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How the Middle East should handle the Muslim Brotherhood

Some parties’ insistence on eliminating the Brotherhood from formulas of change have obstructed Saudi-Turkish cooperation

Jamal Khashoggi

Published: Updated:

I have not read the minutes of the separate meetings that the Saudi king held with the Turkish and Egyptian presidents, but I am ready to assert that the Muslim Brotherhood was not mentioned at all. Journalists and political commentators were divided on the matter. Some said Riyadh was about to start a new chapter with a movement that trespasses borders, while others warned against such a move.

A famous Emirati businessman went as far as publishing an article in a Kuwaiti daily urging Saudi Arabia not to roll out the red carpet for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan because “he does not deserve that considering his relations with the Brotherhood.” The kingdom rolled out the red carpet and launched a chapter of wide-ranging cooperation with Turkey.

It will also not go from a state of alliance and “carte blanche” - as colleague Khaled al-Dakhil described it in his last week’s article - with Egypt to giving up on them

Jamal Khashoggi

The deteriorating situation in the Middle East no longer tolerates these absurd struggles. The element of the Brotherhood and parties with narrow interests must be eliminated from the formula of taking an efficient stance aimed at ending this state of deterioration. Involving the element of the Brotherhood in the plans to confront deterioration two years ago worsened the situation.

Eliminating the Brotherhood

Some parties’ insistence on eliminating the Brotherhood from formulas of change have obstructed Saudi-Turkish cooperation. The latter is the only cooperation capable of putting an end to regional deterioration, due to the two countries’ stability and power. Obstructing this cooperation has led to the worsening of the situation in Libya, Yemen and Syria, and to threatening the stability of other countries.

The Brotherhood should be viewed as just another party among several. It should be viewed according to its real weight, without underestimating or aggrandizing it. It could win in certain elections and lose in others, no more and no less. What is most important is countries’ stability and peaceful transformation via democracy. The latter is important even if it stumbles, as the alternative is the ugly wars that we see in Syria, Iraq and Libya, and fear in Yemen.

Saudi-Turkish cooperation is in the interest of Egypt’s government and people in the long run. Riyadh will not choose between Egypt and Turkey. It will not go from being enemies of the Brotherhood to allying with it. It will also not go from a state of alliance and “carte blanche” - as colleague Khaled al-Dakhil described it in his last week’s article - with Egypt to giving up on them. Saudi Arabia will adopt a middle ground.

Obsession with the Brotherhood has distracted us from what matters most: books are being printed, authors hired, hefty amounts of money spent, conferences held, conspiracies planned and media outlets abandoning the profession’s values and getting involved in campaigns that divide societies and judge mere intent. All this leads to a repugnant state of polarization.

Obsession

The Gulf Cooperation Council that we brag about, and the rest of the Gulf people’s achievements, were about to be destroyed due to this obsession. Amid all this, voices of wise men were lost, especially after media outlets involved in political campaigns targeted them with hateful McCarthyist intimidation and threats.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has expanded to most of central Iraq and eastern Syria, and is dominating areas that Syrian rebels fought to liberate from the unjust regime. The regime of Bashar al-Assad has also expanded, after it had been weakening and the world was getting ready to replace it with a democratic one.

ISIS supporters seized the chance of the war on the Brotherhood in Libya to expand in that country. They are now fighting with Fajr Libya forces in the region known as “oil crescent” at a time when he who started war there claims that he and the Brotherhood are of one fabric. No one listened to an expert who knows well that the Brotherhood is a mere faction among myriad tribal and political parties in Libya, and that there is no way it can rule the country alone. It is unacceptable to marginalize the Brotherhood in the post-Qaddafi era.

A marginal issue

The little information leaked from the meetings of Saudi King Salman with dozens of leaders shows that the essence of meetings is bigger than a marginal issue such as the Brotherhood. It shows that work is underway to establish a comprehensive policy that ends deterioration and builds a new Arab world with the participation of efficient regional parties that read the situation well. The details of this policy will appear in upcoming days.

One of the few trusted pieces of leaked information is the statement by Ibrahim Kalin, a well-known Islamist and the Turkish president’s advisor who accompanied Erdogan during his visit to the Saudi king. Kalim said King Salman and Erdogan agreed on activating bilateral relations on the “political, economic, defensive, security and popular” levels. More importantly, Kalim said they agreed on opening a direct channel of communication away from the “media’s intimidation and incitement.”

I agree with him on the latter. Although I am a media figure, I have to admit that in the previous phase, the media did not serve the nation’s interests, and divided more than it united. It is time to end the media of political campaigns and replace it with real media.

This article was first published in al-Hayat on March 9, 2015.

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Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels.

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