Is Saudi Arabia warming up to the Muslim Brotherhood?

Redheart

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Is Saudi Arabia warming up to the Muslim Brotherhood? - Al Jazeera English

During the past few weeks, Saudi Arabia has hosted a number of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated leaders, including Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of Ennahda party in Tunisia; Abdul Majeed Zindani, the leader of al-Islah party in Yemen; and Khaled Meshaal, the leader of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas.

Such meetings would have been unthinkable at any other point in the past couple of years, as Saudi rulers threw their weight behind Egypt's brutal crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters. In March 2014, the kingdom designated the Muslim Brotherhood a "terrorist" group.

But since Saudi King Salman's rise to power following the death of King Abdullah last January, Saudi policy seems to have shifted from a full-on battle against the Brotherhood and their respective offshoots across the region, to a sharper focus on the supposed rise of an Iranian regional threat.

This shift was highlighted soon after Salman assumed the throne, when then-Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal declared that his government did "not have an issue with the Muslim Brotherhood group per se, but only certain members within the organisation".

"Under Abdullah, a brand of Sunni Islamism that called for political participation and electoral legitimacy, of which the Muslim Brotherhood is perhaps the best example, was seen as almost an existential threat, because it offered a different model of Islamist politics to that of the Saudi state," Mouin Rabbani, co-editor of the e-zine Jadaliyya, told Al Jazeera.

Considering that Salman came to power at a time when Iran was on the verge of signing a nuclear deal with Western powers, and following the significant setbacks the Brotherhood has suffered, Rabbani said there has been "a more significant change in Saudi regional policy than is usually the case with the succession of Saudi kings".

One key policy shift took place over Yemen which became a priority for King Salman, as the Houthi movement (who, by virtue of following the Zaydi sect of Islam, have been described by some media pundits and government officials as close to Iran's Shia Muslim government) began expanding its influence across Yemen, eventually seizing the capital Sanaa last September.

The Saudis have since accused Iran of backing the Houthis both militarily and financially. The war waged by Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen since March has been described by many analysts as a "proxy war" between the two regional powers, despite the internal dynamics in Yemen.

Indeed, the sectarian nature of the conflicts in Yemen and Iraq, as well as the one being waged in Syria between the Iranian-backed Assad regime and the Arab Gulf- and Western-backed rebel groups, has only become increasingly prevalent.

It is in this context that Saudi Arabia's apparent new policy towards the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates may be understood: To reconstitute an alliance against Iran and its allies.

In addition to the perceived threat Saudi Arabia feels Iran poses, according to Emad Shahin, a visiting professor of political science at Georgetown University, "the vacuum being created by crushing moderate and mainstream political Islam and by targeting the Muslim Brotherhood in particular" is being filled by groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and this factor has added to Saudi Arabia's desire for rapprochement with certain Sunni groups that could help in the fight against ISIL.

The Brotherhood appears to be reciprocating Saudi Arabia's rapprochement. It did not take the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Yemen's Islah party or other regional Islamist groups very long to declare their support for the aerial bombardment of Yemen and the Houthi movement by Saudi and other Arab regional forces - despite Saudi's support for an aggressive crackdown on these groups in the region over the past few years.

Since then, leaders of the Islah party, the branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen, have met regularly in

Riyadh - a clear change in policy to when the party and the Saudis, who at one point backed former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, were at odds with one another.

Meshaal's recent visit also demonstrated a significant step, particularly since Saudi Arabia's sudden arrest of eight Hamas members for political campaigning during the waning days of Abdullah's reign nearly eight months ago, suggested that the Saudis may have been following in the footsteps of Egypt and targeting the group. Only a couple of days following Meshaal's visit, the Hamas members were released from prison.

Though some reports in the Iranian media have taken to attacking Meshaal and Hamas for the supposed warming of relations with Saudi Arabia, according to Mohammad Marandi, dean of the faculty of world studies at the University of Tehran: "Iran does not take Meshaal's Saudi visit very seriously, because they know that Hamas would not be able to receive any military support from the Saudis. Hamas is very much in need of Iran and Iran's support."

Marandi added that there appears to be a division within Hamas, as the Palestinian group's military wing remains very close to Tehran, whereas some elements in its political division appear to favour closer ties with Riyadh.

These political leaders within Hamas may have felt pressure to release a statement in support of the Saudi-led war in Yemen, despite the fact that Hamas has always made clear its refusal to take official positions on regional conflicts that do not concern the Palestinian issue, for instance when the civil war in Syria broke out.

"The Muslim Brothers will be in a position now to make use of any rapprochement or mediation that can reduce or minimise some of the brutal measures taken against them," Shahin told Al Jazeera.
 
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uh, Al jazeera |0|

They shouldn't be optimistic too much. They are still terrorists !
I din't know about the others,but I know about Khalid Meshaal. The Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel Aljubair, said that ' Our attitude towards Hamas has not changed , and Khalid Meshaal came to SA to do Umrah ' .
 

BLACKEAGLE

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I don't think so. MB pose grave danger to Arab states security and integrity. Plus, MB is so weak, so there is no reason to get close to them.
 
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Maybe Saudi Arabia has a different agenda. How about if that Muslim brotherhood affairs are genuine, i.e. Saudi wants to unite the Muslims in a peaceful way? It is a possibility unless there is a clear indication of the contrary. In Christians, there were moves from the Catholic of the so-called ecumenism, a religious event that will remove boundaries of the Christian denominations.