Muslim Brotherhood’s Egypt and Viewpoints of (P)GCC States

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ali Akbar Asadi, PhD Candidate
Department of International Relations, University of Allameh Tabatabaei

With the victory of the new Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi in Egypt’s presidential elections, the country’s Muslim Brotherhood has finally found its way into the highest levels of the political system after many decades of political activity. Although power structure in the modern Egypt is multidimensional and complicated and despite its victory, the Muslim Brotherhood is not the sole political group present at the apex of the power pyramid, at least, the group has turned into a major current in Egypt’s politics and state administration. From this viewpoint, the post-Mubarak Egypt is characterized by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power. With a member of the Muslim Brotherhood at the helm in Egypt, analysts are now posed with many questions about Egypt’s foreign policy and its role in the regional power balance as well as other important regional issues and developments. Meanwhile member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council [(P)GCC] which are ruled by monarchial and totalitarian governments, have expressed great concern about these developments. The main question therefore, is what approach will the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf take in the face of an Egypt topped by the Muslim Brotherhood’s?

Mohammed Mursi’s post-election trip to Saudi Arabia and his meeting with the Saudi monarch as the new Egyptian president’s first foreign visit has prompted some analysts to come up with the idea that following the fall of the former dictator, Hosni Mubarak, the new Egypt do not seek confrontation and tension with Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states, and these governments are not very much concerned about the new situation in Egypt. Apart from that visit and regardless of such optimistic ideas, the analysts cannot hide or ignore the real concerns of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf with regard to the new Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood at the helm. The countries located along the southern rim of the Persian Gulf have different viewpoints developments in Egypt and empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. For example, while Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have serious concerns about an Egypt ruled by Mohammed Mursi, Qatar has already developed remarkable interactions and links with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. As a result, Doha is less worried about new developments in that country. However, it seems that major concerns as well as common demands of the leaders of the Persian Gulf Arab states from Mursi, which have been more or less reflected in their remarks, can be summarized as follows.

The first and foremost concern of the Arab governments in the Persian Gulf is about changing role of Egypt in the region and alterations in the power balance equation in the Middle East as a result of Egypt adopting new regional policies in the new era of its political life. Under Mubarak, Egypt was part of a coalition of conservative Arab states and took sides with the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. The major concern of the leaders of the Persian Gulf littoral countries is that Egypt may renew relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran or even enter into strategic relations with Turkey, thus, working to undermine the influence and clout of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council in the new balance of regional power. As a result, these states are trying, as a first step, to offer economic concessions to prevent a possible change in Egypt’s regional approaches and role. They want to keep Egypt, as a big and important Arab political player, on their own side. Otherwise, they will do their best to turn Egypt into an impartial and inactive country in the region so as to prevent the regional balance of power from being disturbed to their detriment. In addition, they prefer Cairo to be preoccupied with its own internal affairs and challenges. In that case, Egypt will not be able to play a serious role in the region and this will be a good option for countries like Saudi Arabia which have a claim to the leadership of the entire Arab world and consider Egypt has their powerful rival. The second concern of the Arab leaders of the Persian Gulf and, in other words, what they demand of Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, is that they do not take any step to export their revolution and activate affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. Such a measure will pose serious threat to national security of these countries. This is why officials of these countries have noted that promoting the pristine ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt will be a major obstacle on the way of economic support for and investment in that country which is already troubled by major economic problems. The third concern and demand of the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf is that Muslim Brotherhood’s Egypt should keep the balance that they expect with regard to the situation in Palestine. Therefore, they expect Cairo to avoid adopting a new approach to strengthening Hamas against Fatah, helping Gaza and the Palestinian population there, and taking an adamant stance against the Israeli regime. They genuinely believe that adoption of such an approach will take the issue of Palestine out of its current situation of balance, increase criticism and protests to compromising approach of these states in the Arab world, and most importantly, help Egypt take charge of managing various issues of the Arab countries.

Given the above concerns of the Persian Gulf littoral states with regard to the new Egypt ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood, they have taken a two-tier approach to Egypt. On the one hand, they offer lucrative economic rewards and advantages in order to attract Egypt while, on the other hand, issue warnings and consider red lines for Egypt’s regional policies. As a result, the general policy of the Persian Gulf states, which is also supported by the West and even the Israeli regime, is nothing but to keep Egypt entangled in its domestic challenges. They are especially counting on Egypt’s economic problems in order to prevent the country from playing the regional role that it deserves on the basis of historical realities as well as its real tendencies and potentials as a country with a claim to leadership of the Arab world. Such a predetermined role will not allow new Egypt to be much different from what it already was under Hosni Mubarak.

Key Words: Muslim Brotherhood’s Egypt, (P)GCC States, Regional Power Balance, Iran, Two-Tier Approach, Domestic Challenges, Asadi 

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