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Qatar`s control over Egypt
By Tariq Alhomayed
Asharq Al-Awsat (English Edition)
January 10, 2013

Egypt`s President Mohamed Mursi (R) shakes hands with Qatar`s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani on the sidelines of the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York September 26, 2012. REUTERS

The Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim says that what is being said about his country trying to control Egypt is a “silly joke”, adding that “Egypt with its great human and economic assets and potentials cannot be dominated by any other country”. Of course, Sheikh Hamad`s words are true and accurate, given that former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could not control Egypt, nor could President Mursi, for Egypt`s problems are too big for anybody to control. Yet the story is not about this, rather it is about subversion; lending support for something and sabotaging something else. Supporting a specific trend in Egypt at the expense of another is highly destructive.

It is well known that Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood everywhere, not only in Egypt, and not only financially but also in the media. One may argue that there is no harm in this, for there are those that support liberal currents and so on elsewhere in the Arab World, so it is the Qataris right to support the Muslim Brotherhood. This is true, but what exactly are Doha`s reasons for supporting the Brotherhood? Qatar is making efforts in all areas because Doha is a progressive capital seeking development, but Qatar`s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, whether in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya or even the Gulf States, is puzzling. Qatari society, for example, is far more Salafi-orientated than many would imagine, in accordance with the doctrine of Sheikh Mohammed Ibn Abd al-Wahhab. This makes the country`s media and political support for the Muslim Brotherhood puzzling and surprising, not only in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, but also in Syria, Jordan, and the Gulf States, and even in countries where the presence of the Brotherhood is not well known.

My intention here is not to defame Qatar but rather to ask a question that needs to be asked, yet which has yet to be answered. Why, for example, is there Qatari enthusiasm for the Brotherhood, and not only at the level of the Egyptian state but also at the level of a political movement like Hamas?

I write this article having visited Qatar. Anyone who visits Doha would find that it is a magical city, and this is something that must be supported, but Qatar`s policy, specifically towards the Muslim Brotherhood, needs to be explained. When Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim says the idea of Qatar seeking to control Egypt is a silly joke, this is true, but the danger lies in supporting certain trends and movements at the expense of the concept of the state. This is a real danger that would impact upon the region as a whole, and on Qatar itself.

So the story is not about controlling Egypt, for the land of Egypt will ultimately prevail over all those who seek to control it, but the real issue, and the danger, lies in political, media and financial subversion, whether in Egypt or elsewhere, where the concept of the state is distorted. This is the danger, so will Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim explain the rationale behind his country`s support for the Muslim Brotherhood? At this point, we will either understand the rationale behind it, or we may be able to explain Qatar`s error in advocating the Brotherhood`s project not only in Egypt but in the entire region.

The worry is not that Qatar will control Egypt, but rather that the Muslim Brotherhood will attempt to. This would result in the loss of the civil state, and this is the crux of the matter.

© Copyright 2013. Asharq Al-Awsat. All Rights Reserved.

Qatar dismisses “claims” of interference in Egyptian affairs as “silly jokes”
BBC Monitoring Middle East
January 10, 2013

Report by Habib Toumi: “Qatar Rejects Egypt Dominance Claims”

Qatar`s prime minister has dismissed claims that his country was seeking to dominate Egypt`s politics and economy as “silly jokes.”

Addressing a press conference in Cairo after Qatar said that it would double its financial aid to Egypt to a total of 5bn dollars in grants and bank deposits, Shaykh Hamad Bin Jasim Al-Thani said that his country respected all countries, regardless of their size, and did not interfere in their domestic affairs.

“I consider the comments about a Qatari dominance of Egypt as a joke, but it is a silly one because Egypt with its great human and economic assets and potentials cannot be dominated by any other country.

The emir has publicly recognized Egypt`s pioneering role as the largest Arab country and we always rely on Egypt. We want to see an economically and politically strong and stable Egypt,” he said.

Shaykh Hamad, also Qatar`s foreign minister, said that the issue of an alleged Qatari dominance was a politically motivated domestic matter.

“This Qatari dominance was regretfully used by some people for the local consumption of domestic political issues of concern to Egypt. We do not interfere in the domestic affairs of any country, be it small or large. The people of Egypt are the ones who choose their leaders.

The Egyptian government charters the course that Egypt takes. There is an elected president and an appointed government and we deal officially with the party that Egyptians elect,” he said.

Shaykh Hamad denied reports that Qatar planned to have a role in the Suez canal.

“We did not mention the Suez canal in our talks. We heard about this matter only in the Egyptian media. We did not talk about developing, buying or selling and the Egyptian government did not make any offer. To us, the Suez canal is a major vein for Egypt and a component of its heritage and potential. Again, we are here dealing with an issue for political consumption within Egypt and we were unfortunately included in it,” he said.

Source: Gulf News website, Dubai, in English 10 Jan 13

© 2013 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Egypt May Lose $ 20 Bln Qatari Investment If People Vote `No`, Qaradawi
Cihan News Agency (CNA)
December 15, 2012

The Qatar-based Egyptian Islamic preacher Youssef Qaradawi has called on Egyptians to participate and vote `yes` in the constitutional referendum set on Saturday, Turkish news agency Anadolu reported on Friday.

Qaradawi, who heads the International Union of Muslim Scholars, said during the Friday prayer`s speech that voting `no` in the awaited polling in Egypt will cost the country a `big loss` as the attraction of investments will be hampered especially, $20 billion from Qatar.”I will vote yes, I don`t care about neither [President Mohamed] Morsi nor Freedom and Justice Party, but I do care about Egypt, the greatest Arab country`` Anadolu quoted Qaradawi as saying.

Qaradawi has condemned the wave of violence which Egypt`s streets saw last week rejecting the attack on Muslim Brotherhood, affirming that they want a civil state not a religious as some people claim.

Earlier on Friday, Thousands of protesters for and against the drafted constitution have held events across the country today. Qaradawi has come under scrutiny of the opposition who deem him as a staunch supporter of Morsi.

© Copyright 2012 Cihan News Agency. All Rights Reserved.

Qatar Throws Egypt $2.5B Currency Lifeline
Thai News Service
January 10, 2013

Qatar threw Egypt an economic lifeline on Tuesday, announcing it had lent Egypt another $2 billion and given it an extra $500 million outright to help control a currency crisis.

Political strife has set off a rush to convert Egyptian pounds to dollars over the past several weeks, sending the currency to a record low against the U.S. dollar and draining foreign reserves to a critical level.

The government said it expected an International Monetary Fund technical committee to visit Cairo in two to three weeks` time to resume talks on a crucial $4.8 billion loan to plug balance of payments and budget deficits.

Qatar`s handout appears to be another example of the Gulf state seeking to deepen its influence in a Middle East being reshaped by revolts that have unseated long-serving autocrats. Doha supported the uprising in Libya and remains a major backer of the revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The aid is a political and economic bonus for both President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that propelled him to power in a June election.

It eases the pressure on Morsi to negotiate an IMF agreement that will require him to implement unpopular austerity measures. That will be a relief for the Brotherhood as it gears up for forthcoming parliamentary polls.

“There was an initial package of $2.5 billion, of which $0.5 billion was a grant and $2 billion a deposit,” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told reporters, referring to the aid it has provided since Egypt`s uprising two years ago.

“We discussed transferring one of the deposits into an additional grant so that the grants became $1 billion and the deposits doubled to around $4 billion,” he said of the new aid after meeting Egypt`s Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi.

Hamad added that the new Qatari grants and deposits with Egypt`s central bank had all arrived. ``Some of the final details with the deposits are being worked on with the technical people, but the amount is there,`` he said.

Solid ally

Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, a political analyst in the United Arab Emirates, said Qatar viewed Egypt as a valuable strategic asset and had invested more in the most populous Arab nation than any other Gulf Arab state since a popular uprising overthrew former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Qatar wants a solid regional ally in Egypt,” he said. “Along with Turkey, this allegiance or axis is fundamental to the regional role Qatar is trying to carve for itself.”

The Qatari funds should help tide Egypt over until the government can seal the IMF agreement that analysts view as vital to give the government credibility with the markets.

The IMF`s Middle East and Central Asia director, Masood Ahmed, left Cairo on Tuesday after meeting Morsi the day before.

“Negotiations with the IMF team will resume from where they stopped,” Morsi`s spokesman, Yasser Ali, said. Asked when the IMF`s technical committee would visit Cairo, he said it was expected in the next two to three weeks.

Egypt struck an initial loan accord with the IMF in November but last month postponed the deal because of political unrest set off by Morsi`s drive to fast-track a new constitution.

The unrest led Morsi to suspend increases in the sales tax on a range of goods and services that were deemed necessary to conclude an IMF deal.

Analysts said the Qatari funds gave breathing space to Morsi and to the Muslim Brotherhood`s party from which he hails ahead of the election due to begin in the next few months.

“It`s a big break for the Morsi government,” said Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Center. “It does give the Egyptian government more time to negotiate the [IMF] deal and build popular support for it.”

Said Hirsh, an economist with Maplethorpe, said it was in no way a replacement to the IMF loan, as it was not conditional on implementing economic reforms sought by investors.

“Further delays to the IMF loan will not bode well for Egypt`s external position,” he said. “For now, foreign investors are still likely to sit and wait until a deal with the IMF is reached.”

The Egyptian pound weakened to a record low of about 6.48 to the dollar on Tuesday after the central bank offered $60 million in the latest of a series of foreign currency auctions introduced in an attempt to contain the currency crisis.

The pound has weakened 4.6 percent on the interbank market and the central bank has spent a total of $420 million in the auctions since the system began on Dec. 30.

Foreign reserves have fallen by more than $20 billion and the currency has lost more than a tenth of its value and during the turbulent political transition since Mubarak`s fall and the flight of tourists and investors, two Egypt`s main sources of foreign exchange.

Tourism, industry

Qatar had already pledged enormous amounts of aid to Morsi`s government since he became president in July, including four loans of $500 million each, with the first arriving in August and the last in December.

In September, Qatar also agreed to invest $8 billion for gas, power and iron and steel plants at the northern entrance to the Suez Canal and $10 billion for a giant tourist resort on the Mediterranean coast.

Sheikh Hamad said on Tuesday that these projects had been delayed, in part by a disagreement between Egyptian and Qatari technicians over systems and laws.

“Today we agreed to appoint an international specialized legal office to put a mechanism in place because these are huge projects and will last for long years and need accurate study,” he said.

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil said progress on the projects had been held up by a lack of political will.

“I admit that there has been some slowness,” he said.

© 2013 Thai News Service

Is al-Jazeera too soft on Qatar and its allies?
By Michael Peel of Financial Times
January 05, 2013

While al-Jazeera is celebrating its purchase of Current TV, it faces tough questions about its coverage

ABU DHABI — Qatar`s al-Jazeera television station provided a great ringside seat for the “day of rage” in Cairo almost two years ago that offered the first clear sign of the threat to the rule of then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

While many western media organizations were scrambling to ramp up coverage of Egypt`s nascent revolution, al-Jazeera had gripping reports of an extraordinary protest that ended with the ruling party headquarters ablaze and the army on the streets.

Yet, mirroring the progress of the Arab uprising itself, the 16-year-old Doha-based broadcaster`s Cairo triumph has since given way to a more complicated life, as it seeks to extend its international influence by buying into the U.S. television market.

Long recognized in the Middle East for its daring and sometimes groundbreaking reporting in a politically repressive region, al-Jazeera described its purchase this week of former vice president Al Gore`s Current TV network as a “historic development” in a market where it has long coveted expansion. The station, which has a respected English language arm and is already seen in more than 260 million homes in 130 countries, plans to start a U.S.-based news channel available to 40 million American households.

While al-Jazeera is celebrating its U.S. plans, it faces tough questions about its coverage and whether it is as independent of Qatar`s autocratic ruling monarchy as it claims to be. The broadcaster is partly funded by the government of Qatar, and the country`s increasingly prominent political role in the region`s turmoils has intensified scrutiny of al-Jazeera`s coverage.

“With the Arab Spring, al-Jazeera`s reach and credibility have grown in the West,” said Jane Kinninmont, a senior research fellow in the Middle East division of Chatham House, the London-based think tank. “But certainly, it has become more criticized in the Arab world – or, at least, become seen as more politicized.”

Although the popular revolts that swept the Arab world and brought down regimes from Tunisia to Yemen have presented al-Jazeera with an extraordinary opportunity to expand its audience, they have thrown up growing problems of perception.

And while the English channel is seen as enjoying a high degree of leeway, some analysts say Doha`s foreign policy positions — including support for armed rebels in Libya and Syria — are reflected in the tone of coverage, particularly on the flagship Arabic channel. Critics say Islamist movements with which Qatar has tried to achieve good relations have received over-sympathetic attention, with airtime given to wild allegations that opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, are agents of foreign powers.

Some observers say al-Jazeera is cautious about reporting sensitive stories in Qatar, such as the fire at a Doha nursery last year that killed 13 children and six adults, although the channel denies it was slow to cover the tragedy.

“Al-Jazeera is generally a free network, but it works within the political constraints as understood in Qatar,” said Michael Stephens, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute Qatar think tank.

Al-Jazeera dismisses suggestions its coverage shows any bias, including toward fellow Persian Gulf states allied to Qatar. The broadcaster says that, far from following official agendas, it often sets them. “We were covering Syria, for example, long before outside governments took great interest,” it said.

It says that — while it takes a “good portion” of its funding from the Qatari state — it is a private not-for-profit company with other sources of income, such as advertising. And though Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim al Thani, al-Jazeera`s director-general, is a member of Qatar`s ruling clan, the broadcaster says he has “no definable relationship” to the country`s ruler and is part of a “professional management who have steered Al Jazeera to success regardless of their nationalities or surnames”.

Perhaps the most unpredictable tension now facing al-Jazeera springs from Qatar`s political scene, which appears increasingly at odds with the broadcaster`s preferred image as a fearless network “dedicated to telling the real stories from the Arab street.” The Qatari authorities sentenced a poet to life imprisonment in November for insulting the emir in a widely-circulated work about the Arab Spring that criticized the “repressive elite”.

But al-Jazeera gives short shrift to the notion that its reputation might be threatened by the Qatar government`s intolerance of opposition at home. “Our journalists have never been told to cover or not cover a story due to pressure from outside this organization,” the broadcaster said.

Abeer Allam of the Financial Times in Cairo contributed to this story.

Copyright 2013, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved.


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