Morsi down, Saudis up in battle for Syria

Saudis on fire.

Mohammed Morsi’s call for holy war in Syria spooked the Egyptian military, and it alarmed the Saudis too.  I suspect it even played a role in the decision of Qatar’s new emir to depose his father (long a supporter of Morsi and promoter of Islamist influence in the Arab Spring nations) at the end of June.  The new Sheikh Tamim has moved quickly to shift some of his father’s key policies, and we are likely to see more solidarity between Qatar and Saudi Arabia in the coming weeks – but with the Saudis now edging into the lead.

As Qatar’s profile changes, there will be a significant shift in the dynamics of Islamism, one of whose best-organized factions (Qaradawi and his International Union of Muslim Scholars) has had a reliable source of funding and tacit national support from the oil-rich emirate.  There will be blowback within Qatar, of course; the new emir will have to tack and trim to discourage the kind of protests and terror attacks that now routinely menace neighboring countries like Iraq, Bahrain, and Jordan.  As Turkey’s Islamist minister to the EU, Egemen Bagis, warns us, Islamism is here to stay.  (Bagis is the Turkish minister who threatened Angela Merkel in June with an “inauspicious end” and “severe retaliation,” if a resumption of Turkey’s EU negotiations were blocked because of the Erdogan government’s recent response to protesters.)

But as the drama unfolds, factions will bob upward and downward Continue reading “Morsi down, Saudis up in battle for Syria”