With the region’s conflicts zeroing in, what fate awaits the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic opposition in Egypt?

Cairo – At an accelerating pace, the Middle East is witnessing what can be described as zeroing in on the conflicts that erupted in recent years, at a time when the Muslim Brotherhood was a major party in many of them.

Observers rule out that the file of this group will be on the table for mutual shuttle talks between the conflicting parties, at the near level at least, in light of its precarious situation and internal division, which may support its departure from the current approaches.

This is reinforced by the fact that the indicators of the meetings and discussions that took place during 2021 in Cairo, Doha, Abu Dhabi and Ankara did not witness a serious approach to the file of the Brotherhood or the Egyptian opposition in general, thus excluding it from the arrangements for this stage of the new year.

However, these developments may be a precursor to creating a suitable environment in the future for a conditional solution to the file of the Brotherhood and the opposition in Egypt, and it is not excluded that the repercussions of the rapprochement will cast an indirect shadow on this file.

The most prominent of these interactions and current discussions is the acceleration of the Egyptian-Qatari, Egyptian-Turkish, Emirati-Turkish, and Saudi-Turkish rapprochement, and all of this comes at a time when the region has witnessed an increase in the pace of Arab normalization with Israel, and indications of opening truce files also with Iran, in Syria, Libya and Yemen, and all of that. In the midst of a shift in US policies towards the region, with Joe Biden’s term in office, he is following in the exact opposite footsteps of his predecessor, Donald Trump.

In light of the previous indicators, the file of the Brotherhood – and the Islamic opposition in general – in light of the course of zeroing the region’s crises, remains subject to 3 scenarios, represented in its exclusion from the negotiating table, indirect repercussions on it, or major transformations in relations that do not exclude this group.

Zero conflicts

Since the overthrow of the late President Mohamed Morsi in the summer of 2013 when current President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi was Minister of Defense, Egypt has witnessed a political crisis and social division, with which local and international initiatives between the Sisi regime and the opposition forces, led by the Brotherhood, have not succeeded, at a time when the leaders of this group and its supporters have received security strikes. The rest of the civil opposition forces were also not spared them severely.

The stages of zeroing regional crises witnessed the following stages:

  • In the years following the overthrow of Morsi, the group was an active figure in the movement of the capitals of the region, on the one hand, diplomatic crises occurred between Cairo, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh on the one hand, and Doha and Ankara on the other. Although relations within the first axis were characterized by relative stability, several setbacks that cast a shadow over it over the past seven years were quickly remedied.
  • With the beginning of the second half of 2020, the winds of calm began to soften the atmosphere of the region, reinforced by the change of the US administration as a motive behind the increased cooperation and commitment in recent times, all of which also coincided with the desire of the countries of the region to reduce conflicts and reduce the severity of regional conflicts in the Middle East.
  • The first of these actual stages of easing tensions was the summit of Al-Ula in Saudi Arabia In early 2021, to heal the rift in the Gulf and Arab society, after lifting the boycott that had been imposed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt on Qatar in 2017.
  • On the Egyptian side, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry affirmed – on more than one occasion – that Cairo is keen for good relations with Qatar, stressing also that all the monitored indicators are positive.
  • The year 2021 was also a continuation of a long track of efforts to restore Egyptian-Turkish relations, after messages of calm from both sides following the diplomatic crisis dating back to 2013.
  • The past year witnessed two rounds of bilateral talks in Cairo and Ankara, where the two sides affirmed their desire to take further additional steps to make progress on outstanding issues and restore diplomatic relations, which is the same conciliatory context that Ankara has taken with Abu Dhabi and Riyadh in recent months.

Brotherhood position

  • The Egyptian-Turkish rapprochement encouraged the Brotherhood to show a willingness to reconcile with the Sisi regime, in a context most notably the relief of thousands of detainees in prisons and their families.
  • In a rare initiative, the acting Brotherhood’s General Guide Ibrahim Mounir affirmed, in March 2021, the group’s readiness to accept “any offer that serves the interest of the Egyptian people.”
  • Despite the great welcome from various Egyptian currents, parliamentarians and media figures affiliated with the regime rejected and attacked this call, at a time when indications were observed that the Egyptian reconciliation file is completely far from the calculations of the Egyptian-Turkish rapprochement.
  • There is an important indication in this context, related to the position of the Egyptian regime itself, which had previously rejected most of the previous reconciliation initiatives, a trend it is still following, and it does not seem that it is still ready for such initiatives until now.
  • This is evident in the continued security grip and prosecutions of opponents, in addition to taking a course of calm with the civil opposition by releasing dozens of ineffective political activists.
  • Another aspect that reduces the chances of the Brotherhood’s repositioning in Egyptian politics is related to the entity of the group itself, as it is still witnessing sharp divisions between two camps, each of which claims to be the first to lead the group.

3 scenarios

In light of the previous indications, the Brotherhood’s file, in light of the course of the region’s crises in 2022, remains subject to 3 scenarios, namely:

  • excluded from the negotiating table
  • indirect reflections
  • Big transformations do not exclude the group

In this regard, Ahmed Mawlana, a researcher in international relations and the affairs of Islamic groups, said that the challenges facing many Arab countries go beyond being confined to the Islamists’ file, as many regimes face fundamental structural problems that they have failed to address, and rely on the security grip to delay their emergence on the surface. In the Egyptian case, the economic, political and legal issues come to the fore.

In statements to Al-Jazeera Net, Maulana explained that societies are going through a phase of liquidity and re-formation in new patterns, and the groups in their previous forms in the twentieth century are no longer suitable for current developments, and the Egyptian regime rejects any inclusion of the Brotherhood’s file within its regional understandings, because the Brotherhood and its internal divisions make them a party marginal in any equation, and thus the group has become a part of the past rather than a player expected in the future.

In the context of talking about this file, the researcher specializing in the affairs of Islamic movements and groups, Mustafa Zahran, went to say that the group in Egypt has become the weakest point in the political track or in the opposition’s orientations in general, at a time when the political authority no longer cares about opposing the Brotherhood.

Zahran added to Al Jazeera Net that the group’s current positioning in more than one geography has become a motive towards the Egyptian-Turkish rapprochement, and that there are future steps that will be more dynamic next year between the two sides, based on jumping on the Muslim Brotherhood file.

Regarding the future scenarios for the group’s file in 2022, Zahran expected it to remain as it is, as it is too early to talk about any direct repercussions for the Brotherhood, given that the group does not have strong pressure cards on the regime.

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