Behind the Lines: A Gulf apart


Gulf monarchies are sharply divided on how to respond to the Muslim Brotherhood threat. While Saudi Arabia, UAE see the Brotherhood as a danger to stability, longevity of the monarchies, Qatar embraces it as an ally.

Egypt's Morsi meets with Qatari PM al-Thani Photo REUTERS

Saudi and United Arab Emirates security forces recently apprehended a 10-man  cell linked to the Muslim Brotherhood that was active in the UAE. The cell,  according to Gulf media reports, was engaged in raising money for the Muslim  Brotherhood in Egypt, propagandizing among Egyptians residing in the UAE and  gathering information on the UAE’s defense facilities. It was also reported as  being in “constant communication” with its parent movement in Cairo.

The  arrest of this group has highlighted growing fears in some conservative Gulf  states that the Muslim Brotherhood is now turning its attention to the Gulf  monarchies.

But the monarchies are sharply divided in their response to  the rise of the Brotherhood.

The 2011 to 2012 period brought a  long-awaited windfall of political power for the Muslim Brothers. Franchises of  the movement are now in government power in Tunisia and Egypt. The Brotherhood  is playing a major role in the Western- supported political and military  leaderships of the rebellion in Syria.

The Palestinian branch of the  movement – Hamas – would almost certainly have consumed its Fatah rivals by now  were the latter not protected by Israel and supported by the  West.

Indeed, the real story of the Arab upheavals of the last two years  can be summed up as the replacement of secular nationalist dictatorships by  Sunni Islamist movements, among which Muslim Brotherhood franchises form the  most important element.

The secular nationalist space in the Arab world  has now largely been replaced by an area of Sunni Islamist  domination.

Only one secular nationalist regime – Algeria – remains in  secure existence. The oil-rich monarchies form the next natural  target.

In the Gulf, however, the situation is not simple. Sunni  Islamists and Gulf monarchs are not necessarily natural enemies.

The Gulf  monarchs adhere to and rule in the name of conservative, Sunni forms of  Islam.

The Muslim Brothers may be revolutionaries, but they are also  conservatives, seeking to revive what they present as an authentic form of  Islamic government. In the past, Brotherhood exiles from Egypt and the Fertile  Crescent played a vital role in developing the education systems and manning the  bureaucracies of Gulf states.

This has led to two widely variant Gulf  approaches to the movement.

The first, exemplified by Saudi Arabia and  the UAE, sees the Brotherhood as the most dangerous challenge to the stability  and longevity of the monarchies. The UAE and Saudi Arabia fear the Brotherhood  precisely because its beliefs render it potentially appealing to dissatisfied  elements among the populations of these states.

Last July, Dubai police  chief Dhahi Kalfan (a name familiar to Israelis because of his central role in  the events following the killing of Hamas official Mahmoud Mabhuh in the  emirate), accused the Brotherhood of plotting the overthrow of the Gulf  monarchies.

The latest arrests follow the apprehending of 60 suspected  members of the Brotherhood- linked al-Islah (“Reform and Social Guidance”) movement over the summer in the UAE.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah  bin Zayed al-Nahayan said after the arrests that “The Muslim Brotherhood does  not believe in the sovereignty of the state.”

Saudi Arabian Interior  Minister Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, meanwhile, has called the Brotherhood “the  source of all the problems in the Islamic world.” The Saudis, seeking a  counterweight to the Brotherhood in both Egypt and Syria, have thrown their  weight (and financial support) behind ultra-conservative Salafi Islamist  forces.

By contrast, the second approach, of which Qatar is the main  exponent, sees the Muslim Brotherhood as a suitable ally, client and instrument.  Qatar has adopted this strategy with energy and alacrity, as may be observed  from its growing ties with the Brotherhood government in Egypt, support for the  Brotherhood in Libya and Yemen and close links with the Sunni insurgency in  Syria.

Qatar has long provided sanctuary for Muslim Brotherhood members.  In return, the movement has since 1999 refrained from activity within the  emirate. Famously, Doha offered a base of activities for the  Brotherhood-associated Sheikh Yusuf al- Qaradawi, whose enormously influential  broadcasts were put out by the emirate’s satellite channel, Al  Jazeera.

Key current and former staffers at the highly influential Al  Jazeera (which, of course, never criticizes Qatar) are Muslim Brotherhood  members. Among these are Waddah Khanfar, former general manager of Al  Jazeera.

Read more at The Jerusalem Post

Muslim Brotherhood Puts Jordan in the Crosshairs

Jordan's King AbdullahBy Ryan Mauro

In March, the Dubai police chief warned that the Muslim Brotherhood had a plan for the Gulf monarchies. Instead of regime change, it would make them “figurehead bodies without actual ruling.” That’s exactly what the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to make happen in Jordan by demanding “democratic” reforms. And King Abdullah II appears to be wobbling under the stress.

King Abdullah II, the second most influential non-Islamist in the Muslim world, is hinting that he may bow to the Muslim Brotherhood’s demand that he delay the parliamentary elections scheduled for January 23. He is even considering appointing Brotherhood members to the upper house of parliament and amending the electoral law to their liking.

The Muslim Brotherhood says it will boycott the elections because the parliament doesn’t have enough power and the contests are unfair. They are biased towards tribes and against the majority Palestinian population. King Abdullah II appoints the entire upper house and has the power to hire and fire prime ministers at will. The new electoral law also permits the security services to vote, bumping him up about 10% in any contest.

The Brotherhood is also unhappy with the makeup of the parliament. Voters pick a national list, which accounts for 17 of 140 seats and the rest are chosen on the district level. The Brotherhood only runs on the national list so it wants the balance changed. Abdullah tried to appease the Islamists by increasing the allotment for the national lists to 27 seats but added 10 seats to the size of parliament. The Brotherhood seeks 42 seats for national lists.

The pressure on Abdullah and his government skyrocketed in recent months with the largest protests in Jordan’s history taking place last week. The country faces a $3.35 billion deficit and about 80% of the budget goes to the military and bureaucracy. Abdullah had to cut subsidies, causing a 53% increase in the cost of heating gas and 12% spike in the price of petrol. The price of electricity is expected to increase about 32% in January.

The Brotherhood officially advocates “evolution, not revolution” but chants demanding the fall of the government are increasingly common. Direct criticism of Abdullah is a new development. In four days of protests last month, 280 were arrested, 75 were injured including 58 police officers and one young man was killed in Irbid when a crowd tried to storm a police station. Casualties have the power to turn protests against policies into cries for changes in leadership.

Hamza Mansour is the Secretary-General of the Islamic Action Front, the name of the Brotherhood party in Jordan. He wants Abdullah to “form a national salvation government that would include Islamists and other opposition figures to change controversial legislation, like the election law, and help parliament regain its independence so that it can impartially monitor the government and official corruption.” If the Brotherhood can expose government corruption, it will be able to undercut support for the government and present itself as a more trustworthy alternative.

The “democratic” reforms that the Brotherhood seeks are part of the same strategy of “gradualism” that it has followed in Egypt. It observed that the monarchies have proven to be stronger than the dictatorships, so it changed strategy by declining to demand the resignation of the leadership. It is important to recognize the undemocratic voice shouting for democratic reforms.

Read more at Front Page

Muslim Brotherhood Targeting United Arab Emirates?

by Mudar Zahran:

If the US has tolerated the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, why not in the UAE?

Last April, the United Arab Emirates started cracking down on Islamists operating there, and eventually arrested 60 of them. Shortly after that, Dhai Khalfan, Dubai’s Police chief, started publicly warning of an “international plot” to overthrow the governments of Gulf states, saying the region needs to be prepared to encounter any threat from Islamist dissidents as well as Syria and Iran”. Is the Muslim Brotherhood now ready to expand its dominance to oil-rich Arab nations after taking control of Egypt, the Arab country with the largest population?

In August — in one of his many statements about the matter — Khalfan said, “There is an international plot against Gulf states in particular and Arab countries in general.” Khalfan was clear about the reason he thought the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to control Gulf states: Wealth. “This is preplanned to take over our fortunes…the bigger our sovereign wealth funds and the more money we put in the banks of Western countries, the bigger the plot to take over our countries.”

Khalfan also posted on his Twitter account that, “since the Muslim Brotherhood has ‘become a state,’ anyone advocating its cause is considered a foreign agent.”

Until last April, the existence of Islamist opposition groups in rich nations such as the UAE had not been an issue of attention to either the global media or even the UAE government itself; Khalfan admits he too — as Dubai’s top cop — did not realize there were so many Muslim Brotherhood members in the Gulf states.

The Gulf News reported many in the UAE believe Islamists there had support of, and remained in touch with, the Muslim Brotherhood’s “mother organization in Egypt,” in spite of the the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leadership’s denial of such ties.

The global Muslim Brotherhood’s response to the arrests in the UAE suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood holds a sincere concern for those Islamists, particularly through media sources close to the Muslim Brotherhood; for example, the London-Based Al-Hiwar TV network has been airing shows in support of the Islamists arrested in the UAE. On one occasion, Al-Hiwar dedicated an entire 50 minute show to them.

In another show, where the phones are open for the public to call in live, the anchor said: “We would like to excuse ourselves for the last half hour of this show…as you know, this show is talking about Arab intifadas…let’s dedicate the last half hour to the United Arab Emirates …to sympathize with those people inside the UAE, even if your cause is Syria (or anything else)…”

In addition, Al-Hiwar interviewed family members of the arrested UAE nationals, and later interviewed some of the Islamists stripped of their UAE citizenship on the basis of claiming citizenship in another country.

Al-Hiwar is based in London, UK; according to the Crehis Plethi website London, it is an important media center for the Muslim Brotherhood. The website even claims Al-Hiwar TV as the Muslim Brotherhood’s “main medium.”

The founder of Al-Hiwar Channel, Dr. Azzam Al-Tamimi, in an interview with the BBC show, Hardtalk, Al-Tammi said he would “sacrifice his life (for Palestine)” if he “has the opportunity.”

In Front Page Magazine, Patrick Pool describes Al-Tamimi, who in fact published a book titled “Hamas from within,” as a “well-known international Muslim Brotherhood operative and Hamas insider.”

On September 20, the Gulf Times reported UAE Islamists had extensive co-ordination with Muslim Brotherhood members in a Gulf state, who have granted the UAE’s Brotherhood approximately $2.7 million.

Read more at Gatestone Institute


Dubai police chief warns of Muslim Brotherhood, Iran threat



Dubai Cheif of Police Dahi Khalfan

Yahoo News

DUBAI (Reuters) – Dubai’s chief of police has warned of an “international plot” to overthrow thegovernments of Gulf Arab countries, saying the region needs to be prepared to counter any threat from Islamist dissidents as well as Syria and Iran.

The comments by, one of the most outspoken security officials in the United Arab Emirates, follow the detention in the UAE since April of at least 20 dissidents, according to relatives of the detainees and activists.

“There’s an international plot against Gulf states in particular and Arab countries in general…This is preplanned to take over our fortunes,” Khalfan told reporters at a gathering late on Wednesday marking the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“The bigger our sovereign wealth funds and the more money we put in the banks of Western countries, the bigger the plot to take over our countries…The brothers and their governments in Damascus and North Africa have to know that the Gulf is a red line, not only for Iran but also for the Brothers as well.”

Most of the detainees since April are Islamists, targeted by an official clampdown amid concern they may be emboldened by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in other Arab countries such as Egypt.

UAE Interior Ministry officials have not been available to comment on the arrests. Last week, UAE officials announced that authorities were investigating a foreign-linked group planning “crimes against the security of the state”.

“I had no idea that there is this large number of Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf states. We have to be alert and on guard because the wider these groups become, the higher probability there is for trouble,” Khalfan said on Wednesday.

“We are aware that there are groups plotting to overthrow Gulf governments in the long term.”

(Reporting by Mirna Sleiman; Writing by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Pravin Char)