Why is the Gulf divided over Egypt?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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Ever since Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi was ousted, the Gulf has been embroiled in a controversial storm that is not much less than what Egypt is witnessing. This has particularly happened in Gulf countries that are considered sympathizers with the Brotherhood, which has recently launched its biggest political and media campaign. Since there is tension on all levels in the region, it's only natural that its repercussions will reach the Gulf Arab states.

Gulf governments are again standing where they once stood several years ago. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain are on one side and the Qatari government is on another. Their stances have been made clear through government and media statements. This is happening following a short period of Gulf consensus over almost everything since the Arab Spring began two and a half years ago.

The path towards chaos

Countries like Saudi, the UAE and Kuwait are aware of the gravity of chaos in a country like Egypt and think that standing against the status quo may drag Egypt towards disorder. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, as it has clearly shown during the past few weeks, is willing to walk a path towards confrontations and chaos instead of accepting calls for dialogue and reconciliation.

Countries like Saudi, the UAE and Kuwait are aware of the gravity of chaos in a country like Egypt and think that standing against the status quo may drag Egypt towards disorder.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

These Gulf countries think that pushing Egypt towards chaos means a threat of turning the country into another collapsed state, like Libya and Syria. Egypt’s failure means a threat to the entire Middle East and the region will not stabilize for many decades.

As for Qatar, it’s really difficult for us to understand its political logic over a country not linked to it on the levels of regimes, ideology and economy. And Egyptians in Qatar only represent a minority. Its support of the move forcing the army and other political Egyptian parties to adopt the Brotherhood demands is not only impossible but it also has dangerous repercussions.

Therefore, supporting the Brotherhood at this current phase increases their stubbornness to hold on to their stances, leading to an extremely dangerous situation. So why is Qatar doing it? We really don’t understand why!

Historically and over a period of around 20 years, Qatar has always adopted stances that oppose the positions of its Gulf brothers, and all of Qatar’s opposing policies have ended up unsuccessful. Qatar has granted a media space for al-Qaeda-linked organizations in the 90s and the years that followed even after this organization targeted Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Qatar’s policy outcomes

Qatar supported Hezbollah and Iran although the former participated in assassinating Lebanese figures and occupied the Sunni west Beirut. It supported the Syrian regime in Lebanon even when Hezbollah murdered March 14 coalition figures and assassinated former premier Rafiq Hariri. It adopted the Assad regime’s rehabilitation of its relations with the West, particularly with France. It also supported the regime of Muammar Qaddafi even after he got involved in assassination operations and supported fighters against Saudi. The time frame of Qatar’s policy of standing with Iran, Hezbollah, Assad and Qaddafi and of standing against them after the Arab Spring is quite short.

I am confident that Qatar will later alter its policy towards Egypt and that it will be forced to deal with the exisiting Egyptian regime because Egypt is an influential country that no Arab state can ignore or build an enmity with. The situation is now more dangerous than before because during Hosni Mubarak’s reign, the regime felt lesser threats and was less effective. But the current regime is now both angry and worried.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on August 18, 2013.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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