Mohammad Mursi’s ascension to the Egyptian presidency marked the beginning of a development in relations between Egypt and Qatar. The two became closer and the relationship started to resemble a tutelage. The former Qatari emir visited Egypt a month after Mursi assumed his post, they held a bilateral summit to discuss enhancing relations and economic cooperation. Throughout that year, several visits were exchanged by top officials. The Central Bank revealed that the size of Qatari investments in Egypt increased by 74% during the third quarter of 2011/2012 with an estimate of around $9.8 million that later increased to $13.2 million. Qatari investments in Egypt reached $572 million, pumped in through 155 Qatari companies.
Economic decisions all served the aim of supporting the stability of the Brotherhood regime in Egypt. Qatar presented $3 billion to Egypt in the form of deposits or bonds to that end. We later found out it came with a high interest rate attached. The government was also provided with natural gas to overcome the energy crisis, which, it must be said, was never resolved during the Brotherhood’s era. In addition to that, there were announcements of Qatari investments worth $8 billion in the field of electric power. There were also announcements Qatari sponsored factories of iron and steel, in addition to investments worth around eight billion Egyptian pounds in the field of energy and gas. Doha also promised that Egyptian companies could participate in the work of constructing and equipping the Gulf state for the World Cup 2022.
But Qatari investments in Egypt became controversial among Egyptians, especially after rumors that Qatar was granted the privilege of investment in the Suez Canal and was allowed to rent Egyptian relics. This pushed the Egyptians, and some media outlets, to hypothesize over Qatar’s hidden intent until the resulting rumors were denied by both Cairo and Doha. Qatari leadership confirmed that their support for Egypt does not have an ulterior motive, but the manner of Qatar’s denial was arrogant and the Egyptians did not fail to see that. The people did not believe Mursi’s statement to Al-Jazeera that Egypt’s foreign relations are based on “parity” and that he appreciates Qatar’s financial support to Egypt which is confronting an economic crisis. He added that the fact that the country has an economic crisis does not mean that “Egypt sells the Suez Canal to Doha.” He also said that “Egypt’s land is prohibited for anyone who is not an Egyptian.”
People did not believe Mursi’s statement to Al-Jazeera that Egypt’s foreign relations are based on “parity”Abdel Latif el-Menawy
Other parties became involved. They claimed to reveal the secrets of the relationship between Qatar and Egypt. An example is the allegation that WikiLeaks’ documents are based upon, it was said that five documents were published and two were concealed after Qatar negotiated with the website’s administration and offered huge sums of money to prevent the publishing of these two documents because the latter contain dangerous information about meetings with Israeli and American officials. It was said these meetings were held for the aim of inciting against Egypt. One of the documents said that Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem described Egypt as the doctor who only has one patient and that this patient’s disease must not be cured. He said this patient is the Palestinian cause, hinting that Egypt wants to prolong the duration of the Palestinian cause without resolving it. Then a document which no one denied was published, it was said that this document was found inside one of the Brotherhood’s headquarters in Moqattam. The document regarded the donations given by Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, the former Qatari prime minister and the former minister of foreign affairs. According to the document, which until now has not been denied by anyone, the former premier granted high-ranking politicians in Egypt thousands of dollars. Among the names mentioned in the document are: Dr. Abdelrahman al-Bir, the brotherhood’s mufti, Dr. Essam al-Erian, the well-known Brotherhood leader, Dr. Mohamed al-Beltagy, Osama Yassine, the minister of youth, Sobhi Salah, the well-known Brotherhood leader and other leaders.
A change in Qatar
This year’s summer witnessed the end of maneuvers within the Qatari ruling family. It ended with Sheikh Hamad’s announcement that he would give up governance to his young son, Tamim. Despite what was said about conspiracies and intents inside the ruling family, the final result is that Tamim took over governance, even if it was a mere formality. Some people, including myself, encouraged the new prince to turn the old page and start a new one with Egypt, especially after the June 30 revolution. He hinted that he’s ready for that. The man has no commitments, he does not have to pay the price for issues he wasn’t responsible for. He is thus free of the old contract that ruled personal relations between his father and Egypt.
Not many shared my optimism. They said that despite the changes Egypt and Qatar recently witnessed - a revolution in Egypt and change of governance in Qatar - Qatar will continue to serve America and Israel. They added that Qatar may partially change and stop the flagrant and clear hostility towards the Egyptian people’s will and decrease its defense of the Brotherhood but that at the same time, Qatar will continue to implement the American agenda through three means: Al-Jazeera channel, financial support to political movements and groups in Egypt and, finally, intelligence work to infiltrate religious and political entities and movements. Reality states that American-Qatari coordination regarding Egypt is no longer secret. Proof to that is that the American administration itself recently announced that Obama called Tamim, Qatar’s prince, and that they both confirmed that Qatar and the U.S. will continue to participate in the activity of all parties in Egypt and that America looks forward to working closely with Qatar.
Prince Tamim must vow to continue all Qatari projects that were launched in Egypt. But he must do so as per a new manner that maintains Egypt’s position as a state.
What I have spoken about is a quick attempt to clarify the nature of relations between two countries which were supposed to have brotherly relations as per the Arab sentiment and which were supposed to coordinate as two powers that can support one another. But Qatar’s leaders did not understand this and they had no sense of reality or sentiment. The blame falls largely on Qatar. Even during the phase of close cooperation between Qatar and the Brotherhood, the final result was a state of Qatari governmental rapprochement with the Brotherhood regime and a state of unprecedented Egyptian aversion, unparalleled in the history of relations between the two countries.
Now, is there a future?
This article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm on Sept. 10, 2013.
Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy