In addition, Turkey is allying with Iran to dominate the region. The report shows that Iran earned $13 billion through gold trade that violated sanctions and over 2,000 Iranian companies are in Turkey. Erdogan’s regime is also helping Iran with counter-intelligence to protect its nuclear program. Turkey may also be looking to build its own nuclear capabilities.
Qatar’s relationship with the Brotherhood is now at a crossroads. If it continues to embrace the Islamist group, Arab countries, particularly the Gulf states, will continue to tighten the screws and isolate it.
The U.S. should join the countries opposing the Muslim Brotherhood and declare it a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
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