Early in 2012, I was amongst the few non-Brotherhood affiliated UAE nationals who were willing to visit and meet with the group’s leadership in the hope that a new page can be opened after the Egyptian revolution. In a series of articles for Egypt Independent, I outlined what the UAE’s expectations were from the group and the extent that the UAE was willing to go to show goodwill. However, ever since the group came to power in Egypt a few weeks later, the Brotherhood has done its best to intimidate the UAE through rhetoric and action.
The UAE has gone out of its way with inviting the Brotherhood president to visit the country early on his presidency and continuing to fund projects such as Al Azhar despite the deteriorating relations. However, there has not been even one gesture of good-will from the former terrorist group ever since they came to power. Instead, the Brotherhood has expanded ties with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran, a country that occupies UAE land much to the consternation of ordinary Egyptians. Mohammad Mursi received Ahmadinejad and went to visit Tehran on the first such visit by an Egyptian leader in decades.
However, Brotherhood leaders spew hatred at the UAE almost on a weekly basis, the vilest of these threats comes from none other than the chairman of the Brotherhood FJP political party. Essam El Erian, who was also the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations at the Brotherhood-dominated People’s Assembly, is notorious for his contempt of non-Brotherhood Egyptians, but he stands out for his absolute hatred of the UAE. Last March, El Erian referred to the UAE as “the land where devils reside”. Rather than his government taking responsibility for the lawlessness there, El Erian accused the UAE of “funding militants” in the Sinai in order to destabilise Egypt. El Erian once proclaimed that “80 percent of Egypt’s stolen wealth” in a national bank belonging to the UAE.
Yesterday, the Egyptian state press reported El Erian telling the UAE ambassador in Egypt, in contravention of all diplomatic norms, that Emiratis “will be slaves to the Persians”. Immediately, a number of Egyptians sent me tweets and comments offering apologies to the hostile behaviour of the Brotherhood leadership towards the UAE, but they are certainly not accountable for the actions of the Brotherhood. In fact, non-Brotherhood Egyptians inside their country and here in the UAE are themselves victims of the Brotherhood.
The UAE is now facing a dilemma. A most hostile group in a regional country once considered its closest ally is issuing overt threats towards its safety and actively working to undermine it. As if that is not a big enough problem, this hostile group is financially and politically backed by none other than a neighbouring state that was once very close to joining the very union of the UAE.
The UAE should consider cutting diplomatic ties with the Brotherhood government in Egypt or at least downgrading them. There is no logic in keeping ties with a government that is openly hostile to the UAE. Furthermore, the UAE’s invitation to President Mursi should be publicly withdrawn.
Last week, the UAE joined other Arab Gulf states in announcing that it will take “measures” against members of Hezbollah in the UAE, “whether it was their living status, financial or commerce conditions”. I personally do not see how Hezbollah is considered a threat to the UAE or why the UAE is prepared to go to such lengths against the Lebanese-based group that is not even active on its soil when it has a clear and present danger in the Brotherhood. Shouldn’t the UAE accord at least similar priorities to its own citizens as to our Syrian brethren?
The UAE must also remind our neighbouring Gulf state that is unfortunately backing the hostile Brotherhood of their history of backstabbing their own compatriots when they have attained their goals. The Brotherhood will one day in the not too distant future betray this Gulf state that is very dear to us here in the UAE.
Egypt’s Brotherhood has emerged as the greatest threat to the UAE. The UAE leadership must take immediate measures to show that it will not stand for such threats from the Brotherhood.
Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi is a non-resident fellow at the Dubai School of Government. You can follow him at www.twitter.com/SultanAlQassemi.