Muslim Brotherhood’s rise sparks paranoia in the GCC

Gulf states wary about the group’s recent political successes in North Africa

Speaking at a Ramadan event in late July, Dubai’s police chief, Dahi Khalfan Tamim, issued a dramatic warning against any attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood to overthrow the Gulf monarchies. The movement, he claimed, had “met people from the Gulf” to discuss “toppling Gulf regimes”.

Khalfan spoke in no uncertain terms about the potential consequences of such a move. “They will eventually fall into a whirlpool that they would not be able to face,” he said. “The Gulf is a red line not only to Iran, but also to the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The weakness of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf region means that the prospect of it overthrowing monarchies is remote in the extreme. The simplest explanation of Khalfan’s remarks is that he was seeking to justify a recent clampdown on political dissent.

In the second half of July alone, 36 Emirati citizens were detained for criticising the government, according to Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organisation.

Brotherhood fear

“It is classic scare tactics by representatives of a ruling regime seeking a reason to crack down on political opposition and it just so happens that the Muslim Brotherhood is the most organised opposition,” says Joshua Stacher, a Middle East expert at Kent State University in the US.

But Khalfan’s declaration belies a genuine fear that the growing success of the Muslim Brotherhood elsewhere in the region could threaten the fragile political regimes in the Gulf.

“The Gulf states are scared by what’s going on,” says Stacher. “They are dumping billions of dollars on the population to try to keep the problem at bay. The regimes have every reason to be worried. Any fragmentation of the status quo and it’s curtains for them.”

The Muslim Brotherhood is no longer the marginalised opposition movement that it has been for more than 80 years. The Arab Uprisings of 2011 have had an unintended consequence, handing political power to the movement across North Africa.

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Richard Nield is a freelance journalist, photographer and filmmaker covering the Middle East and Africa. In 10 years covering the region, he has been published and broadcast by clients including the BBC, Reuters, Al Jazeera, The Economist, The Financial Times, The Independent and Foreign Policy magazine. He has reported from throughout the region, including Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, South Sudan, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.