Israeli analyst Yoni Ben-Menachem recently pointed out, that the change in the Saudi stance on the Muslim Brotherhood might also affect Egypts policies towards the outlawed movement. Since King Salman has ascended to the throne, Saudi Arabia has tried to woo the Muslim Brotherhood while the late King Abdullah had treated the organisation with utmost contempt. One of the main reasons behind the policy change is most probably the recent nuclear deal that was struck between Iran and the 5+1 powers. Saudi Arabia, a longstanding rival of Iran for hegemony in the Gulf region, has since tried to enlist other Sunni states and organisations as allies against the “Shiite crescent” from Iran to Lebanon.
According to Yoni Ben-Menacham it is, however, verly unlikely that Egypt will bow to the Saudi pressure. For the Egyptian government, the threat posed by the Brotherhood is the most important political and security challenge, particularly since the brotherhood has opted to pursue a more confrontational strategy towards the government of President Al-Sisi. It is therefore most likely, that Egypt will continue its repression towards the Brotherhood, relying on its strategic importance as an ally of Saudi Arabia.
Ahmed Shafiq, the prime minister under the late Hosni Mubarak, ran against Mohammed Morsi in 2012 and lost the narrow race for the presidency while Mr. Morsi was the first democratically elected president of Egypt. This is the official storyline, but is it really true? Soon after the Brotherhood had come to power, rumors emerged that it had put massive pressure on the Egyptian Army who ruled Egypt after the resignation of President Mubarak. Furthermore, the US might have played a decisive role: According to the news site AI monitor, the Muslim Brotherhood had clearly threatened the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that its members would resort to violence if Mohammed Morsi lost the race for the presidency. The frustration of the millions of MB sympathizers would lead to upheaval and might lead to total chaos in Egypt. But apparently, this was not enough: The documents also cite “external pressure”, usually a catch phrase that means “US interference”. The State Department had put its weight behind nudging Hosni Mubarak to resign, one year later Washington was apparently ready to give a new alliance a chance: The Muslim Brotherhood as the leading representative of the Islamist wave that followed the Arab Spring. Soon after, however, not only the US had to realize: Who bets on the Muslim Brotherhood is doomed to lose.
AI monitor article: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/06/egypt-ahmed-shafiq-mubarak-sisi-uae-presidential-elections.html#
A charity registered in the United Kingdom with a property portfolio worth £ 8.5 million has been revealed as financial source of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its leaders are suspected to have links to the most dangerous terrorist organizations worldwide including Al-Qaeda, Hamas and even the terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks. The Europe Trust was established in 1996 with the support of Gulf donors as a charitable organization and is based in Leicestershire. It owns 47 student flats in Leeds and uses the rents to finance the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE) which is the Muslim Brotherhood’s unofficial network. The former head of the FIOE, Dr. Al-Rawi, is known as a senior Islamist and currently holds the position of the President of the Europe Trust. Besides that, he is a member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR). The organization’s chairman, Yussuf Al-Qaradawi, is regarded as the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme religious authority and known for his anti-Semitic attitude. Furthermore, he issued fatwas that endorse suicide bombings or stoning homosexuals to death.
In Europe, the Muslim Brotherhood operates as discreet as possible. Hence it has no official organization but instead is involved in charity organizations, think tanks or educational institutions. The movement’s overall objective is the replacement of democratic governments by an Islamic caliphate under Sharia law. Notwithstanding, the Brotherhood is not banned in the United Kingdom. In contrast, it is regarded as illegal terrorist organization in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Conflict between the regional powers in the Middle East has strong effects on their relations towards the Muslim Brotherhood. Only recently, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister Saud Al-Faisal stated publicly that his country has no general problem with the Muslim Brotherhood as an organization but only with a small group of its members despite the fact that it had announced its opposition to the Saudi Arabian regime before. Already in the 1950s and 60s the country provided refuge to Brotherhood leaders who escaped Nasser’s suppression in Egypt. There, they obtained good positions in the education system. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia strongly criticized the Muslim Brotherhood’s support for Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf war. Nowadays it seems that Saudi Arabia might ally with the Muslim Brotherhood against Iran and its expansionist policy.
Only when the Iranian Islamists as well as the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood were in opposition to secular governments, there existed an ideological link. Hence, they jointly rejected the policies of the USA and Israel in the 1960s and the Brotherhood explicitly supported the Iranian model of a single Islamist nation. Today, there are geopolitical as well as ideological differences between the Iranian and Egyptian Islamists which are mainly based on questions of Sunni or Shiite solidarity within the region.
Recent political stances of the Turkish regime and the Muslim Brotherhood leadership suggest that they support Saudi Arabian hegemony in the region. Thus, Iran will have to revisit its regional orientation and especially take into consideration a more realistic rather than ideological policy approach.
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood seems to be in deep crisis that is either portrayed as a generational conflict or as internal disagreement about the strategy of countering the regime that removed the Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi from power. In the light of a two-year extermination campaign against the movement, many believe that the Brotherhood will cease to exist but that might prove as wrong prediction.
The Muslim Brotherhood was the central political force in Egypt after the 2011 revolution against Mubarak because it could draw back on a widespread well established network within the country. Thus, it won the parliamentary elections and also competed in the presidential elections that brought President Morsi into office. When a counterrevolution took place, the parliament was dissolved and the first elected president of the country was brought down by the army and state institutions. The forces behind this coup and their supporters in the Arab neighbourhood acknowledged that they might never gain effective control of power in Egypt without eliminating the Muslim Brotherhood as political actor. As a consequence, a campaign against the Brotherhood was launched that included the dispersal, killing or detention of members of its leadership, the imprisonment of thousands of its members and supporters, the dismissal of public sector employees with alleged ties to the movement, the closing of hundreds of institutions such as hospitals or schools that belonged to the Brotherhood network and much more. Furthermore, the new regime offered no chance for a comprehensive national reconciliation.
In such severe times of persecution, internal debates that give the impression of a far reaching crisis should not be surprising. The Muslim Brotherhood is a deep rooted movement with thousands of supporters in all layers of society. Its strength is that it has proved its ability to regenerate itself. Against this background the seemingly ongoing crisis should be seen as time of reflection about the Brotherhood’s future role.