RECOMMENDED READING: “The Muslim Brotherhood Is the Root of the Qatar Crisis”


Washington Institute Analyst Eric Trager has written an article for The Atlantic magazine in which he places the Muslim Brotherhood at the center of the current conflict between Qatar and a coalition other Gulf States. The article begins:

July 2, 2017 Monday marks the end of the 10 days that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt gave Qatar to comply with 13 far-reaching demands. For starters, Qatar is being told to cut off relations with Iran, shutter Al Jazeera, and stop granting Qatari citizenship to other countries’ exiled oppositionists. Despite high-level American and Kuwaiti mediation efforts, a deal appears unlikely. Qatar considers the demands an assault on its sovereignty and has refused to buckle to pressure. The other four countries, which declared an economic and diplomatic embargo on Doha on June 5, have repeatedly insisted that their demands are non-negotiable, and have promised further escalation if the deadline passes without an agreement.

On the surface, the policy disagreements at the center of this rift aren’t new. The anti-Qatar bloc has long viewed Doha as too chummy with Iran, too provocative in its backing of Al Jazeera and similar media outlets, and too supportive of Islamist movements. What’s new is the zero-sum stakes that the anti-Qatar bloc perceives in the current standoff. Saudi Arabia and the UAE particularly view Qatar’s support for Muslim Brotherhood affiliates as lethally threatening to their own regimes, and therefore see Qatar’s behavior as not merely objectionable, but utterly intolerable.

In fact, while the countries’ 13 demands of Qatar include a range of issues, the overwhelming majority are relevant to their ongoing concerns about Qatar’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, and reflect these countries’ desire to nip what they view as an existential threat in the bud.

In a sense, the Gulf monarchies have worried about their long-term stability ever since late 2010, when a series of popular uprisings started upending autocratic regimes across the Middle East and North Africa. While the activists at the forefront of those uprisings demanded political reform and economic equality, the so-called “Arab Spring” rapidly descended into a series of bitter power struggles. In the deadliest of cases, civil wars erupted in Syria and Libya, as regimes responded brutally to protests, fomenting conflicts in which hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions have been displaced. But even in less violent instances, the regimes quickly faced zero-sum stakes: Deposed Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled into exile, while his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak was tried and jailed. These events, and Washington’s embrace of the various protest movements, unnerved the Gulf monarchies—including Qatar to some extent. While Al Jazeera covered the January 2011 uprising in Egypt very aggressively, it joined its Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) partners in opposing the subsequent uprising in Bahrain, and it participated in the March 2011 Saudi-led military intervention to support the Bahraini monarchy as it quashed the protests.

Read the rest here.

On June 5,  Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilising the region with its support for Islamist groups.

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