In effort to cultivate its regional influence, Doha working to bail out Egypt’s economy.
By ARIEL BEN SOLOMON
Qatar is playing an increasingly important role in the Arab world, as it renews calls for an Arab force to enter Syria and continues to provide money to prop up Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government.On Sunday, Qatar revived a proposal for an Arab force to enter Syria if talks fail, according to a report by Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV.“It is not a question of intervention in Syria in favor of one party against the other, but rather a force to preserve security,” said Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al- Thani on Al Jazeera.This follows a similar proposal by Qatar made back in September.Thani said he supports the efforts by international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, “but until when? We cannot wait forever on this issue.”Gulf News reported that Thani also set a deadline in the interview on Al Jazeera, saying that “diplomacy may continue for two or three or four weeks, but no more because the situation is tragic in Syria and we cannot justify that we are still talking about solutions and we support talk about political solutions.”In a statement to the Qatar News Agency, he went on to say that a political solution to the crisis means that Syrian President Bashar Assad “has to step down.”AdvertisementReuters reported at the end of last week that Egypt had most likely already spent a $2 billion loan from Qatar last month. The money was probably used during the political upheavals at the end of last year that caused the Egyptian pound to plummet against the US dollar.Thus far, Qatar has given Egypt over $4b., with an additional $2b. that was given to President Mohamed Morsi upon his inauguration last July.The Egyptian Central Bank has spent more than $20b. propping up the pound in the two years since the uprising began.Last Tuesday, Thani announced that in addition to the $2b., it had given an extra $500 million. Turkey also gave $500m. on Thursday, according to Egyptian media reports.Doha’s latest actions have worried other Arab nations, who think the country is too aggressively supporting Islamist governments and movements throughout the region. This comes after Qatari Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani visited Hamas-controlled Gaza in October, pledging $400m.In an article titled “Qatar’s control over Egypt,” published at the end of last week in the Saudi-backed Arab daily, Asharq Al-Awsat, Tariq Alhomayed wrote that the emir said that reports his country is trying to control Egypt is “a silly joke...Egypt with its great human and economic assets and potentials cannot be dominated by any other country.’” Alhomayed went on to counter, “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.”He went on to refer to Doha-controlled Al Jazeera TV, which also is pushing its agenda. Its “support for the Muslim Brotherhood, whether in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya or even the Gulf States, is puzzling.”This view was echoed by a report in the Lebanese paper Al-Safir, which wrote about a rumor that Qatar intends to buy the rights to the Suez Canal for a period of 99 years – denied by the prime minister.This news follows rumors that Qatari Director of Intelligence Ahmed Bin Thani made a secret visit to Egypt last May, allegedly meeting with Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad Badie.The Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly says that Egyptian officials have not denied any potential involvement of Qatar in the running of the Suez Canal. The paper also quoted officials who said that Qatari companies and investors were looking at other investment projects in the country.One benefit that Doha has possibly gained from its aid is that Cairo has agreed to a Qatari demand for a rotation of the job of Arab League secretary-general – which has traditionally been held by Egypt, where the headquarters of the Arab League is located.Informed diplomats also told Al-Ahram Weekly that Qatar has kept Egypt from falling apart.The other Gulf countries are following Saudi Arabia’s lead, withholding major aid until they can figure out in which direction Egyptian policy is headed.Reuters contributed to this report.
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