It’s commonly said that one only discovers his true friends during times of trouble and that goes for countries too. Today, the Egyptian government is battling a Muslim Brotherhood-led insurgency that, if permitted to succeed, could hurtle the nation into civil war. A disgruntled minority has resorted to violence to hold the majority hostage. This past month has witnessed an increase in bombings targeting the police, allegedly carried out by Ansar Bait el-Maqdis, a terrorist group allied to the Brotherhood, believed to have been funded by its former deputy supreme guide Khairat el-Shater.
When Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah met with US Secretary-of-State John Kerry in November, he stressed that Egypt is too important to fail, which is one reason why the Kingdom, together with the UAE and Kuwait, have lent diplomatic and financial backing to the transitional authority. Needless to say I was extremely disturbed to read a report in Al Khaleej published on January 30, about a recent meeting between Qatari, Turkish and Israeli intelligence services that allegedly met to discuss how those countries can best support the outlawed Brotherhood.
The report further highlights the stance of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is apparently keen to ensure that the Muslim Brotherhood continues to be funded via sacrosanct diplomatic pouches, given that the assets and bank accounts of at least 702 of its leaders and over 1,000 Brotherhood affiliated NGOs have been frozen. The supply of weapons and artillery enabling the Brotherhood to foment even greater chaos and bloodshed was also discussed.
If proven to be factual, this news is serious cause for alarm. The idea that a cabal of foreign intelligence agents have come together to cook-up plots against an Arab nation struggling to regain its footing, is beyond belief. The only actor missing from this axis is Iran, whose involvement would automatically render the grouping a lethal enemy to all moderate Arab nations. Such solidarity with the Muslim Brotherhood, that spawned Hamas, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and served as inspiration to leaders of Al Qaeda, on the part of Qatar and Turkey in collaboration with Israel, is impossible to accurately analyse.
Al Watan has reported Erdogan’s hosting of global Muslim Brotherhood conferences on Turkish soil, designed to undermine the Egyptian government. The beleaguered Turkish leader, whose own grip on power is now shaky, has unashamedly embraced the Brotherhood, going as far as to flash the ‘Rabaa’ hand sign. Clearly he is personally invested on an ideological level and is uncaring that his anti-Egypt tongue lashings have been detrimental to Turkish-Egyptian trade and investment – and have resulted in the downgrading of diplomatic relations.
Israel is no fan of Islamists and is known to be cooperating closely with the Egyptian military to rid the Sinai Peninsula of armed radicals. It’s known, too, that the Israeli government petitioned the US President against instituting punitive measures against Egypt. Does Israel fear a resurgence of Arab nationalism if and when an adored military man, who’s being likened to Jamal Abdel-Nasser, becomes president? Or is Israel merely playing both sides in an endeavour to keep Egypt on its knees?
Qatar’s hostile position towards Egypt is even harder to fathom. It’s no secret that once warm relations between Cairo and Doha descended to freezing point over the toppling of Mohamed Morsi, whose government was the recipient of a US$ 7.5 billion Qatari aid package, now in the process of being returned. Last month, Egypt’s Foreign Office summoned the Qatari ambassador following a statement from Doha describing the decision to label the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist as “a prelude to a shoot-to-kill policy”.
I know of Qatar’s former ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, and I know the former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim on a personal level and would love to know whether they and the current emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad are truly aware of what’s happening.
For instance, do they know that Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Doha’s revered guest, has launched verbal attacks against the UAE, which has always backed its sister nation Qatar, and more recently against Saudi? Are they aware that Al Jazeera is feting Muslim Brotherhood leaders holed up in five-star hotels at the network’s expense? If they’re not aware, then that’s a problem. If they are, that’s an even bigger problem. Why is Al Jazeera being permitted to destroy its journalistic integrity with its relentless bashing of the Egyptian government and interviews with Muslim Brotherhood spokespersons masquerading as academics? And why is Qatar refusing to comply with Egypt’s legitimate request to extradite Qaradawi, wanted for inciting the killing of Egyptian security forces.
To say that I’m disappointed at Qatar’s pro-Brotherhood position would be an understatement. The GCC should require the Qatari government to reverse course because one member’s country’s actions negatively impact the entire body. Qatar should clarify whether or not reports that it is colluding with Turkey and Israel against Egypt are true. And if Qatar cares about the unity of Gulf States, it should show good faith by putting Qaradawi and his cohorts on a plane to Cairo and bring an immediate halt to the vicious broadcasts from Al Jazeera against our beloved Egypt, the cradle of Arabism, whose sons have unstintingly given their blood during wars to preserve the dignity of our Arab Ummah.
Lastly, I would urge the Qatari leadership not to sacrifice its good relations with neighbours in favour of a failed organisation that is gasping its dying breaths within Egypt and will soon wither away globally. I pray that our Qatari brothers will realise that supporting the Brotherhood is a lost cause. Instead, they would do well to remember that we who are privileged to live around the Arabian Gulf are interwoven as one family, one body - and, God willing, we will always remain so.