In an event moderated by Hariri Center Senior Fellow Richard LeBaron, journalist and commentator Sultan al-Qassemi and Hani Sabra, director for Middle East at the Eurasia Group analyzed Gulf state priorities towards Egypt in light of the turbulent changes taking place after Mohamed Morsi’s ouster.

Al-Qassemi argued that democracy and stability in Egypt are not mutually exclusive. He noted the value of Egypt to the Gulf States as an ally and counterbalance to the influence of Iran and Syria, but Gulf countries also wanted assurances that the Muslim Brotherhood would not export the revolution to their countries. Sabra pointed out that Gulf States envision a form of controlled democracy for Egypt, encompassing both political participation and guarantees of stability. The Saudi-Egypt relationship in particular has grown in importance over the past twenty years, even as Saudi domestic constraints prevent the Kingdom from adopting Egypt as a quasi-client state.

Speakers noted that while the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates vehemently oppose the Muslim Brotherhood, the former is willing to tolerate a toothless version of the Brotherhood while the latter rejects it entirely. Responding to audience questions, speakers pointed out that the link between the Jordanian and Egyptian branches of the Muslim Brotherhood has caused problems for the Jordanian monarchy which hopes the removal of Morsi will contribute to a weakened domestic Islamist movement.

A recurring theme in the discussion was the failure of the Egyptian state to deliver on promises of security and stability. Egypt’s growing dependency on some Gulf economic assistance also poses a long-term challenge for relations between Gulf States and Egypt. The Egyptian government’s lack of incentive to enact economic reforms will make Egypt increasingly reliant on injections of aid, but domestic constraints in the Gulf make the relationship uncertain and unsustainable. Though it is unlikely given the realities of Egyptian politics, the Gulf States should condition aid packages on Egypt’s adherence to IMF guidelines on economic reform.

Related Experts: Richard LeBaron