x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

GCC has no one strategy on Brotherhood

The response to security arrests in the UAE shows how Arabian Peninsula countries are trying to cope with the Muslim Brotherhood, a commentator notes. Other topics today: getting rid of Assad, and Syria after him.

Gulf countries have not yet adopted a unified stance on home-grown Muslim Brothers

The recent arrest of an alleged Muslim Brotherhood cell operating in the UAE has put in sharp focus the nature of the ties among Arab Gulf nations, local political-Islam groups and Egypt, wrote Dr Shamlan Yussef Al Essa, a Kuwaiti commentator, in yesterday's edition of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.

Shortly after declaring the arrest of suspected plotters intending to carry out terrorist attacks on Emirati territory a couple of weeks ago, UAE authorities announced that they have arrested 11 Egyptian expatriates accused of holding secret meetings as Muslim Brotherhood affiliates.

The individuals are also accused of raising money and funnelling it to the parent organisation in Egypt and of working to recruit members, including Emiratis, to expand their network.

How to deal with religious parties and Islamist groups in the region has become one of the most pressing questions for the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Mr Al Essa said.

"The GCC reactions after the discovery of the Brotherhood cell in the UAE focused on the security aspect, with every Gulf nation dispatching its security officials to be briefed on how many of their respective citizens or political groups might have been involved with the arrested cell," he wrote.

However, GCC states don't have a unified strategy to engage Muslim Brothers on their territories.

It is no secret that, besides the UAE, the Muslim Brotherhood is present in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the author added. In Qatar, the organisation is not active in the form of an organised group, but Doha is home to a very public Brotherhood figure, cleric Yusuf Al Qaradawi.

"Gulf nations are in a bit of a dilemma: they have strong political bonds with Egypt - both government and people - but after the Brotherhood took office, they are not sure how to deal with the new regime there," the columnist said.

The UAE, for instance, has shown firmness, the writer said. Saudi Arabia is "carefully watching" Brotherhood groups on its territory, while the Kuwait government is still uncertain about how best to handle Brotherhood influence - notably through the Constitutional Islamic Movement - in its own political sphere.

"And how about Qatar? Does the country still see that it is in its best interest to support political Islam forces in the Arab world? Doha has supported revolutionists in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and now the Islamist Syrian rebels, hasn't it?"

The fact that the roots of the Brotherhood in the Gulf go back several decades and take various forms partly explains why Gulf nations are resorting to diverse approaches to deal with the organisation, the writer said.

And the diversity of these approaches shows that Gulf governments seek to "contain" political Islam groups, not make enemies out of them, he noted.

How to rebuild Syria after Assad goes?

The Arab Private Sector Forum opened in Riyadh on Saturday and attracted more than 500 Arab businessmen, columnist Ali Hamadeh noted in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

The meetingis a curtain-raiser to the Arab socio-economic summit scheduled to be held in Riyadh in a few days. The inaugural speeches focused on the consequences of the Arab Spring for national economies in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Syria.

"In the first four cases," Hamadeh wrote, "the discussion focused on economic and legislative reforms aimed at attracting foreign investment. But in the case of Syria, Arab businessmen are talking about rebuilding, although the project will be colossal and quite difficult in view of Syria's limited financial resources."

The debate at the forum has not stopped at the continuing military conflict, the writer went on. It is also focusing on the next phase, and the prevailing view is that the regime is over.

Syrian businessmen present at the conference agree that the Syrians will have to rebuild their country.

And since the destruction is at its worst in the largest cities of Damascus, Aleppo and Homs, the estimated cost of the rebuilding effort could soar to $200 billion (Dh735 billion).

The questions are: how will Syria be rebuilt and who will foot the astronomical bill?

 

Brahimi's admission on Assad comes too late

Finally, months after the international envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi began his assignment, and after many optimistic statements, he admitted only days ago that President Bashar Al Assad should have no role whatsoever in the upcoming transitional phase in Syria, the Saudi-based Al Watan Online observed.

"This means that all Mr Brahimi's mission did was to buy the regime more time. Despite that, the regime denounced the international mediator as biased," said the editorial.

Mr Brahimi's problem is that he got involved in an impossible mission. At the beginning, he had the regime's approval while the opposition accused him of aiding the regime by allowing it more time to press ahead with its offensive.

As months went by and all he did was travel between capitals in vain, attitudes towards him shifted. He finally uttered a logical statement which he should have made at the time he accepted his assignment.

His statements on Al Assad last week, and his insistence on the implementation of the Geneva declaration of June 30, 2012 as a way out of the crisis may have been a pre-emptive attempt to close a loophole in the declaration that doesn't specify Al Assad's status in the transitional phase, the paper said.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk

translation@thenational.ae