GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
The Rise and Fall of the Muslim Brotherhood Bloc: A Geopolitical Perspective
Paper Proposal Text :
“The Arab Spring,” King Abdallah of Jordan remarked, “highlighted a new crescent … a Muslim Brotherhood crescent developing in Egypt and Turkey.” For the King, this was a new alliance, forming in the midst of sweeping domestic and regional changes unleashed by the Arab Spring. It proved to be short-lived, however. Less than three months after King Abdallah’s remarks, a military coup in Egypt brought it to a rather premature end.

What paved the way for the rise of what I would call the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) bloc in the Middle East? And what precipitated its abrupt fall? How did Qatar involve itself in this bloc? And why did Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) work to undermine it? This paper provides a geopolitical perspective.

The paper seeks the origin of the MB bloc, not in the regional earthquake unleashed by the Arab Spring, however. For the international political landscape in the Middle East had already been strongly shaken by the developments of the preceeding decade. More specifically, the paper argues that it was 9/11 and the US response to it paved the ground for the rise of the MB bloc. Especially the US promotion of democracy in the region and its invasion of Iraq in 2003 unleashed such a geopolitical earthquake in the region that two countries, Turkey and Qatar, immensely benefited from. This paper argues that the origin of the rise of the MB bloc lies in the rise of Turkey and Qatar as proactive players in the Middle East.

The coming to power of the MB in Egypt simply completed the process. As Turkey and Egypt, both under now two Islamist-leaning governments, began to get closer in the region and showed indications of forming a strong bloc, joined by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates began to move against the bloc. This paper argues that geopolitical considerations played a critical role in both bringing together Turkey, Egypt and Qatar and in motivating Saudi Arabia and the UAE to act against it.

More specifically, the former three sought to form a powerful bloc of countries, so that they could shape and re-shape international political landscape in the Middle East. The latter two sought to prevent the formation of a bloc, which might also include Iran in the future. This was not too unrealistic an expectation, however, as especially the governments of Turkey and Egypt were Islamist-leaning and therefore shared strong sympathy towards Iran. It is critical to remember that Saudi Arabia and the UAE, despite all their efforts, could not dislodge Turkey’s neutrality towards Iran in the 2000s.

The fact that among all the countries in the world Turkey has shown the most emotional and harsh reaction to the military takeover in Egypt is telling for the military takeover really dashed all the hopes of the ruling party in Turkey to transform the region into its sphere of influence.

The paper finally seeks to argue that Turkey’s return to the Saudi-led Sunni fold is going to prove more challenging than that of Qatar.