Monday was all set to be the day that the government finally published its long-delayed report into the British activities of the Muslim Brotherhood. But it has now been delayed, once again.
The review was commissioned almost a one year ago, and has reportedly been gathering dust on the PM’s desk for about nine months now. Sir John Jenkins, Britain’s former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, reportedly delivered his conclusions to Downing Street only three months after he was asked to do so.
Reports in the British press suggest that Sir John has cleared the Brotherhood of any violent extremist tendencies. It is “not a terrorist organisation but should be more open about its dealings,” is how The Independent summarised the findings on Monday, when the report failed to materialise.
As soon as it was announced, I for one was entirely cynical about the review, and declared it would be a fix from start to finish. It seems I was right, but not in the way I thought I would be.
Britain’s alliance with the dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, as well as the other absolutist tyrannies that are the Gulf monarchies, is a long-standing feature of this country’s foreign policy. The appeasement of the Saudis at the top levels of government knows few bounds, it seems.
So just as the report was to clear the Brotherhood, it seems Cameron has stepped in and kicked it into the long grass. A vaguely-worded statement about the delay in publication means the report is unlikely to see the light of day until after May’s election. And that means it may well never be published at all — especially if Labour wins the elections.
The modern Muslim Brotherhood aims to win power in the countries it operates in through democratic elections, as were run in Tunisia and Egypt. (Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement, has its historical roots as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and won the only free and fair election in the region back in 2006. As a result it came to power in the Palestinian Authority, until the US and Israel sought to overthrow the results in a coup, which utilised local proxy forces. The coup was only successful in the West Bank, while Hamas defeated it in the Gaza Strip, which it still controls.)
To the Gulf monarchies, reliant on absolutist power and the crushing of even the smallest stirrings of democratic feelings, protest or practice, the Brotherhood’s encouragement of elections as a way to win power is anathema.
Since the Brotherhood’s popular support grew after the various uprisings in the Arab world in 2011, the movement has been seen as an even bigger threat to the dictatorships there, with Egypt outlawing it as a “terrorist” group. The United Arab Emirates saw it as such a threat to their control that they went on a banning spree last year, bizarrely declaring even the British Charity Islamic Relief and the US civil rights group the Council on American-Islamic Relations to be “terrorist” groups.
The charges that these charity and civil rights groups are even remotely connected to ISIS and al-Qaeda are ridiculous. But then again, such irrationality should be expect from regimes that have passed such laws as the one which defines “terrorism” as including “calling for atheist thought in any form” – as the Saudis did last year.
The fact that Cameron even called for a “review” of the Brotherhood in the first place was yet another sign of how in bed all British governments are with undemocratic regimes in the Arab world – as long as they serve elite interests.
Arms deals to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf tyrannies are extremely lucrative to British weapons dealers. Human rights and movements for real democratic change mean nothing to British politicians and other elites. It was Saudi and UAE troops that crushed the democratic uprising against the monarchy in Bahrain in 2011. British elites only seemed worried that the F1 contest set to take part in the country that year could be disrupted.
Government policy is reportedly constrained by the civil servants at the Foreign Office who, according to The Independent, have “generally taken a benign view of the Brotherhood”. The report should be released now.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.