by Ariel Ben Solomon
September 18, 2014
"Qataris would not encourage Islamists to depart without serious threats from other GCC members."
Qatar's ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, reaches out to German Chancellor Angela Merkel September 17 in Berlin. (photo credit:REUTERS)
Qatar's gesture in reporting seven Muslim Brotherhood members does not represent a major strategic shift, but rather a temporary, tactical adjustment to overcome building pressure on the country, Gulf experts tell The Jerusalem Post.
Qatar had asked the seven senior figures from the movement to leave the country after its neighbors pressed it to stop backing the Islamists, according to a London-based Brotherhood official.
Israel, Egypt and other Gulf states have slammed Qatar for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements in the region.
Qatar bankrolled the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, who was overthrown by the military a year ago.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have since poured in money to support Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the takeover in Egypt and has since been elected president after outlawing and suppressing the Brotherhood.
A report in the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat on Tuesday said that Qatar may move to expel many more Muslim Brotherhood members and other Islamists from the country.
David Andrew Weinberg, a specialist on Gulf affairs and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Post that “Qatar’s foreign policy gains a lot in the short term from backing radical Islamists, but occasionally it has demonstrated a willingness to temper this support in response to consistent, targeted pressure from the outside.
“The Qataris would not be encouraging members of the Muslim Brotherhood – and now, apparently, Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya [another Egypt-based Sunni Islamist movement] as well – to depart without serious concerted threats from other GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] members,” Weinberg said. “Indeed, if the press reports are an accurate indication of what transpired, Qatar very possibly was facing serious additional sanctions from Saudi Arabia and the UAE leading up to the GCC summit at the end of August.”
The threat from Islamic State persuaded the Saudis to freeze their effort to punish Qatar, but “the handful of Brotherhood leaders who have already started leaving Qatar indicates that Doha didn’t get away without making any concessions,” he said.
“But Saudi Arabia – and especially the UAE, which is focused in on the Brotherhood issue with laser precision – are not going to be satisfied with only cosmetic changes to Qatari policy,” Weinberg argued.
Asked about the Al-Hayat report and possible additional deportations, Weinberg said it is unclear whether Qatar is going to follow through. “We’ve heard rumors of this sort before, but up until now all of the verifiable Qatari concessions on the Brotherhood issue have been insignificant.
“Qatar is making tactical concessions to prevent certain targeted costs that could be imposed by its neighbors,” he said, noting that there are no broader indications of Qatar going through a strategic realignment.
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