Most Arab leaders tacitly
support Egypt's deadly crackdown on the
Muslim Brotherhood, fearing the group's
growing regional influence since the Arab
Spring threatens their own power,
Egypt's army, directly or indirectly in
power since 1952, ousted the
Brotherhood's democratically elected
Mohamed Morsi as president in a July 3
coup and installed an interim civilian
government in its place.
Morsi's supporters set up protest camps
in Cairo and promised to stay put until
the former leader, now in custody, was
reinstated. The government ordered them
to disperse and, after a number of delays,
police backed by troops stormed the
camps on Wednesday.
The death toll from ensuing clashes, in
the capital and across Egypt, has reached
nearly 600 people.
But only Qatar, a Brotherhood patron,
and Tunisia, whose ruling Ennahda party
is affiliated with the the movement,
strongly condemned the assault.
"All the Gulf monarchies, except for
Qatar, and Jordan fear that the Muslim
Brotherhood revolution will be exported
to them," said Khattar Abou Diab, a
professor at University of Paris-Sud.
"For that reason, they are hoping for a
return to the classic situation of a strong
power in Egypt, a pivotal country in the
These countries, Saudi Arabia in
particular, "have noted with disapproval
the growing weight of Turkey and Iran...
and their support for the Egyptian regime
demonstrates their desire to return to a
purely Arab regional system based on
more classical lines."
Turkey, whose Islamist government is
ideologically aligned with the Muslim
Brotherhood, has widened its influence in
the Arab world since the outbreak of the
And Iran has reinforced its links with the
regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
and established relations with the
Brotherhood in Egypt.
Hami Shadi, a Middle East expert at the
Brookings Doha Centre, said what
happened in Egypt "is a product of a big
regional issue, which is this kind of 'Arab
Cold War', and it is clear what side... is
For Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, the coup
delivered a "blow to their major regional
opponent, the Muslim Brotherhood, so it
would not make much sense for them to
turn around now and say "well, we don't
like what you are doing anymore.'
"Saudi Arabia and the UAE are now the
primary patrons of this new military
government and they are very supportive.
It is unlikely they would offer much
For 30 years, Saudi Arabia and the
Brotherhood maintained good relations,
but these deteriorated after the
Brotherhood criticised Riyadh for
accepting US military personnel in the
country during the 1991 Gulf War.
Things got worse after the September 11,
2001 attacks on the United States.
At the time, Riyadh accused the
Brotherhood of being at the root of
jihadist ideology, and the interior minister
declared in 2002 that "all extremist
groups are derived from the Muslim
But the worst of all for Sunni Muslim
Saudi Arabia, was the rapprochement
between the Brotherhood and Shiite Iran
across the Gulf, Riyadh's main rival in the
Stephane Lacroix, a professor at the
Institute of Political Science in Paris and
an expert on the group, said the "Muslim
Brotherhood has never been opposed to
relations with Shiite Iran while, for the
Saudis, that is a red line not only in terms
of Sunni orthodoxy but also because or
Lacroix added: "For the Emiratis and
Saudis, the Muslim Brotherhood has
regional ambitions that could be a danger
to the monarchies of the Gulf.
"These monarchies consider it to be in
their interest to have rather more
dictatorships than democratic regimes,
which are unstable and unpredictable in
As Abou Diab puts it, the "democratic
option in the Arab world has been more
or less brought to a halt. What happened
in Egypt could give ideas to others in
Libya and Tunisia (two fledgling
democracies where Islamists are on the
rise) and what happened in Egypt could
spread to them."