On the regional strategic level, the June 30th revolution in Egypt confirmed the importance of Gulf countries for the United States. The fall of the Muslim Brotherhood rule led to the regression of political Islam. And the American alliance with Gulf countries thus remained the pillar of regional stability.
When he first seized power, President Mohammad Mursi attempted to get closer to Saudi Arabia. He said Saudi is the sponsor of “Sunni moderate Islam” and that “the security of the Gulf is a red line.” But the Brotherhood’s policies confirmed the command’s desire to become closer to Iran.
Yet obstacles to Egypt forging closer ties with Iran soon emerged. During his last days as president, Mursi’s stance shifted as he announced Egypt’s support of the Syrian revolution. Mursi’s desire to strengthen his alliance with the Salafis pushed him to abandon strengthening ties with Iran. Had Egyptian-Iranian relations developed, it would have created an axis that places the Gulf under direct pressure. It is clear that Iran did not care much that Mursi was ousted; the phone call by the Iranian foreign affairs minister Ali Akbar Salehi to his Egyptian counterpart on July 23 is proof that Iran recognizes the new Egyptian reality.
Turkey presents the key model of moderate Islamic governance. Relations between the Brotherhood and its counterpart in Turkey’s Justice and Development Party strengthened during the past year. Although Gulf countries have strong ties with Turkey, the latter’s adoption of Egypt’s Brotherhood raised suspicions about its stance on the Gulf. Turkey’s opposition of the ouster of Mursi confirmed the Gulf’s convictions regarding Turkey’s special relations with the Brotherhood.
Qatar was the major supporter of the Brotherhood’s rule in Egypt. This alliance was the biggest obstacle towards adopting a collective Gulf stance towards the Brotherhood. But the Qatari stance was contained among Gulf countries in a balanced manner. The end of the Qatari support when the Taksim Square protests began in Turkey led the Brotherhood to lose the main two sources of support at the same time. The Brotherhood’s presidential aspirations thus returned to square one after it made giant leaps of aspirations in 2012.
On the local level
The biggest threat the Brotherhood governance represented against the Gulf was that of political legitimacy. Its political rhetoric also represented a challenge to official religious institutions in Gulf countries.
On the level of the liberal movements in the Gulf, the Brotherhood’s collapse is supposed to engage these movements in a phase of consensus with Gulf regimes since the latter stood by popular revolutions led by youths and liberals. The establishment of Gulf-Egyptian liberal alliances may thus come into the picture.
The violent scenes in Egypt means the country is likely to enter a long phase of instability. If security worsens in Egypt, it’s possible that this will have severe repercussions on the Gulf. This may strengthen ties between security apparatuses in Egypt and the Gulf.
The stance of the Arab Shiite varied between two. One stated that the Gulf states’ enmity with the Brotherhood’s rule leads to rapprochement between the Shiite and the Brotherhood. The other stance is that the Brotherhood is a extremist group with an enmity towards the Shiite. In all cases, everything Mursi achieved with the Shiite during an entire year came to an end after he voiced support of jihad in Syria and after stating he’s against Hezbollah. The murder of four Egyptian Shiites while Mursi was still president ended all rapprochements with the Shiite in the Gulf.
The future of Egyptian-Gulf relations
Developments in Egypt will have great influence on the Gulf’s future. The success of a civil state in Egypt will be a success to the Gulf and its failure will gravely affect the Gulf’s future. Egypt’s local situation will be the decisive factor in the future of Egypt’s relations with the Gulf. Gulf countries have become a major party in Egyptian local affairs after publicly stating their support of the military institution’s stance after June 30. The collapse of the Brotherhood rule in Egypt builds a case for establishing a regional alliance between Egypt and the Gulf that is apart from the American power.
A new Egyptian-Gulf alliance would be upon a basis of trust confirmed by the Brotherhood experience that “restored the strategic rediscovery” between Egypt and the Gulf.
There is thus a new opportunity for a new sort of alliance between Egypt and Gulf countries. Circumstances, not only desires, push towards such an alliance which is based on the mutual aspect of weak trust in the American ally. Egypt and the Gulf of course still have relations with the U.S. as they also still need it.
It’s probable that Gulf countries will work as per a strategy of four pillars. First, they will be cautious regarding a new political path in Egypt as they are against repeating the experience of the Brotherhood rule. Secondly, the Gulf countries prefer to guarantee that the Egyptian army remains part of the political formula in Egypt, at least until the formula of civil rule is stabilized. Thirdly, diminishing the size of the liberal movement in the formula of the new governance or at least diminish this movement’s capability to communicate on the level of local Gulf affairs. Fourthly, the most preferred development in Egypt for the Gulf is a combination of the religious, military and civil.
In all cases, Gulf countries will for a while deal with Egypt with an amount of anticipation. They will not fully support any regime or trust any regime that the military institution is not satisfied with.
From the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies