Eleonora Ardemagni is an associate research fellow at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI).
In the Gulf States, governments have publicly exploited Mohammed Morsi’s death to support their strategies and bolster their positions on political Islam.
Reaffirming his pro-Brotherhood stance, the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, expressed his condolences quickly on Twitter. The Doha-based Egyptian theologian Yusuf Al Qaradawi similarly called Morsi “a martyr.” As did the Kuwaiti MP Osama Al Shaheen from Islamic Constitutional Movement (ICM or HADAS, the Kuwaiti Brotherhood), which currently holds three seats in the National Assembly.
On the other side of the divide, the Emirati authorities and media used the occasion of Morsi’s death to rebalance domestic and external threats. Through various media outlets, the government reiterated their claim that the Brotherhood is an extremist organization spreading radicalization and sedition. UAE’s television channels and the state agency featured an interview with a former member of the Emirati Ikhwan, Islah, jailed and then pardoned by the UAE president. The former member declared to have “found [his] true country” after leaving the Brotherhood, which he claims is struggling with “a wave of defections.”
Furthermore, the containment of the Brotherhood is an important dimension of UAE’s engagement in Yemen. The Abu Dhabi-led rhetoric reflects the government’s ongoing support for the verbal and military showdown between UAE-backed Yemeni militias and the Islah party-aligned groups supporting the internationally recognized government in Hadhramawt and Shabwa. Emirati-backed groups have repeatedly threatened to seize the oil-rich areas of Wadi Hadhramawt and Shabwa, which Islah-linked forces continue to control. Powerful UAE-supported Yemeni groups are already deployed in Hadhramawt and Shabwa coastal areas.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s strong regional alliance is on a collision course in Yemen largely due to the Brotherhood. Riyadh still supports president Hadi who is mainly backed by Islah forces. The presence of Emirati soldiers on the Yemeni soil has limited clashes so far, but the reported start of a UAE’s troop drawdown could ignite local players’ rivalries, especially in cities like Aden and Taiz, divided between pro-Emirati Salafi separatists and pro-Islah militias.