Although largely unreported in the West (with a few exceptions), Arab language dailies and internet sites have been a buzz about multiple arrests conducted by the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E)’ security forces, targeting Muslim Brotherhood cells, which they claim are fomenting sedition.
Ten Egyptians, described as engineers and doctors, who were long time residents of the Emirates and Brotherhood members were arrested. The U.A.E claims that the ten men represented the leadership cell of the Brotherhood’s activities in the Emirates. Officials say those arrested had acquired classified information and were engaged in training U.A.E residents in tactics to promote the overthrow of the regime.
Egyptian leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood have confirmed those arrested were Brothers but denied they were seeking to export the revolution from Egypt.
The U.A.E has been spearheading resistance to the Muslim Brotherhood since at least last year, when it arrested some 60 activists of the Brotherhood-linked Islah society. The group has been banned by the U.A.E, accusing them of forming a “military wing” and owing allegiance to foreign forces (namely the Egyptian leadership of the Brotherhood.)
The U.A.E also expelled Syrian activists with suspected ties to the Brotherhood, leading to a diplomatic confrontation, when Muslim Brotherhood Spiritual Guide and Qatari resident Yusuf Al-Qaradawi issued a fatwa against the move.
U.A.E sources have since blamed Qatar as being a primary financial sponsor of efforts to bolster the Brotherhood. Documents allegedly acquired by U.A.E investigators suggested that the U.A.E was a principle target of the Brotherhood; the Islamist group is seeking access to the Emirates oil funds, since Egypt is in grave financial straits.
U.A.E’s allies in this anti-Brotherhood counter-offensive are Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, both of whom have expressed deep concerns that the Brotherhood’s “Arab Spring” revolution will spread unrest to their own fiefdoms. A Kuwait MP has also recently warned of the threat posed by Muslim Brotherhood “sleeper cells”.
The U.S. government continues to labor under the delusion that the Muslim Brotherhood “is an umbrella term for a variety of movements” that is “largely secular”.
The Gulf regimes’ accounting of the organization as a shadowy group which organizes military wings and sleeper cells, that seeks access to classified information, and aspires to overthrow governments, is far more in keeping with what is known of the Brotherhood’s modus operandi.
While the aggressive actions of the Emirates have most likely put a crimp in the Brotherhoods’ plans to export their revolution, it certainly won’t be the last word. According to recent reports, members of the Egyptian government have conducted high-level meetings with Qassem Suleimani, head of the Iranian Al-Quds force, the branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Gorps (IRGC) responsible for organizing cells for conducting terror attacks and subversion abroad.
According to Al-Masry Al-Youm, Suleimani provided advice “on establishing [Egypt’s] own security and intelligence services independent from the army-controlled national intelligence services.” Additionally, Egypt’s interior minister Ahmed Gamal El-Din is said to have been sacked for opposing the recent Iranian overtures.
Nor are these the first meetings between the two groups. A previous meeting between the head of Egypt’s intelligence service and a senior official of the Iranian Ministry for Intelligence and Security (MOIS) took place in September of last year, but was overshadowed by the storming of the American Embassy in Cairo and the murder of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Benghazi.
While some analysts mistakenly put great stock in the supposed “Sunni-Shia” divide, the reality is, when it comes to sponsoring Islamic revolution, the Iranians are willing to work with almost anyone. Besides, the Al-Quds force has long been the primary financial sponsor of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian wing, known by most as Hamas.
Evidence of improving ties can also be seen through recent overtures from the Egyptian government towards Iranian proxy Hezbollah.
While the Brotherhood and the Iranians have been at odds over the fate of Iranian ally Bashar Assad, it’s unlikely that such a difference will be allowed to interfere with a shared desire to see the downfall of the Gulf monarchies.
So while the U.A.E and its allies will continue to crack down on the Brotherhood in order to avoid becoming the next Egypt, Libya, or Syria, expect the Brotherhood to double down on its efforts, using any means available to them, even if it means cooperating with the Iranians.
Kyle Shideler is the Director of Research and Communications at the Endowment for Middle East Truth (emetonline.org)