It has become rather fashionable in some circles to predict the imminent demise of Qatar’s alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Brotherhood calques around the Arab world. I don’t see it happening, and here’s why:
1. Qatar has built up these relationship over many years, going back at least to 1995 after the coup. Al Jazeera has built and expanded its Islamist contingent of reporters, presenters and back staff over time.
2. Khaled Meshaal in and out of Doha is one thing, but Sheikh Qaradawi has been there for decades and on Al Jazeera since it began.
3. Qatar is benefitting from Egypt’s post-uprising troubles through business deals and loans, not just handing over cash.
4. Making Doha, its think tanks, universities and pan-Arab media outlet a welcome home for Islamists throughout the region (it is Ikhwanistan, a Gulf oasis for Islamists) provides access to a political network that can facilitate Qatari political and economic aims regionwide. In addition to Egypt, Qatar looks forward to such advantages in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Gaza, Syria.
5. Egypt’s left-liberal opposition is disunited and disorganized; it gives no impression at all of presenting a challenge to Islamist forces in general. The Brotherhood remains the biggest and most organized of those forces.
6. The bigger threat to Qatar’s rulers comes from their intervention in Syria; though this has involved backing the Brotherhood amongst the opposition, the bigger issue is that Doha is engaged in a prolonged effort to bring down a government. Qatar will perceive a threat if that government survives.
7. The Brotherhood has played along as a pliant pro-Western, neoliberal outfit that wants to continue the status quo in terms of regional and international balances of power, save a few cases of members mouthing off to the contrary.
8. Giving up on the Brotherhood could open the way for a return of Saudi influence via its Salafi connection. This is unlikely, since the Saudi gerontocracy is embroiled in problems regarding the succession, which leads to another reason why Doha is not about to give up: it is filling a void in Arab politics, for now.
9. Doha feels confident that Gulf governments are capable of handling Islamist and other opposition forces, so there is no immediate neighbour threat; if the Brotherhood does emerge as a stronger player in any uprising era shifts to come, Qatar will have a friend. Qatar is maintaining good relations with Wahhabi Salafism anyway.
10. The argument remains convincing for Doha to make to Washington that the Brotherhood represents an Islamist moderate middle ground that is alone capable of marginalizing Salafi and other ‘extremist’ Islamist trends that are prepared to take anti-Western postures.