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How personal politics drive conflict in the Gulf 7, May 2014

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, The Emirates, The Gulf.
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The following article can be found on Steven Cook’s blog over at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“I love all the countries of the Gulf, and they all love me.” With this less than subtle statement, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the vocal Qatar-based Muslim Brotherhood scholar tried to do his part to repair regional relations in the Gulf that have badly frayed in recent weeks. Long-brewing discontent erupted in early March with the unprecedented withdrawal of the Saudi, Emirati, and Bahraini ambassadors from Qatar. Subsequent mediation from Kuwait’s Emir has led the protagonists to the cuspof a modus vivendi, and a vague document has been agreed upon.

But core differences remain. Qatar is alone in the region in providing financial, material, and rhetorical support for popular governance around the Middle East. It can do this because its domestic security is strong and, without internal restrictions to speak of such as a strong Parliament, its elite is unusually unconstrained and capable of pursuing unusual foreign policy tangents such as assiduously supporting the new movements in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Such aid, which has been frequently channeled through Brotherhood connections, resonated favorably across much of the region. This allowed Qatar to play an important role in emerging popular revolts, keeping the autocratic monarchy with no meaningful elections on the right side of wider public opinion, while also laying the foundations for new, potentially close regional relations. Qatar’s Gulf neighbors, however, without as pliant a domestic context and driven by the intention of thwarting new Islamist actors, seek the firm reinstatement of the regional status quo ante.

In November 2013, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah presented Qatar’s new, 33-year-old Emir – a man one-third his age – with a document demanding a total reorientation of Qatar’s foreign policy under the guise of promoting regional security. In the face of conflicting interests between Saudi and Qatar, this was Abdullah’s attempt to cow Qatar and get its renegade regional foreign policy under control; something he had tried but failed to do for decades with Tamim’s father, Hamad. Tamim demurred, but  Abdullah was nevertheless led to believe that the Emir had acquiesced to the Saudi leader’s way of thinking. Yet Qatar’s rhetorical support of the Brotherhood continued and Qaradawi stoked ire across the region in early 2014. In January he accused Saudi Arabia’s leaders of not believing in sharia law and he also declared that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has “always been against Islamic rule” prompting its foreign ministry to summon the Qatari ambassador to explain the lack of an official denunciation or apology.

In March of this year, Qatari representatives facilitated the release of thirteen Greek Orthodox nuns held in Syria since in December 2012 with – according to some reports – a ransom of $67 million. From the Saudi perspective this was a clear example of Qatar adversely intervening in the conflict and further fermenting a petri dish in which jihadi groups grow, prosper, and strengthen. Saudi authorities also see Qatar fermenting similar problems in Saudi’s own backyard in Yemen where Doha stands accused of channeling itssupport through the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Al Islah party.

Despite their own material and financial support for suspect groups in such conflicts, Riyadh clearly believes that Qatari actions encourage jihadism, which represents a threat to Saudi security. Given the bitter Saudi experience with domestic terrorism in the mid-2000s and its large, relatively porous borders with Yemen and Iraq, fears are growing in the Saudi elite of the impact or ‘blowback’ of returning, more radicalized, and battle-tested jihadis. This is the reason that the remit of Minister of the Interior Muhammed bin Nayef has recently been extended to cover Syria and Yemen and why the Saudi leadership issued a decree in February making it illegal for their citizens to fight in regional conflicts.

The withdrawal of the ambassadors from Doha had little practical effect. Gulf diplomacy is conducted at a much higher level, but it was a public and unprecedented rebuke. Leaks to the press about the potential Saudi escalation including the cancellation of an impending airline deal by Qatar Airways in Saudi Arabia or potentially closing the land border to Qatar, added to a sense of near naked extortion.

The nature of the mooted compromise agreement that the Kuwaitis hammered out does not augur well for long-term stability. The agreement is thought to demand that Qatar curtails funding for a range of media organizations in the Middle East that are critical of the policies of the Gulf States; expels Brotherhood members currently living in Doha; halts its support of the Brotherhood and the Houthis in Yemen; and stops naturalizing Gulf citizens fleeing states as opposition members or Islamists. Though Qatar has, according to reports, now agreed to implement these statutes, it is difficult to see how Doha could possibly do so without fundamentally shifting its foreign policy, something it is most unlikely to do.

Since the late 1950s Qatar has provided various kinds of support for the Brotherhood. Even without a meaningful religiously based commonality – Qatar being theoretically closer, ironically, to the Saudi interpretation of Islam – Qatar often found Brotherhood members both available and sufficiently qualified to staff its emerging bureaucracies. This filled a basic need, while also allowing the Qataris to diversify away any existing dependency on Saudi Arabia in such matters. The Brothers, who settled in Qatar over the decades, whether notable ideologues like Qaradawi or those with the loosest of affiliation to the group, found Doha to be a safe and secure location. These relationships came into their own during the Arab Spring, when their potential for influence increased, for a time at least. Though the Brotherhood is once more deeply repressed across much of the region and should never be seen as a group in “Qatar’s pocket,” there is an unusually deep connection that has been cultivated over decades.

Qatar enjoys this relationship because neither the Brotherhood nor any similar groups poses a challenge to the country. Indeed, the local Brotherhood branch disbanded itself in 1999. Additionally, Qatari society is so small and close-knit, and the socioeconomic bargain so strong, that the ruling elites feel entirely and understandably comfortable supporting a group that offers an alternative arrangement of government. Saudi Arabia, however, does face a challenge from the Brothers in two ways. Firstly, the Brotherhood offers a competing form of Islamic government, one that was realized for a time in Egypt and that directly challenges Saudi Arabia as the beacon of Islamic governance. Secondly, Saudi Arabia faces politicized Islam as an oppositional force: Discord throughout the Kingdom could be channeled by the Brotherhood and used to confront the royal family. The UAE has similar fears, stemming from the disparities in wealth between Abu Dhabi and Dubai and the northern Emirates. The government also insists that it has rooted out dozens of Brothers who were planning to disrupt the status quo. Equally, the UAE’s de facto leader, Mohammad bin Zayed, is known to have a deep distrust and dislike for the group that directly shapes the state’s policy.

Given that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have recently labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, there is no turning back the clock; their antipathy is now institutionalized state policy. In the aftermath of the ambassadorial withdrawal, dozens of Qataris changed their Twitter profile pictures to photos of the Emir.  Qataris – even those who do not support the Brotherhood – were clearly signaling that they would not be  bullied into changing their policy. So while Qatar could theoretically change tack and join the bandwagon, such an about-face would be seen as a capitulation and would be received poorly back in Doha. Also, aside from the legacy of the policy toward the Brotherhood in Qatar, if there has been a central theme in the country’s foreign policy in the last twenty-five years it has been one of unambiguously asserting Qatar’s independence from Saudi Arabia. Reasonable accommodation has been made in the past, such as in 2008 when Qatar controlled to a greater degree Al Jazeera coverage of Saudi Arabia to ensure the return of the Saudi ambassador to Doha after a six year absence, but the current proposals seek strategic change. Part of the mooted accord attempting to resolve this latest crisis hints that once more Al Jazeera’s coverage might be on the table and Qaradawi is, for the time being at least, cooperating by toning down his rhetoric. But without precisely the kind of meaningful change that Qatar cannot undertake, relations seem set for an extended cold snap, punctuated by personally-led spurts of anger, potentially peripatetically lurching relations from one mini-crisis to the next.

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On the UK report into the Muslim Brotherhood 28, April 2014

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Egypt, UK.
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ikh

 

There is no certain truth as to what the Muslim Brotherhood (the Ikhwan) is, what it represents, or what its ultimate goals are. Instead, its history is one of bifurcation after bifurcation, with differing ideologues promoting differing modus operandi for differing goals. One’s views on the Ikhwan are instead predominately determined by one’s perceptions, which inevitably stem from circumstance and context: what you say depends on where you sit. For the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) the Ikhwan is a diverse actor that is difficult to pin down, while according to a former head of the UK’s foreign security intelligence service MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, it is ‘at heart terrorist organisation”. Under pressure from middle eastern allies deeply concerned at the rise of the Ikhwan, the UK government has come under pressure to either brand the organization illegal or at least clamp down on its activities. David Cameron’s recently announced investigation into the organization’s activities in the UK thus faces a difficult job summing up this nebulous organization.

The Ikhwan’s roots

Historically, the emergence of the Ikhwan is relatively straight-forward to track, at least compared to the theological and conceptual divisions that emerged as the twentieth century progressed. Hassan Al Banna founded the Ikhwan in 1928. Initially, he was more of a scholar, an author and a poet. The organization he ran worked closely with the Egyptian Monarchy to avoid being repressed. It used educational outreach both formally (schools and mosques) and informally (establishing clubs and social organizations) to spread its word, while its social aspects ranging from establishing health clinics to running sports clubs, were to be a feature of its success. By the late 1940s, this tactic had accrued approximately half a million followers in Egypt and its influence had spread throughout the region.

Indelible to the Ikhwan’s ideology was an anti-Colonial streak. This motivating factor, spurred on by increasing repression, prompted the creation of a specialized military wing, the Special Apparatus; essentially a paramilitary organization. The activities of this wing, which included assassinations, poisoned an already worsening relationship with the government and exacerbated the cycle of repression, relaxation, and repression; a feature of the Ikhwan and its governmental relations to this day.

Al Banna was killed in 1949 and though Hassan Al Hudaybi took over as the second ‘general guide’ it was Sayyid Qutb whose works were to become synonymous with the Ikhwan. Qutb was virulently anti-Colonial and anti-Westernisation, bitterly resenting the perceived Western influences on the Arab World. Spurred on by sporadic incarceration by the Egyptian authorities, his writings became increasingly radical to the point where he summarily rejected any corporeal power coming in between God’s divine rule and ordinary people. Because Governments interfered in this direct link, he reasoned, opposing them in any way possible was ipso facto justified. Qutb’s thought and reason along these lines remains one of the foundational plinths of radical Islam to this day and is an influence for the likes of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda.

Aware that such a trend would lead to the Ikhwan’s permanent marginalization from Egyptian rule, Al Hudaybi eventually issued a riposte. ‘Preachers not Judges’ was released under his name but is thought of as collective work by a range of scholars. It sought to undercut Qutb’s logic by arguing that governments were a legitimate form of rule and it insisted that declaring someone apostate – i.e. non-Muslim and therefore with Qutb’s logic without rights of protection – was infinitely more complex than Qutb’s simplistic logic. Though Qutb’s ideas have been expressly rejected by the Ikhwan leadership, his works remain in the Ikhwan canon of literature; a paradox that concerns many to this day. Indeed, though jurisprudential and theological arguments have evolved, this Qutb-Hudaybi dividing line remains at the base of issues concerning the Ikhwan.

Some point to former Egyptian Ikhwan President Mohammed Morsi’s clear policy to avoid undercutting or otherwise changing Egypt’s decades-old policy of normalizing relations with Israel as evident proof that the Ikhwan are prudent rulers; that they are not necessarily hijacked by religious fervor or at the whim of theological demands. Others point to Morsi’s appointment of Adel Assad mayor of Luxor even though Assad was a member of Gamaa Al Islamiyya, a terrorist group that killed 62 people in Luxor in 1997, as proof of the Ikhwan’s real sympathies.

 What you say depends on where you sit

In short, there is no ‘truth’ as to the Ikhwan. It is a group that retains the loyalty of hundreds of thousands of Muslims. Though there may be an official overarching dogma denouncing violence, given the breadth of its support a smorgasbord of beliefs and actions can be found and carried out under its aegis. The Ikhwan’s leadership retain this ambiguity on purpose, to a degree. This allows them to be all things to all men (or women).

One of the central questions surrounding the Ikhwan is whether it is some kind of a conveyor belt to further extremism or a firewall against greater radicalization. The obvious answer is that given its breadth and weight of numbers, both aphorisms are true, yet what is equally certain is that the vast majority of its membership err more towards the Hudaybi school. This fact is underpinned by simple appreciation of the isolated nature of attacks in Egypt and elsewhere in the aftermath of the military coup against Morsi.

This debate and decisions surrounding how to interact with the Ikhwan need nuance. The British government must not allow itself to be pushed into making a stance by allies with a particular calculus and a lack of nuance of their own. The conclusions of this government study into the Ikhwan are important as they may unearth links and other associations that are detrimental to the UK’s security. Yet given the broad nature of the Ikhwan it is difficult to see how it could reasonably act as a foundation for an outright ban. Any such decision would result from a deep shift in HMGs attitude towards the Ikhwan. While such a tough policy would curry favor in key regional capitals, the whiff of HMG dancing to the tune of Middle Eastern autocracies would be nigh-on undeniable.

Qatar, the Ikhwan, and transnational relations in the Gulf 24, April 2014

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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The following article was first published by POMEPS on 18 March 2014 after having been prepared specifically for a workshop in Venice (‘Visions of Gulf Security’) earlier that month. The original article can be found here.

___

 

Qatar has often found itself at the heart of intra-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) disputes. From the early 1990s to 2008 Qatar was involved in a cold war with Saudi Arabia, while its Bahraini bilateral relations have been fractious for more than a century. More recently Qatar’s relations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have ebbed and flowed, while Saudi Arabia’s leadership is becoming, once again, increasingly irritated with Qatar. The latest iteration of these regional difficulties was crystalized when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain took the unprecedented step of withdrawing their ambassadors from Qatar en masse in early March.[1]

The roots of the difficulties are clear: Qatar’s evident preference for channeling its support through and therefore bolstering the Ikhwan (the Muslim Brotherhood). Given how increasingly difficult and costly this policy is becoming for Qatar with its regional relations, it is worth re-examining existing understandings as to why Qatar supports the Ikhwan. Subsequently, recent bilateral issues will be examined to draw conclusions to inform a cost benefit analysis of Qatar’s continuing Ikhwan-supporting policies.

Qatar and the Ikhwan: the roots

Understanding Qatar’s links to the Ikhwan typically relies on quasi-academic, short articles in lieu of any notable academic sources. While many articles note that, for example, Yusuf al-Qaradawi – arguably the Ikhwan’s most prominent cleric – left Egypt for Qatar in the early 1960s, few note the scale of the influx of Ikhwan (or Ikhwan associated) scholars to Qatar around that time. [2]

Abdul-Badi Saqr arrived in 1954 from Egypt to be the director of education and subsequently run the Qatar National Library after being recommended by a prominent Cairo-based religious sheikh.[3] Under his leadership an influx of Ikhwan teachers “stamped the education system with their Islamic ideology.”[4] When Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani (r.1972-1995) took charge of the education portfolio in 1956 to 1957 he was concerned about increasing Ikhwan domination of education so he sacked Saqr and replaced him with the Arab nationalist Syrian Abdulrahman al-Samrah. However, he didn’t last more than a year thanks to the pressures of the British resident keen to evict such an ardent pan-Arabist. Even while trying to avoid the domination of Ikhwan or pan-Arab thinkers, Khalifa still oversaw significant recruitment from Cairo. In 1960 the head of Islamic sciences at the education department, Abdullah bin Tukri al-Subai, went to Al-Azhar to recruit teachers and thinkers. Ahmed al-Assal arrived in Qatar in 1960 and taught in schools, lectured in mosques, and helped form Ikhwan groups. Abdel-Moaz al-Sattar – Hassan al-Banna’s personal emissary to Palestine in 1946 – went to Qatar to be a school inspector and then director of Islamic Sciences at the ministry of education and co-authored numerous textbooks for the nascent Qatari school system in the early 1960s. Kemal Naji took on various roles including the director of education from 1964 to 1979, the head of the publication committee, and was also the foreign cultural relations advisor of the ministry of education. Qaradawi left Egypt for Qatar in 1961. Initially he ran a revamped religious institute and subsequently established and became dean of the College of Sharia at Qatar University. Today he is widely considered to be one of the most influential and well-known Ikhwan intellectuals; a facet helped since the mid-1990s by his popular talk show “Sharia and Life” broadcast on Al Jazeera, which afforded him a large pan-regional audience.

Despite the prevalence of Ikhwan or at least Ikhwan sympathetic thinkers throughout Qatar’s various bureaucracies – but particularly its education system – few would suggest that today’s policies are a result of domestic pressure from Qataris inculcated into an Ikhwan ideology. The lack of apparent transference of Ikhwan ideology stems from a variety of factors.

Qatar is a country where the Wahhabi creed of Salafi, Hanbali Islam prevails. Qatar’s ruling family hails from the same central Arabian tribal group (the Bani Tamim) as Wahhabism’s founder, Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab and Qatar’s leaders have long adhered to its scriptures. Even in the 21st century when nothing about Qatar’s orientation or policies chimes with a typical understanding of the puritanical Wahhabi creed, the national mosque opened in 2012 was named after al-Wahhab himself. Though the state overall was receptive to the influx of the Ikhwan, the ground for proselytization was not so accepting.

Indeed, the Ikhwan is “barely [actively] involved in Qatari domestic affairs.”[5] In distinct comparison to Saudi Arabia, Qatar has limited the institutional opportunities available for religious scholars of any description to exert influence domestically.[6] Religious schools as founded by Qaradawi in 1961 remain niche and in 2008 to 2009 only taught 257 students, the vast majority of whom were not Qatari.[7] Institutionally not entertaining the notion of religious influence on politics, there is no office of Grand Mufti in Qatar and the ministry for Islamic affairs and endowments was only established in 1993.[8]

The Ikhwan’s lack of penetration in Qatar is also explained by its inability to perform a variety of its usual social functions. Running local sports clubs or operating food banks – typical Ikhwan activities elsewhere in the region – are popular but inevitably undercut the state’s legitimacy.[9] In 1972 when Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani took over seamlessly from Ahmed bin Ali al-Thani, he augmented his wider legitimacy and diversified his support from nigh on exclusively based on the al-Thani to a far wider base. He did this through a budget splurge creating jobs, building houses, augmenting pensions, and increasing wages.[10]

The Ikhwan, therefore, though having little discernable direct effect on policy in Qatar was an important part of the background makeup of the state. The two entities came to develop a mutually beneficial relationship so long as the Ikhwan in Qatar were, inevitably, outward facing. It is no surprise that the Ikhwan soon began to use Qatar as “a launching pad for its expansion into the Emirates and especially Dubai” from the early 1960s.[11] The Ikhwan search for an outward focus found real traction with the influential Al Jazeera platform afforded to Qaradawi from 1996 onward and is personified in the official closure of the Ikhwan branch in Qatar in 1999.[12]

Utility of Ikhwan links for Qatar

In the 1950s, 1960s, and subsequently there have clearly been those in the Qatari elite who have been motivated to a degree by a religiously-inspired agenda. This in and of itself is a motivating factor explaining the push for the influx of Islamic scholars to Qatar alongside the prosaic need to staff emerging bureaucracies with educated functionaries. The same impulses explain Saudi Arabia’s reliance on Ikhwan teachers and professionals from the 1960s.[13] Equally, for some in Qatar there may have been wider motivating factors, some of which prevail to this day.

Qatar’s status as a Wahhabi country was firmly established by the modern-day founder of the state, Sheikh Jassim.[14] As such this was an inviolable plinth of the state’s makeup. Yet it was not one that could be actively used to augment legitimacy or to promote Qatar as a state for Wahhabism that is indelibly linked to Saudi Arabia. To augment the status of Wahhabism in Qatar, to explicitly instil it through education systems in schools or to give its religious scholars an official place in government, would have been to intractably instill the necessary deference of Qatar to Saudi Arabia as the custodian of the two holy places and the al-Wahhab legacy.

Instead, supporting the Ikhwan allowed a different group to develop Qatar’s systems. This avoided a reliance on Saudi-scholars or jurists to design and staff Qatar’s systems in a Wahhabi image inevitably tilting toward Riyadh. Also, Qatar’s leadership was in a stronger position and could set and enforce guidelines as to the group’s limitations to a greater degree.

Otherwise, this hosting of Ikhwan scholars allowed Qatar to augment its regional status with Ikhwan ideology being more widespread than Wahhabi thought. This allowed Qatar to fashion for itself a place as a key spoke in the Ikhwan wheel. Ikhwan members that Qatar attracted over the years with its “open door” policy were to prove useful in the Arab Spring.

Recent problems: A changing calculation?

For the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Ikhwan is – today – anathema. It has not been forgiven for supporting Iraq President Saddam Hussein in 1990, is blamed for radicalizing Saudi youth, and is something of a threat as a large, well organized religiously-driven group.

The UAE too harbors deep suspicions about the Ikhwan and has consequentially taken a hard line and sentenced dozens of Ikhwan to jail sentences. For the UAE’s de facto leader, Muhammad bin Zayed, the Ikhwan is an issue of abiding importance; indeed leaked U.S. diplomatic cables give an unvarnished, personal view of his steadfast concerns about the group’s activities in the UAE.[15] That the Ikhwan profited from the Arab Spring, gained power, and proved that they can effectively mobilize tens of thousands of citizens could only augment Zayed’s suspicions and concern.

There have been numerous spats involving Qaradawi in recent years, but recently there has been an escalation. On January 31, in a Friday sermon broadcast as usual by Qatar television, Qaradawi criticized the UAE describing it as being “against Islam.” Amid a furor on social media, the UAE’s foreign ministry summoned the Qatari ambassador to account for why his ministry had not denounced Qaradawi’s comments though Zayed subsequently insisted that relations were fundamentally sound nevertheless. Qaradawi did not give a sermon on the next two Fridays, leading to speculation that he had been censored by the Qatari government or even stripped of his nationality. However, his absence was due to illness and he returned on February 21[16] to once more criticize the UAE, albeit in a more conciliatory manner, drawing on the predictable Emirati editorials bemoaning Qatar’s inability to muzzle Qaradawi.[17]

Qaradawi also irked Saudi officials at the end of January, when he accused them of supporting Defense Minister Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi et al in Egypt who were “far from God and Islam.”[18] Contemporaneously, accounts of Qatar’s support of Houthi rebels against Saudi Arabia’s interests are reportedly the last straw for Saudi’s leadership, increasingly angry over a litany of other issues,[19] to the extent that according to Al Arab, Saudi Arabia was considering closing the Qatari-Saudi land border, Saudi airspace to Qatar, and scuppering the imminent Qatar Airways deal to operate flights in the kingdom.[20] Scurrilous social media exchanges also indicated the possible excommunication of Qatar from the GCC.[21]

Mediation by the emir of Kuwait has reportedly calmed the situation and this is not the first time in recent years that Qatar has been publically rebuked: There was a February 2012 GCC meeting about Syria and Iran without Qatar because it “is considered unreliable when it comes to Iran.”[22] However, that such threats are emerging to the public sphere is at least a cause for concern. While their implementation may be highly unlikely, Saudi Arabia has recent evidence of undertaking a surprising, complete reversal of policy directed by the king in the rejection of the U.N. Security Council seat in October 2013.

Conclusion

Qatar’s support of the Ikhwan is not as much of a preference as it may seem. It originated as the result of a structural necessity to staff positions without inculcating any systems that would automatically defer authority to Saudi Arabia. Equally it also continues to make Qatar an important spoke of the wider Ikhwan wheel, expanding its importance regionally. These networks played the central role in Qatar seeking to augment its influence during the Arab Spring. Though many of these gambles subsequently misfired, this strategy could be recycled at some stage in the future.

However, this entire policy thrust leaves neighboring countries uneasy. The Ikhwan’s importance has transcended from a potentially influential group to one with demonstrable capabilities in a revolutionary era. Qatar’s policies seem to underestimate the depth of antagonism they create. For Qatar, a country with a small native population where there has typically existed a strong ruler-ruled sociopolitical bargain, the Ikhwan has never posed any kind of threat. To the UAE, which is convinced it has found plotting Ikhwan elements with relatively poorer Emirates in its federation, the Ikhwan is seen as a genuine threat to its leadership. Similarly in Saudi Arabia, a country that had to employ an Arab Spring-inspired budget of $130 billion and continues to struggle with a slow burning insurgency in its critical eastern region, stoking or supporting Ikhwan actors is seen as a deeply grave concern.

The emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, cannot submit to regional pressure, for this would look weak, send the wrong signals as to Qatar’s status under his charge, and it would also be difficult to overturn his father’s policies. Yet some accommodation needs to be made. Tamim was the first leader to sign and ratify the GCC security pact, which likely contains draconian provisions related to the censure of speech and the extradition of citizens that Tamim himself would not propose, so he is willing to compromise.

In the current climate many of Qatar’s Ikhwan links have either been checkmated or otherwise degraded in utility. It would be beneficial, therefore, to keep these relations on a low profile. Qaradawi is virtually untouchable because he was so supported by Tamim’s father – a facet Zayed may well understand – and because any such move would be seen as a capitulation. But to show a willingness to tackle Gulf states’ concerns, Tamim could direct a clearing-house in Al Jazeera Arabic: the channel whose reputation has sunk lower across the Arab world as its clear support of the Ikhwan has grown. Restoring balance to Al Jazeera would not only show Qatar’s willingness to act, but could lead to the slow resuscitation of the channel’s credibility and as one of the key fonts of Qatari soft power this is a worthy goal.


[1] Simeon Kerr, “Diplomatic Crisis as Gulf States Withdraw Ambassadors from Qatar,” Financial Times March 5, 2014.

[2] Haykel’s short brief on Qatar and Islamism being a noted exception. Bernard Haykel, “Qatar and Islamism,” in Policy Brief (Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre, February 2013).

[3] Abdullah Juma Kobaisi, “The Development of Education in Qatar, 1950-1977″ (Durham University, 1979), p. 123.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ahmed Azem, “Qatar’s Ties with the Muslim Brotherhood Affect Entire Region,”  The National (May 18, 2012)

[6] Steven Wright and Birol Baskan, “Seeds of Change: Comparing State-Religion Relations in Qatar and Saudi Arabia,” Arab Studies Quarterly 33, no. 2 (Spring 2011).

[7] Ibid., p. 98.

[8] For a discussion of the influence of Saudi’s clergy on politics see Nawaf E. Obaid, “The Power of Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Leaders,” The Middle East Quarterly V1, no. 3 (September 1999). Wright and Baskan, “Seeds of Change: Comparing State-Religion Relations in Qatar and Saudi Arabia,” P. 109.

[9] Alexus G Grynkewich, “Welfare as Warfare: How Violent Non-State Groups Use Social Services to Attack the State,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 31, no. 4 (2008).

[10] Jill Crystal, Oil and Politics in the Gulf : Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Qatar  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 156-7.

[11] Tarek Al Mubarak and Amr Al Turabi, “Al Masar Al Mukhtalifah Fee Al Khaleej [Different Paths in the Gulf],” As Sharq Al-Awsat (6/11/2013)

[12] Haykel, “Qatar and Islamism.” Sultan Al Qassemi, “Qatar’s Brotherhood Ties Alienate Fellow Gulf States,”  Al Monitor (January 23, 2013).

[13] Ondrej Beranek, “Divided We Survive: A Landscape of Fragmentation in Saudi Arabia,” in Middle East Brief (Brandeis University January 2009).

[14] Rosemarie Said Zahlan, The Creation of Qatar  (London, New York: Croom Helm 1979), p. 54.

[15] “UAE Minimizing Influence of Islamic Extremists,” Wikileaks (November 10, 2004). “Strong Words in Private from Mbz at Idex,” Wikileaks(February 25, 2009).

[16] Haj Salmeen Ibrahim, “‘Al Qaradawi’ Yaawd Li-Minbr Al Jmaaah Mntqadah Askar Misr Wa Al-Imarat [‘Qaradawi’ Back to the Pulpit on Friday, Criticising the Egyptian Military and the UAE],”  Al Quds Al Arabi (February 21, 2014).

[17] Aisha Al Marri, “Tyraan Sadyqah Min Qatr [Friendly Fire from Doha],”  Al Ittihad (2/24/2014)

[18] Amena Bakr, “Influential Cleric Urges Saudis to Stop Backing Egypt’s Dominant Military,”  Reuters (January 28, 2014)

[19] “Al Alaqat Al Saudiyah Al Qatariyah Mutazmah Jidan Wa Al Harb Al Alamiyah Tshtaal Bayn Al Biladayn Qa Amir Al Kuwayt Ytwasat Lil-Thdah Qa Ttwyq Al Tawatr  [Qatari-Saudi Relations in Crisis as a Media War Flares up between the Two Countries; the Emir of Kuwait Mediates to Calm Tensions],” Al Rai Al Yaum (November 22, 2013)

[20] “Sabr Al Saudiyah Yunafth Wa Ijraat Mutwqaah Dud Al Dawhah [Saudi Arabia’s Patience Is Running out and Action Is Expected against Doha],” Al Arab (February 19, 2014)

[21] For example, follow the Twitter hashtag ‘ السعودية على تتآمر قطر‘# to see the toing-and-froing of accusation and counter accusation.

[22] Clemens Von Wergin, “Iran Schmuggelt Waffen Übers Meer an Die Hisbollah [Iran Smuggles Weapons across the Sea to Hezbollah],” Die Welt (February 15, 2012)

 

References

Al Alaqat Al Saudiyah Al Qatariyah Mutazmah Jidan Wa Al Harb Al Alamiyah Tshtaal Bayn Al Biladayn Qa Amir Al Kuwayt Ytwasat Lil-Thdah Qa Ttwyq Al Tawatr  [Qatari-Saudi Relations in Crisis as a Media War Flares up between the Two Countries; the Emir of Kuwait Mediates to Calm Tensions].” Al Rai Al Yaum (November 22, 2013).

Al Marri, Aisha. “Tyraan Sadyqah Min Qatr [Friendly Fire from Doha].” Al Ittihad (2/24/2014).

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