Qatar and the Brotherhood: Losing the Crown Jewel?

9th Jul 2013

By Mayasa al-Muhannadi

Doha, (Al-Akhbar): The collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule did not just impact its supporters in Egypt. In Qatar, it caused a tremor inside the whole ruling establishment, destroying the political bridges it had built to exert influence in the country.

Qatar was the mother whose milk fed the Islamist groups. It spent billions to install them in power – observers estimate that Qatar paid more than $17 billion to Arab Spring countries – especially the deposed president Mohamed Mursi. This could be the beginning of the decline of the role of Qatar under the new Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

It seems clear that Saudi Arabia trumped Qatar in Egypt. At least this is how its leaders felt. This could bring the conflict between the two countries to square one, but in favor of Saudi, as is apparent from the official Qatari silence concerning Egypt. Qatar’s press is also confused about Egypt as it can’t stop wailing about the overthrow of Mursi’s ‘democracy’.

On the other hand, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz was quick to commend the situation, even before the military read its statement on the removal of the president. King Abdullah congratulated the army for “fulfilling the will of the people.”

Today, Qatar’s men who had Egypt under their grip for a whole year are now on the country’s most wanted list, following the orders of the south Cairo prosecutor to apprehend the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide, Mohamed Badie; his deputy, Khairat al-Shater; and members of the Guidance Office, on charges of inciting the killing of demonstrators and spreading sectarian strife.

In his first speech after assuming the rein in Qatar, Emir Tamim maintained that his country “rejects sectarianism in the Arab world and does not support any particular political current against the others.” But how will this translate on the ground?

Will the young sheikh take off the robe of “Emir of the Arab Spring” inherited from his father, who had turned it into autumn? Will he make a wise reassessment of Qatar’s role in the region and its relationship with Islamists who get out of control if they are disobeyed?

Neutrality an Option?

Tamim maintained, “Qatar is on the side of the Arab people and their aspirations to live in freedom and dignity, away from corruption and tyranny.” He repeated the motto of his predecessors: “Qatar will remain the Kaaba of the oppressed.”

 A Qatari journalist considered the statement one of “wisdom and caution that will shape the features of the new emir’s policy concerning Arab and international affairs.”

There are some in the new emir’s leadership who see that it would be wise to be neutral or adopt a reformist policy concerning internal political crises of neighboring countries. However, the miserable performance of Mursi and the Islamists undermined their image in Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, and Tunisia.

The political project that had hidden under the veil of religion now stands naked. This is a bad omen for the political future of the new emir, who will not be able to survive if he continues to extend his hand to the Islamists seeking power in the region.

Some say that the new emir is gradually working to put an end to the “suicidal” and “confrontational” approach of the former foreign minister. He will set the tempo for external investments and their impact on political issues. This is in addition to the haphazard nature of some investments in Western countries, especially France and Britain.

Some analysts believe that Tamim will try to emulate the UAE and compete with it in attracting foreign investment and international tourism.

Observers said, “After the fall of Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad, who was also head of the committee overseeing the Syrian situation, Qatari policies will change under Tamim. There are those in Qatar today who understand that the war in Syria is no longer confined to that country and is a real and existential threat to the region.”

Syria Chaos

After the exchange of power in Qatar, several predictions have surfaced. However, one question remains. Where is Qatar heading under its new ruler? Will this small sheikhdom still exert the same influence on the Arab and International levels, something that exceeds its real size by thousands and surpasses the role set by its external sponsors?

The reality is that Syrian steadfastness against the siege, in addition to popular anger toward Qatar’s role in spreading chaos, has imposed new facts on the US, forcing it to be convinced of the fiasco in Syria. Therefore, it must get rid of the tools that failed to fulfill its murderous desires. The first step was the meeting of the “NATO Islamists” in Cairo to transfer control to Saudi, through Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s apology and declaration of obedience to the Kingdom. This was followed by a US security delegation visit to Doha, which informed Sheikh Hamad of the need for change that would keep Prime Minister Hamad away from the Arab files. And so it was.

Today, Qatar can only count its losses with the fall of the Brotherhood in Egypt. It had invested billions to expand its sphere of influence. However, Qatari investment was faced by wide opposition and raises several questions in Arab Spring countries, due to their disturbing support for political Islam currents.

While Qatar faces the shock of the collapse of its allies, many questions have been raised about the ties that bind Qatar and the Islamists today. Will the fall of the Brotherhood in Egypt be the divorce papers between Qatar and the hegemonic project of political Islam in the region? What about the support to armed groups in Syria, such as al-Nusra Front? What is the future of the Arab Spring mufti Qaradawi? By the way, where is Qaradawi?

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


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