October 22, 2018

KNOWING YOUR ALLIES:

The Real Reasons Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Wanted Khashoggi 'Dead or Alive' (Christopher Dickey, 10.21.18, Daily Beast)

Vidino traces the Saudis' intense hostility toward the Brotherhood to the uprisings that swept through much of the Arab world in 2011. "The Saudis together with the Emiratis saw it as a threat to their own power," says Vidino.

Other regimes in the region thought they could use the Brotherhood to extend their influence. First among these was the powerful government in Turkey of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has such longstanding ties to the Islamist movement that some scholars refer to his elected government as "Brotherhood 2.0." Also hoping to ride the Brotherhood wave was tiny, ultra-rich Qatar, whose leaders had used their vast natural gas wealth and their popular satellite television channel, Al Jazeera, to project themselves on the world stage and, they hoped, buy some protection from their aggressive Saudi neighbors. As one senior Qatari official told me back in 2013, "The future of Qatar is soft power." After 2011, Jazeera's Arabic channel frequently appeared to propagandize in the Brotherhood's favor as much as, say, Fox News does in Trump's.

Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab world, and the birthplace of the Brotherhood, became a test case. Although Jamal Khashoggi often identified the organization with the idealistic hopes of the peaceful popular uprising that brought down the Mubarak dynasty, in fact the Egyptian Brotherhood had not taken part. Its leaders had a modus vivendi they understood with Mubarak, and it was unclear what the idealists in Tahrir Square, or the military tolerating them, might do.

After the dictator fell and elections were called, however, the Brotherhood made its move, using its party organization and discipline, as well as its perennial slogan, "Islam is the solution," to put its man Mohamed Morsi in the presidential palace and its people in complete control of the government. Or so it thought.

In Syria, meanwhile, the Brotherhood believed it could and should lead the popular uprising against the Assad dynasty. That had been its role 30 years earlier, and it had paid mightily.

For more than a year, it looked like the Brotherhood's various branches might sweep to power across the unsettled Arab world, and the Obama administration, for want of serious alternatives, was inclined to go with the flow.

But then the Saudis struck back.

In the summer of 2013, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the commander of the Egyptian armed forces, led a military coup with substantial popular support against the conspicuously inept Brotherhood government, which had proved quickly that Islam was not really the "solution" for much of anything.

Al-Sissi had once been the Egyptian military attaché in Riyadh, where he had many connections, and the Saudis quickly poured money into Egypt to shore up his new regime. At the same time, he declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, and launched a campaign of ruthless repression. Within weeks of the coup, the Egyptian military attacked two camps of Brotherhood protesters and slaughtered hundreds.

In Syria, the efforts to organize a credible political opposition to President Bashar al-Assad proved virtually impossible as the Qataris and Turks backed the Brotherhood while the Saudis continued their vehement opposition. But that does not mean that Riyadh supported moderate secular forces. Far from it. The Saudis still wanted to play a major role bringing down the Syrian regime allied to another arch enemy, the government of Iran. So the Saudis put their weight behind ultra-conservative Salafis, thinking they might be easier to control than the Muslim Brothers.

Riyadh is "okay with quietist Salafism," says Vidino. But the Salafis' religious extremism quickly shaded over into the thinking of groups like the al Qaeda spinoff called the Nusra Front. Amid all the infighting, little progress was made against Assad, and there to exploit the chaos was the so-called Islamic State (which Assad partially supported in its early days). [...]

In 2017, MBS and his backers in the Emirates accused Qatar of supporting "terrorism," issuing a set of demands that included shutting down Al Jazeera. The Saudis closed off the border and looked for other ways, including military options, to put pressure on the poor little rich country that plays so many angles it has managed to be supportive of the Brotherhood and cozy with Iran while hosting an enormous U.S. military base.

"It was Qatar's independent streak--not just who they supported but that they had a foreign policy divorced from the dictates of Riyadh," says Bodine. "The basic problem is that both the Brotherhood and Iran offer competing Islam-based governing structures that challenge the Saudi model."

"Jamal's basic sin," says Bodine,"was he was a credible insider, not a fire-breathing radical. He wrote and spoke in English for an American audience via credible mainstream media and was well regarded and highly visible within the Washington chattering classes. He was accessible, moderate and operated within the West. He challenged not the core structure of the Kingdom but the legitimacy of the current rulers, especially MBS."

The Salafi/Wahabbi understand, as we do not, that the Brotherhood and the Shi'a are the main forces for democratization in the Middle East. Thus, we fight our allies and aid our enemies.

Posted by at October 22, 2018 4:00 AM

  

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