Monday,20 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1240, (2 - 8 April 2015)
Monday,20 August, 2018
Issue 1240, (2 - 8 April 2015)

Ahram Weekly

In the eye of the storm

The Muslim Brotherhood is on tenterhooks over signs of a rapprochement between Cairo and Doha, and Ankara’s support of Saudi-led action in Yemen. Amany Maged reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Operation Decisive Storm against the Houthis in Yemen, the position of some pro-Muslim Brotherhood regimes towards the military campaign, and the participation of Qatar’s Prince Tamim bin Hamad in the recent Arab summit in Sharm El-Sheikh have combined to sow confusion in Muslim Brotherhood ranks. Politically, the group feels well and truly left out in the cold.

Yemeni Muslim Brothers support the military strikes against Houthis by GCC countries and Egypt. Yet the International Organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood (IOMB), which is dominated by the Egyptian mother organisation, is apprehensive about a military campaign being carried out by those who supported the overthrow of the Brotherhood in Cairo.

The Brotherhood in Yemen, which avoided clashing with the Houthis after the coup against President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi, now seems keen to side with the Yemeni masses so as not to repeat the same mistakes as Egypt’s Brotherhood.

The position of IOMB on Yemen is, say analysts, a little more complex. First, they seem to want to leave matters the Yemeni chapter of the organisation to handle developments how they see fit but at the same time reject the Houthi coup and insist political differences in Yemen can only be resolved through an exclusively Yemeni dialogue.

Many Muslim Brothers felt betrayed when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a longtime champion of the group, declared his support for Decisive Storm. Several young Brotherhood leaders, inclusing Ahmed Al-Zini and Anas Hassan, the creator of Rasd (Monitor) website, insulted Erdogan on their Facebook pages for supporting anti-Brotherhood Arab states in their war against the Houthis. The attacks on Erdogan ignited disputes among the Muslim Brotherhood’s younger members, some of whom defended Erdogan for giving refuge to Brotherhood leaders after Qatar expelled most of them.

Amid these ongoing quarrels senior leaders of the group have held their tongues, possibly out of fear of being expelled from Turkey. The group has not issued an official statement detailing its position on events in Yemen, unlike Jamaa Islamiya which has come out in favour of the coalition’s actions on the grounds that they will end Shiite expansion in Yemen.

Ali Mounir, an expert on Islamists groups, says ignoring developments in Yemen is symptomatic of growing disarray within the Brotherhood. Brotherhood leaders, he says, generally oppose the coalition’s intervention but are unwilling to make their position clear for fear it will harm their relations with both Turkey and Qatar.

There are serious differences among the group’s leaders. “If the Brotherhood opposes Arab intervention in Yemen, then what justification could it have had when it called for foreign intervention in Egypt, and before that in Libya and in Syria?” asks Mounir.

Diverging views among the IOMB leadership, Mounir argues, have reached a point where they threaten the group’s cohesion. The only bright spot as far as the group’s leaders are concerned is that the Brotherhood’s Yemeni chapter might come in useful in persuading Riyadh to reduce its animosity to the Brotherhood in Egypt.

The Brotherhood was clearly placed in an awkward position when Qatar’s Prince Hamad went to Sharm El-Sheikh and was received by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. Many commentators argue the Qatari monarch’s reception was more than a diplomatic nicety, pointing out that Qatar could have easily designated its foreign minister or another official could lead the country’s delegation to the Arab Summit.

Several sources claim the prince’s participation and Al-Sisi’s welcome were coordinated by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in an effort to ease tensions. The logical next step will be the return of ambassadors.

After Al-Sisi welcomed Tamim even Al-Jazeera began to refer to him as “Egypt’s president” rather than the “coup leader”. Other branches of Qatar’s media have speculated that the two countries participation in the Saudi led coalition will inevitably bring Cairo and Doha closer.

Tamim’s decision to lead Qatar’s delegation to the Sharm El-Sheikh Arab Summit wrong-footed Brotherhood leaders, who saw it as evidence that Qatar was finally accepting Al-Sisi’s legitimacy. Their worries were compounded when some of the group’s media outlets - including Al-Sharq channel – were closed, and  funding for others, such as the Mekamelin (We Continue) channel, known for broadcasting  “leaks” involving Al-Sisi, was slashed.

Sources close to the Brotherhood say that although Doha has reassured the group its leadership are increasingly concerned that its “strongest ally and top donor” will abandon them. Some, though, are determined to put on a brave face. Brotherhood leader Amr Draj mockingly noted that now “Al-Sisi has joined the pro-legitimacy alliance against Yemen and met Qatar’s prince with open arms all that’s left is for him to do is chant ‘Down with military rule’.”

Many analysts believe Tamim attended the summit on condition Egypt revoke a court ruling designating Hamas a terrorist organisation. Other conditions he might have insisted on could include the release of Al-Jazeera detainees and a halt to attacks on him in Egypt’s media.  That the Qatari ruler did turn up in Sharm El-Sheikh, say observers, signals “a de-escalation rather than the reconciliation Saudi and other Gulf countries hope to engineer.”

Mamdouh Ismail, the former MP and Brotherhood lawyer who fled to Turkey, wrote on his Facebook page that Tamim’s presence at the Arab Summit in Egypt was political confirmation of Al-Sisi’s legitimacy and exposed the weakness of those opposed to the regime in Egypt.

Decisive Storm, the positions of Turkey and Qatar, and Al-Sisi’s welcome of Qatar’s ruler signal the beginning of the end of the honeymoon between the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar. Doha will not make enemies with its Gulf neighbours for the sake of the Brotherhood.

In Egypt the group’s growing fears are palpable. The silence of Brotherhood leaders in Qatar, including Sheikh Youssef Al-Qaradawi, is equally telling, a reflection of their fear that Qatar will reconcile with Egypt and abandon them.

The terrorist group is in the eye of the storm and there is no obvious light at the end of the tunnel.

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