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Rapprochement within the Minefield of Arab Politics

In November 2020, the Saudi Affiliation of Senior Students, a government-directed mouthpiece on spiritual affairs, issued a fatwa (spiritual edict) declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group. Within the fatwa, the students acknowledged, amongst different causes, that the Brotherhood seeks to “contest the ruler and deviate from the ruler” — against the law punishable by loss of life in Saudi Arabia. The students’ edict, nevertheless, ignored the proper of individuals, below Islamic regulation, to face up in opposition to an unjust ruler.

In 2013, Egypt’s first and solely democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, a card-carrying member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was overthrown by a coup that reinstated the navy junta. Within the days that adopted, Egypt noticed a bloody purge of the Muslim Brotherhood, with hundreds of its members killed. As we speak, tens of hundreds proceed to languish in jail with out trial.

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In 2015, the United Arab Emirates declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group, jailing with out trial anybody suspected of membership or having sympathies with the Muslim Brothers. In response to Wikileaks, Frances Fragos Townsend, assistant to the president for homeland safety and counterterrorism, reported that in a 2006 assembly, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed “claimed that if elections have been held in Dubai ‘tomorrow’ he thought the Muslim Brotherhood would win.”

Accusing Doha of giving asylum to and funding the Muslim Brotherhood, in 2017, Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain, broke diplomatic relations. The so-called quartet then imposed a blockade on Qatar and even tried a navy invasion, which was solely halted when Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan quickly deployed a navy pressure to Qatar. 

Incoherence of the Incoherent

The Muslim Brotherhood, established in 1928, is older than the entire regimes combating over it. It had reached energy in Tunis, Egypt and elsewhere solely by the poll field. Like most political events that blend their political ideology with faith, it has misplaced the assist, if not the respect, of those that, like this writer, consider the 2 don’t combine.

However right here is the mom of all Arab political ironies. For instance, in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been finishing up brutal airstrikes for the previous six years which have killed greater than 200,000 individuals, ostensibly to reinstate the “internationally acknowledged” president overthrown by Ansar Allah (Partisans of God, because the Houthi rebels are formally identified). The Muslim Brotherhood will not be solely an lively member of the Saudi-UAE navy marketing campaign, but additionally a part of the internationally acknowledged Yemeni authorities that the Saudi and UAE alliance is bombing Yemen so as to reinstate. Did you get that? Ibn Rushd (or Averroes, as he’s identified by his Latin identify) would have referred to as this murkiness the “incoherence of the incoherent.”

If that isn’t weird sufficient for you, right here is one other one. The Muslim Brothers, lately outlawed as terrorists in Saudi Arabia, are nonetheless given political asylum, safety and funding by Riyadh as allies within the struggle in Yemen. Lots of their leaders reside in Saudi Arabia. You couldn’t make this up in the event you have been the best fiction author.

However the anti-Muslim Brotherhood, anti-Qatar and anti-Turkey brigade is crumbling. The Arab quartet is dropping its American ally within the face of President Donald Trump and isn’t certain what to anticipate from the incoming Biden administration. In the meantime, Iran continues to be as formidable and as unyielding as ever. And so, in true Arab kind, alliances should change — once more.

The UAE and Bahrain lately formalized and made public their long-standing secret relations with Israel, in search of to create a protecting buffer in opposition to Iran and any potential challenges from the brand new administration in Washington. Alas, Saudi Arabia, a self-proclaimed custodian of the Muslim holy websites, can’t be so open about its personal secret relations with Israel and is even much less assured concerning the adjustments afoot the US. As a substitute, it referred to as for reconciliation with the opposite facet, Qatar, and made related strikes towards Turkey — each supporters of the Muslim Brothers and vehemently at odds with the UAE, Saudi Arabia’s ally in opposition to the Brothers.

Hasty Reconciliation

In a current hastily-called reconciliation summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), below the watchful eyes of President Trump’s trusted son-in-law Jared Kushner (in typical monarchial fashion), the anti-Qatar coalition signed an settlement that stated, “let bygones be bygones.” The Saudi overseas minister described the reconciliation as “because of the knowledge of the GCC rulers and Egypt, it’s a full flip of the web page on all factors of dispute.” So, the 13 factors introduced in opposition to Qatar as non-negotiable situations for reconciliation have been turned.

In actual fact, to point the uncompromising nature of the quartet’s calls for, the UAE’s overseas minister, Anwar Mohammed Gargash, on Might 1, 2018, tweeted: “A honest recommendation meant to deliver Qatar out of her disaster. There will likely be no gulf mediation. No pressures will likely be useful. And your media is not going to change your standing. Return to your knowledge, on your disaster continues. Handle your affairs from right now with knowledge. And negotiate inside the perimeters of your neighbors who specific actual considerations.” No surprise that, commenting on the reconciliation settlement, Iran’s International Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was fast to congratulate Qatar for “the success of its courageous resistance to  stress & extortion.”

Regardless of the dramatic welcome that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave to the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim ibn Hamad Al Thani, adopted by a tour of the desert pushed by the crown prince himself, the summit spoke extra of divergence than unity. It left little doubt about its actual function, a minimum of from the Saudi and American views. Bin Salman misplaced no time bringing to focus the elephant within the room, Iran. His message was clear: This can be a reconciliation between brothers to wage struggle on a neighbor. The summit’s fault traces have been widened.

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Qatar nonetheless maintains sturdy relations with Iran. Whereas it appears extremely unlikely that even the Trump administration, with all its faults, will likely be loopy sufficient to assault Iran and begin a regional struggle that may make the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq pale by comparability, the worry is that Israel may achieve this and pressure Washington’s hand. Ought to that occur, any future US assault on Iran utilizing its Qatar-based Al Udeid Air Base will lead to damaging retaliation on Qatar. Iran had strongly warned all its neighbors that assaults carried out from their soil will likely be retaliated in opposition to (on their soil). The Iranian overseas minister described it as “an all-out struggle.”

Qatar’s vulnerability is made worse by its break with its neighbors, leaving it to face any potential Iranian retaliation alone. Whether or not the reconciliation summit is meant to guarantee or to idiot Qatar into breaking away from Tehran, regardless of Iran’s assist throughout the quartet’s blockade, is an open query. Whether or not Qatar will fall for that’s additionally an open query. The Prophet Muhammad had warned that “A devoted will not be stung twice from the identical burrow.”

On a go to to Doha throughout the blockade, a Qatari official advised me that in his view, reconciliation will finally occur. Stating the foolishness of the continued blockade, he insisted that Doha is not going to be imprudent sufficient to belief the quartet with its destiny. Having opened new pathways past the GCC, he noticed this disaster as an vital lesson — by no means once more.

Previous Rivalries

The above view is supported by regional historical past, of which the Qataris are conscious. In historic instances, the desert tribes of Arabia fought over water wells. Whereas water shortage will proceed to be a reason behind wars within the area, the GCC has now moved on to geopolitical fights reflecting the skyscraper nation-states mushrooming out of the desert oil wealth.

Nonetheless, regardless of trendy geopolitical realities, altering alliances and desert reconciliation summits, the actual underlying causes for the dispute between Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain — outdated tribal rivalries — haven’t but been resolved. In actual fact, these are nearly inconceivable to resolve with out dismantling the monarchies. The Nahyans of Abu Dhabi, now led by Mohammed bin Zayed, see primarily Qatar, but additionally Bahrain, as mini-states that escaped the UAE federation and have to be introduced in, willingly or by pressure. Way back to 1867, Bahrain’s Al Khalifa rulers and the Abu Dhabi Nahyan tribe allied to assault Qatar’s Al Thani tribe to undo its newly fashioned state.

Even the GCC, which was created as a company of impartial sovereign states, has not eliminated the outdated tribal mentalities amongst its members. The Al Khalifas of Bahrain — from whom the Saudis forcefully took the entire of its oil-rich Shia-populated jap area, traditionally a part of Larger Bahrain — reject Qatar’s legitimacy. The Al Khalifas dominated Qatar earlier than the Al Thani tribe broke away from the territory that’s now Saudi Arabia and created its personal state. The Saudis see Qatar as a wayward synthetic state that ought to have by no means existed within the first place. They take into account it a part of Saudi Arabia. These underlying tribal rivalries endure and play a significant function in how present relations are managed, changing into much more distinguished for the reason that Arab Spring.

Qatar, along with Turkey, supported the uprisings in opposition to the navy dictatorships that dominated Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Syria. Qatar’s very vocal Al Jazeera information community was the voice of Arab Road throughout the uprisings. Qatar funded lots of the youth applications, a lot of which have been both led or a minimum of infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Then again, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, fearing {that a} profitable Arab Spring revolution that brings an accountable clear political course of will infect their very own populations, took the opposing facet, spending billions to arm and assist the navy dictatorships in opposition to the rebellion.

Having given up on the UAE and bin Zayed personally (who’s seen within the West as an Arab visionary regardless of the failures of all his pricey overseas adventures), Saudi Arabia and Egypt have began to make overtures to Turkey, the regional energy that has defeated Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE — plus Russia and France — in Libya after which additionally defeated the latter two within the Armenian-Azerbaijani battle over Nagorno-Karabakh on the finish of final 12 months.

Reconciling with Qatar leaves the UAE and Bahrain remoted. Nonetheless, the extent to which Mohammed bin Zayed can depend on Bahrain, successfully dominated and stored alive by the Saudis, is extremely debatable. Debatable too is how helpful Bahrain might be for the crown prince, past sharing a desk to signal a “normalization” take care of Israel.

In Yemen, the UAE escaped Ansar Allah’s retaliatory missiles that hit Saudi Arabia, primarily because of shaky offers it has made with the rebels. A live-and-let-live coverage accompanied by ransom funds has enabled the UAE-Israeli alliance to focus consideration on Yemen’s southern ports. There’s nearly no navy confrontation between Sanaa and Abu Dhabi. An identical shaky deal exists with Iran, Dubai’s main buying and selling associate. Nonetheless, if certainly there’s a regional struggle, all bets are off. The shaky friendships in Yemen will remodel into lethal hostilities within the Persian Gulf. No quantity of double or triple play will save Mohammed bin Zayed. 

In the meantime, Iran continues to watch the altering loyalties throughout the waters. Iran is aware of the way it begins amongst us Arabs, the way it proceeds and the place it ends. It’s all déjà vu. The GCC is made up of the identical Arabs who first financed Saddam Hussein’s assault on Iran, then opened the gates for the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq itself. And all that smoke you see above Arab skies — in Yemen, in Syria, in Iraq, in Egypt, in Libya — comes from the weapons with GCC petrodollars indicators throughout them.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Honest Observer’s editorial coverage.

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