Middle East countries split on Egypt support

Saudi Arabia, UAE maintain support for Egyptian army while Turkey, Iran and Qatar back Islamist protesters; Turkey's Erdogan calls on western countries to get involved, stand up for democracy.

Egypt soldiers walk passed burnt building 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Egypt soldiers walk passed burnt building 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Arab leaders stuck to their previous positions in either condemning or supporting Wednesday’s crackdown by the Egyptian army against Muslim Brotherhood protesters.
Turkey, Iran and Qatar, which identify with the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist agenda, condemned the violent dispersal of the protests, while Saudi Arabia and the UAE continued to back the military.
The Turkish government, led by the Islamist AK Party, has been criticizing the military since the coup that toppled former president Mohamed Morsi, with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accusing the West of hypocrisy for not supporting democracy equally in all places.
“As a matter of fact, if Western countries do not act sincerely on this issue… I believe that democracy will start to be questioned throughout the world,” said Erdogan as quoted by the Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News on Thursday.
Erdogan’s government was active diplomatically, calling foreign leaders and seeking an urgent UN Security Council meeting.
“The Security Council of the United Nations should convene quickly to discuss the situation in Egypt,” Erdogan said. “This is a very serious massacre... against the Egyptian people who were only protesting peacefully.”
He went on to blame the world for its “silence” in response to the crackdown, according to the report.
According to the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman, Erdogan compared the Egyptians’ situation to that of the Palestinians.
“I am telling the Western countries: You’ve kept quiet on Palestine, on Gaza, and are keeping quiet on Egypt. After this moment, how are you going to be able to talk about democracy or human rights? How are you going to talk about humanistic values while people are killed in front of your eyes?” he said.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on Egyptian authorities on Thursday not to suppress the masses.
“The great people of Egypt are a great and freedom-seeking people. Do not suppress them. The way of the people is the way of democracy and Islam. Everyone in the world should respect the wishes of the Egyptian people,” Rouhani told parliament.
Iranian legislators also denounced the violence, according to the website of Iranian Press TV.
Tehran, which historically has had poor relations with Cairo, had a warm relationship with Morsi’s government, and viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as part of the “Islamic awakening” in the region.
Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made the first visit by an Iranian president since the 1979 Islamic Revolution early this year and former foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that relations were “gradually improving.”
The major stumbling block in the relationship between the two countries was Morsi’s strong support for the Sunni-dominated Syrian rebels that are fighting the Iranian-backed regime of President Bashar Assad. However, following the fall of Morsi, there was a report in the Lebanese daily As-Safir that Iran and Hezbollah were seeking closer relations with the Brotherhood.
Qatar, a strong supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, also condemned the recent violence and urged Egyptians to return to dialogue in order to deal with the crisis.
A Qatari Foreign Ministry official, quoted by the state news agency QNA, said Egyptian authorities should “refrain from the security option in dealing with peaceful protests, and preserve the lives of Egyptians at protest sites.”
“Qatar believes that the safest and guaranteed way to resolve the crisis is a peaceful way based on dialogue between parties that have to live together in a pluralist social and political system,” the official said.
Excluding Qatar, the other Arab Gulf states remained largely resistant to change and fearful of revolutionary movements that could pose a risk to their rule. They see revolutionary Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood as threats.
The United Arab Emirates expressed support for the Egyptian government’s crackdown.
Days after the army ousted Morsi last month, the UAE offered $3 billion in support for Egypt’s economy.
“The UAE... reaffirms its understanding of the sovereign measures taken by the Egyptian government after having exercised maximum self-control,” the UAE Foreign Ministry said in a statement released by state news agency WAM late on Wednesday.
“What is regretful is that political extremist groups have insisted on the rhetoric of violence, incitement, disruption of public interests,” it continued.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait – relieved to see the weakening of the Muslim Brotherhood, viewed as a threat to their own monarchies – have promised $12 billion in aid to Egypt’s new authorities in order to help overcome imminent fuel and wheat shortages.
The Saudi-backed, Londonbased Arab daily Asharq al- Awsat recently ran an article by Abdul Rahman al-Rashed reveling in the military’s victory over the Brotherhood. In the piece titled “The Muslim Brotherhood’s second defeat,” Rashed wrote that many people were surprised at how quickly the army was able to disperse the protesters.
“It took security forces less than one day to dispel the pro-Morsi protesters from the Rabaa al-Adawiya and Ennahda Squares. Were the Brotherhood’s threats and determination worthy of the lost confrontation?” Rashed blamed the Brotherhood for refusing offers mediated by various countries and preferring a confrontation.
Some of the Egyptian media, which have been backing the army, have been reporting that the Muslim Brotherhood is targeting Christians and that armed protesters were torturing, killing and raping people inside their camps.