For Egypt, isolating Qatar has political, security advantages

Sunday 11/06/2017
Deep distrust. A 2015 file picture shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C-R) walking alongside Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (C-L) upon the latter’s arrival at the Sharm el-Sheikh Red Sea resort ahead of the Arab League summit. (E

Cairo- A weakened and iso­lated Qatar will have far-reaching effects on politics and security in Egypt, as well as the problems Cairo faces beyond its borders, experts said.
“Qatar has been waging an all-out media war against the Egyptian state for several years, all with the aim of undermining this state,” said Tarek Fahmy, a political sci­ence professor at Cairo University. “The isolation of Qatar will render it incapable of maintaining this war, even if only in the long run.”
Egypt followed Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emir­ates in cutting ties with Qatar on June 5 following accusations that Doha has been supporting terror­ism, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
Qatar, which backed Muslim Brotherhood President Muham­mad Morsi in Egypt before he was toppled in 2013, began a media war vilifying post-Morsi authorities in Egypt. Pro-Brotherhood media — mainly funded by Qatar — exagger­ated the importance of the Islam­ist movement on Egypt’s political scene and the popular following the Brotherhood had.
For almost two years after Mor­si’s overthrow, demonstrations by Brotherhood followers dominated coverage by the Qatari news chan­nel Al Jazeera and its Egyptian channel, Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr. Al Jazeera’s coverage misrepre­sented conditions in Egypt, which affected negatively Cairo’s ability to attract investment and foreign tourists, economists said.
Cairo accused Doha of funding terrorist operations by groups af­filiated with the Muslim Brother­hood. Egyptian authorities said one of those groups assassinated Egyptian Prosecutor-General Hish­am Barakat in a car bombing in June 2015.
Egypt called for a UN Security Council investigation into a ran­som of up to $1 billion allegedly paid by Doha to a “terrorist group active in Iraq” to secure the release of kidnapped members of the Qa­tari royal family.
“This violation of the Security Council resolutions, if proved cor­rect, shall definitely have a negative bearing on counterterrorism efforts on the ground,” senior Egyptian UN diplomat Ihab Moustafa Awad told the Security Council. Security Council Resolution 2199 explicitly bans the payment of ransom to ter­rorist groups “regardless of how or by whom the ransom is paid.”
Egyptian President Abdel Fat­tah al-Sisi spoke with US President Donald Trump on June 9 to dis­cuss the Qatar crisis. Both leaders emphasised the importance of all countries implementing agree­ments to fight terrorism and com­bat terrorism financing, a White House statement said.
Egypt’s decision to cut diplo­matic ties with Qatar was widely praised by the Egyptian media.
“You cannot imagine the effect of negative media on a country’s im­age and its ability to attract invest­ments or convince foreign tourists that it is safe enough for them to visit it,” said Egyptian economist Wael al-Nahas.
“Investors do not put their money in a country that the me­dia keeps portraying as unstable. Tourists cannot visit this country, either.”
Since Morsi’s overthrow, Egypt attracted little new foreign invest­ment, negatively affecting the economy and creating a shortage of foreign currency reserves that led to last year’s currency flotation.
Egypt attracted $6 billion in for­eign investment in 2016 but most of that capital was from companies already present in Egypt working on new projects and expansions. Cairo said it expects to attract $10 billion in investment this year, compared to $11.4 billion in 2009.
For Egypt, the measures taken against Doha will limit Qatar’s abil­ity to fund Islamist militias jock­eying for control in Libya, where Egypt is backing the anti-Islamist forces of Libyan strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
Cairo, which designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group in 2013, ordered air strikes targeting terrorist training camps in Libya. The move, which represent­ed a major expansion in Egypt’s war on terror, was in response to an Islamic State (ISIS) attack in which 30 Coptic Christian pilgrims were killed May 26 in the central Minya region.
Egyptian authorities have said that weapons and ammunition that end up in the hands of ISIS fighting the army in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula are smuggled in from Libya.
The government of eastern Lib­ya, which is aligned with Haftar, also cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. Libyan National Army spokesman Colonel Ahmed al-Mesmari ac­cused Qatar of sending arms and ammunition to Islamist militias in the country.
“This means that tightening the noose around Qatar and forcing it to suspend funding and support to terrorists will leave the Libya militias high and dry,” said Hes­ham Halabi, a retired Egyptian gen­eral and adviser at Nasser Military Academy.
“Apart from significantly contrib­uting to Libya’s stabilisation and the ability of the national army to bring order back to the country, this will contribute to preventing arms smuggling into Egypt and conse­quently weakening the ISIS terror­ists spilling Egyptians’ blood.”