Saudi blacklisting of Brotherhood signals political support to Egypt

By Mahmoud Fouly

CAIRO, March 8 (PNA/Xinhua) — The decision made by oil-rich Saudi Arabia on Friday to include the Muslim Brotherhood on its first list of terrorist groups reflects the kingdom’s support for the Egyptian interim leadership that took charge after the military ouster of the Brotherhood-oriented former President Mohamed Morsi last July, political experts said.

The decision comes a few days after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar, a main Gulf supporter of the Brotherhood, due to Doha’s assistance to “those who pose threats to the security and stability of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.”

“The decision represents a great support for the Egyptian political leadership. It had been previously shown in November when Saudi King Abdullah asked Qatar to stop interfering in the Egyptian domestic affairs and supporting the Brotherhood,” said Omar al-Hassan, head of London-based Gulf Center for Political Studies, at its branch in Cairo.

Unlike Qatar, Morsi’s ouster has been welcomed by most Gulf states, which offered Egypt’s interim leadership more than US$ 10.5 billion in aid over the past six months.

Saudi Arabia provided Egypt with US$ 3.6 billion, the UAE with US$ 4.2 billion and Kuwait with US$ 2.7 billion, according to a recent finance ministry report.

“The Saudi decision is a real practical translation for its financial support to Egypt into political support,” Hassan said, stressing the Saudi decision is “strategic” rather than “symbolic. ”

The UAE has been trying dozens of Egyptians and Emiratis over charges of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and obtaining classified information pertaining to the country’s national security.

After Saudi Arabia became the first foreign state to announce the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, Hassan expects more GCC states to follow suit considering its weight in the Gulf region.

“Similar decisions might be made by Bahrain and the UAE, but it is difficult for Kuwait because of its strong Social Reform Association affiliated with the Brotherhood,” he explained, noting that Oman is “always neutral” in issues like this.

Morsi’s removal in Egypt was followed by an iron-fisted crackdown on his supporters that left about 1,000 killed and thousands arrested.

In response, a Sinai-based extremist Islamist group called Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis carried out several terrorist attacks targeting security personnel and premises on the peninsula, in the capital Cairo and other provinces across Egypt. The Egyptian cabinet declared the Brotherhood as “a terrorist group” in late December last year.

Although the Saudi blacklist was not restricted to the Brotherhood, as it also included Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group and others, it still sends a message of support to “Egypt’s post-Brotherhood future roadmap” outlined by the military, said Ayman al-Sayyid Abdel-Wahhab, political expert at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

“The move is in favor of the Egyptian interests in combating a threat challenging the entire Arab region,” Abdel-Wahhab said, arguing that the disorder in Libya, Yemen and Syria made the Islamist political current’s influence clear to several Gulf states.

The growing Gulf anti-Brotherhood campaigns are expected to greatly weaken the group and its foreign sources of finance on the one hand, and provide “moral and material support” for the Egyptian interim leadership on the other hand.

“It will lead gradually to drying up the finance sources of the Brotherhood represented in donations maintained by charity and civil society organizations at the Gulf region, especially in Saudi Arabia,” said Gamal Salama, head of political science department at Suez University.

For Salama, the Saudi decision represents a nod to Egypt on its ongoing “war against terrorism” and its “anti-Brotherhood position. ”

But the professor does not think that the Saudi decision may urge the Brotherhood in Egypt to change their “suicidal” strategy in dealing with the post-Morsi future roadmap as a reality.(PNA/Xinhua)