Thursday, April 16, 2015

Saudis and the Brotherhood

The Economist notes Saudi Arabia's lessening hostility toward the Muslim Brotherhood and situates it in a shifting geopolitical context:
The shift was evident as early as the king’s funeral, at which Abdullah’s successor, Salman, welcomed Rashid Ghannouchi, the Brotherhood’s main ally in Tunisia. Then in February the Saudi foreign minister, Saud bin Faisal, said: “We do not have a problem with the Muslim Brotherhood. Our problem is with a small group affiliated to this organisation.”
This more conciliatory tone reflects the attitude of King Salman. But it is also prompted by a foreign policy that now sees Shia Iran, not the weakened Brotherhood, as the kingdom’s gravest threat, to be countered with Sunni unity. This is most evident in Yemen, where the Saudis have assembled a broad coalition of Sunni countries—from Qatar and Turkey, which support the Brotherhood, to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which vehemently oppose it—to fight the Zaydi Shia Houthi rebels. Iran has provided Sunni states with a common enemy and an excuse to put aside their differences, at least for now.
Winning the contest against Iran in Yemen and Syria may depend on Saudi Arabia and its allies working more closely with Islamists. The Brotherhood is prominent in Syria’s exiled opposition, which gets help from the Gulf. The Houthis recently arrested dozens of leaders of Islah, Yemen’s branch of the Brotherhood, after accusing the Saudis of calling them into battle.

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