Egypt’s coup sparks political shift in the Gulf

Dr. Theodore Karasik

Published: Updated:

Almost one week after the coup that removed democratically-elected Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi questions swirl what this event means for the politics of the region. As we all know, Mursi represented the ascent of the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) to the governance of the most populous Arab country and failed miserably. Specifically, what does the military coup mean for the GCC? How is the new government of interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour seen by the GCC? What are the political implications for the GCC?

GCC states were quick to recognize the new government led by Mansour. All GCC countries sent their congratulations quickly after the coup with the theme that Egypt is returning to normalcy after Cairo’s experiment with an alternative Islamist government. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were quick to identify the new government. Bahrain sent its compliments to Egyptians and the foreign minister expressed its happiness after the overthrow of Mursi and the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood government. Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah praised the positive historical role of the Egyptian armed forces, headed by General Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, lauding the brotherly ties between the two countries, as well as the mutual desire to bolster cooperation. Finally, Qatar's new Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, sent congratulations to the new Egyptian President. Moreover the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar commended the role of the Egyptian army to protect the national security of Egypt and said that Qatar respects the will of the Egyptian people. Qatar’s pronouncements illustrated that the new leadership is shifting Doha’s position on supporting the Ikhwan in a sharp reversal of Qatar’s policy under the previous Emir’s foreign policy and support programs.

Shifting politics

Given all the accolades, the political dimension is the region is now shifting.

The GCC still sees the Muslim Brotherhood as a real threat and the group will continue to be pursued throughout the Arabian Peninsula for the foreseeable future.

Dr. Theodore Karasik

First, Saudi Arabia and the UAE clearly benefit from the new government who will be more closely aligned with the policy and security interests of the GCC against the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are re-launching their ties to Cairo to help prop up the new Egyptian government. An Egyptian government, for Riyadh and Abu Dhabi that is more closely aligned to the anti-Ikhwan stance can become a potent tool to demonstrate that the Ikhwan is not a viable option in the wake of the Arab Spring. Finally, the coincidental timing of the conviction of pro-Muslim Brotherhood activists in the UAE and the military coup in Egypt illustrates the decline of the Ikhwan as a political force within the immediate region for the moment.

Second, the military coup helped changed the Islamist calculus in Syria. The GCC is certainly happy with the choice of Ahmed Jarba as leader of the Syrian opposition; such a move became certain after the Muslim Brotherhood failed in Cairo thereby guaranteeing that the group will not be part of the Syrian future at this time. Jarba is a tribal figure from the eastern province of Hasaka who has connections with Saudi Arabia, a clear plus that is anti-Ikhwan. This political move helps the GCC guarantee at the very least that the Ikhwan is severely, if not mortally wounded, in the Syrian political opposition.

Finally, GCC states will be able to help shape Egyptian politics to their liking now that there is a new leadership in Qatar. GCC states, who have close ties to the Egyptian military, will be able to offer suggestions on how best to manage a transition that is acceptable to GCC interests across a broad spectrum from politics to economics to social issues. Finally, the GCC states see Acting Egyptian President Mansour as a leader that they can work with through these turbulent times.

Overall, the GCC sees new hope that the temporary “love-fest” for the Ikhwan as a model for political Islam in the region is perhaps moving into a lapsing phase. Still, the GCC still sees the Muslim Brotherhood as a real threat and the group will continue to be pursued and persecuted throughout the Arabian Peninsula for the foreseeable future. And now with Qatar clearly back within the GCC fold on the Muslim Brotherhood issue, GCC states can use their clout and monies in a united front for aiding Egypt. Clearly, the Egyptian military coup helped turn a corner necessary to help narrow and sharpen the political models available to new governments throughout the MENA region. The GCC seeks to play a major role in shaping this new political order.


Dr. Theodore Karasik is the Director of Research and Consultancy at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) in Dubai, UAE. He is also a Lecturer at University of Wollongong Dubai. Dr. Karasik received his Ph.D in History from the University of California Los Angles.

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