Petro-dollars, the word used to describe the billions of dollars earned from the sale of oil and natural gas, have helped change the shape and future of many counties in the Middle East, usually for the better, but not always.
In a few short years Petro-dollars have helped shape the Gulf states into the modern and futuristic looking cities of the future that one finds in today’s architecture in Dubai, Doha and Riyadh.
But now those petro-dollars are being used to shape the political future of the region and to model specific policies in a number of countries, such as Syria, for example, where petro-dollars are hard at work today.
Saudi Arabia, for example is investing billions of its petro–dollars in an attempt at shaping the Syrian political landscape more in its favor and away from the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that the Saudi and other Gulf states regard with contempt and fear.
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But after its brief string of successes in Egypt, Tunisia, Palestine, Syria, and to a lesser degree, Turkey, the MB now appears to be on the retreat.
Among the first signs that not all is well in the house of fundamental Islam comes amidst reports that Khaled Mashaal, the leader of Hamas is seeking to relocate from his current base in Doha, the capital of the oil and gas rich Gulf state of Qatar.
Although Hamas is denying this rumor, the Palestinian Islamist movement had also denied in the past similar reports that it was relocating to Qatar from Damascus in 2012, as indeed it had.
Should this report prove to be true it would sustain the fact that the Brotherhood is indeed on the retreat.
In the past 12 months alone the Brotherhood has suffered a number of serious setbacks. The group went from winning an election to holding power in Egypt, to being once again banned and driven underground.
In Tunis, similarly, the MB government that was voted into power after the fall of Zein el Adedine bin Ali, is now on the way out, as popular protests, much like in Egypt have forced the changes to take place.
And the inroads the MB was making in Syria seems to have receded after the intervention of Saudi Arabia. The petro-dollars are at work once again supporting the anti-Assad regime, but not those who tend to be too conservative and that the Saudis and the Emiratis know only too well will one day turn against them.
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Riyadh, for one, is not about to forget the lesson of the returning “Afghan Arabs” that nearly toppled the royal house of Saud.
Riyadh also had to apply pressure on its smaller neighbor, Qatar, and “convince” the ruler Emir Hamed Bin-Khalifa, a strong supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood to step down in favor of his son, Tamim. The precise circumstances and reasons for the Qatari’s ruler sudden departure from power remain a mystery to this day.
With the son now in charge in Doha, Qatar’s financial support of the Brotherhood is virtually drying up.
In retrospect perhaps the rapid advance of the Muslim Brotherhood was a tad too fast in a part of the world that is unaccustomed to change. This rapid gallop frightened the ultra-conservatives regimes in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, who then took steps to rectify what they did not like.
In the months that followed, the Brotherhood was forcibly removed from power in Egypt with help of Saudi and UAE petro-dollars.
And thanks to petro-dollars also supplied by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the Muslim Brotherhood no longer seems to be about ready to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power. Not that the Saudis of the Emiratis have any great affection for Assad, quite to the contrary, they would like to see him go. And their petro-dollars are making sure of that.
By. Claude Salhani
Claude Salhani is editor of ArabSpringNow.com and a specialist in the Middle East, terrorism and politicized Islam. He tweets @claudesalhani. His latest book, Inauguration Day, is available exclusively on line at amazon.com.