OPINION: Saudi Arabia, Biden and Muslim Brotherhood

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by Mohammed Abbasi

This good cop, bad cop tactic against the Crown Prince and King of Saudi Arabia is unlikely to work.

So the White House takes the rare step and recognizes the role played by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, popularly known as MBS, in extending a ceasefire in Yemen. The plan is now for a trip to Riyadh by American President Joe Biden. A bit late of Biden trying to reach out after publicly abusing and insulting the Saudi leadership.

But never mind—the White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that Crown Prince Bin Salman and Saudi King Salman deserved credit for their roles in the truce extension. I guess thanks are due from the Saudi leadership for the graciousness being shown by the President of the worlds sole superpower.

The visit next month in July will focus on the aim of growing relations with Saudi Arabia at a time when Biden is trying to lower gas prices in the United States. Biden will also participate in a Riyadh summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional union whose members include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

What concerns some friends in Riyadh is that US and UK Muslim Brotherhood organizations have been toning down attacks on MBS and in some cases visiting Saudi Arabia with the blessings of the Biden Administration. Is the Muslim Brotherhood – despite being considered a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia – again being used as a diplomatic proxy by the Democrats for outreach to overseas Muslim nations?

Rise of a confident Saudi Arabia

With the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — Saudi Arabian governing structures have become more centralized, remolded, and those who had a free hand and supporting overseas Muslim groups and organizations (most of which were rooted in political Islamism) are being reined in. 

Today understanding the role of Islam in the Saudi state and in public life in a more moderate and beneficial level for the average Saudi citizen is being promoted more and Saudis seem much more happier and freer to practice their religion and live their lives. 

Also encouragement of Saudis based on merit is increasing and leaving those who benefited without merit are being left aside. But there is still concern within Saudi Arabia as well as other Muslim nations like the UAE, Egypt and others that Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood still have a hold within these nations. 

Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood (and its South Asian sister organization Jamaat-e-Islami) usually targets the educated middle and upper classes and civil society. This is why the former President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promoted the Muslim Brotherhood to destabilize Arab nations through the ‘Arab Spring’.  They had willing accomplices.

Western Muslim Brotherhood activists, naive activist Muslims and non-Muslims were encouraged in the name of human rights and democracy—and given tools to reach into and support the Muslim activists within in North Africa and the Middle East. 

The Tunisian and Egyptian governments fell to the Muslim Brotherhood and other nations in the region became concerned. At the same time the same very Western Muslim Brotherhood activists started to play good cop/bad cop—some reached out to the Arab nations like Saudi Arabia to ‘assist’ them in tackling Islamist terrorism and helping them in their relations with the west. One of the cultured and connected British Muslim activists which I had met in 2011 mentioned that Arabs were like donkeys that needed to be milked dry!

Islamists in their talk about the Muslim community and the ummah simply seek power and money. They are primarily politicians and they will use—like other politicians—to get that power. Note how easy access the Islamists have had in the UK and US to senior government officials? Note how Islamists know how to use the Western systems to benefit themselves and their causes.

Saudis being generally more socially conservative and literal in their interpretation of the Quran—have also been trusting. This naivety and softness in Saudis dealing with Westerners—especially Islamists is coming to an abrupt end according to a retired Saudi diplomat. He mentioned that it will be a hard slog but MBS knows how to protect the people of the region and his country from the Islamists and their aiders.

Since the 2011 Arab uprisings aided and supported by President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when protests erupted across Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait. Western Muslims especially in the United States and United Kingdom with Muslim Brotherhood backgrounds and or links with such groups were used  and are still being used to cause problems for the Arab nations (which of course then the Americans can help out on).

The Art of War of the Arabs

Political shrewdness within the Arab leaders is growing and maybe this re-engagement with elements from the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups is being used as a tool to protect their nations. But then again what nation has successfully protected itself at engaging with extremists and terrorists (which is what the Saudis and Emiratis regard Islamists).

An ex-Saudi diplomat friend said Arab nations are placed into different categories by the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) and discussed how infiltration of these nations is being done and who is being targeted. I hope he will come out into the open to tackle what he considers a direct threat to his country by educating his fellow citizens.

He said that when he was in the United States in 2018 a senior US government official mentioned what nations were being targeted in the so-called Arab Spring – these included those with small populations and high reserves of natural resources such as Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE to wealthy nations with a larger population Saudi Arabia, the economically vulnerable Oman and Bahrain—and Egypt with its large population, a fairly strong military.

The official also mentioned names of individuals that Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State used to ‘help plant’ pro US Muslim Brotherhood sympathisers directly within and around Arab leaders. He also mentioned the reason the Saudis and Emiratis banned the Muslim Brotherhood was for this reason. 

Again just like in 2011 Arab nations and leaders are being approached, to find out how their leaders are interacting with their populations and opposition movements – and information is being reported back to Washington DC.

Time for Change

Lessons of Islamists survival during and since the Arab uprisings show that they are opportunistic. They will use any and every way to get into positions where they can manipulate and get into power.

The era of political Islamist parties is coming to an end and the Arab world and the larger extent the Muslim world—countries like Pakistan and Indonesia should expect ‘Western Islamists’ to increase their overtures to the leaders within these nations.

The decline of political Islam in the Arab world is happening and there will be a lot of homeless Islamists needing a home. Maybe they are seeking to come to the West for asylum? 

The Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar sought to bring the MBS Act against the Saudis, to prohibit Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—the younger de facto chief of Saudi Arabia from visiting to the United States excluding attending the United Nations headquarters in New York. Omar and her colleagues from the Democratic Party of President Joe Biden have sought to freeze the Crown Princes’ US property and limit any transactions associated with the United States. 

But whilst Biden’s trip is being planned in July 2022, now Omar is said to be reaching out to Saudis in peace overtures—a traditional Muslim Brotherhood tactic of divide and rule—using one side to attack and another to make peace. This good cop, bad cop tactic against the Crown Prince and King of Saudi Arabia is unlikely to work.

Crown Prince MBS and King Salman will meet President Joe Biden but the President and his advisors should know that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Saudis born in the last 40 years who know their friends and foes and will stand up for their nation and leaders and will refuse to be manipulated or divided by anyone.

Mohammed Abbasi is a London-based coach, speaker and writer. He is director of Association of British Muslims. He works for Football for Peace. He is a great fan of Sun Tzu, and he teaches the Art-of-War.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Milli Chronicle’s point-of-view.