from The Wall Street Journal..
Gulf State Seeks Influence on Longtime Regional Power, Critics Says, With Loans to Muslim Brotherhood-Led Government.
CAIRO—Qatar, the tiny but petroleum-rich state that has wielded oversize influence in revolutions across the Middle East, is now at the center of a battle for clout in the region’s traditional military and political juggernaut, Egypt.
On May 9, Qatar released $3 billion in low-interest loans to Egypt, the latest in a total of $8 billion in assistance it has provided in the past two years to Cairo’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government. The move, which the government didn’t announce, was confirmed by a central-bank official.
While many Egyptians are grateful for the sorely needed cash, some worry that Qatar’s support of Egypt’s Islamist-leaning government marks the small Gulf state’s latest attempt to gain influence in the region. Such suspicions have fueled Qatar flag-burnings in Egypt in recent weeks—protests echoed by rallies in Libya, Tunisia and the Palestinian territories against Qatari meddling.
Egypt is striving to have good relations with the world, counters Brotherhood spokesman Gehad Al Haddad, adding that Cairo’s previous dictatorial regime hurt the country by throwing its weight behind one power. “We no longer have a single ally called the United States. We have a menu of possible allies,” he said.
Critics allege that while Doha’s near-term goal appears to be to prop up the Brotherhood before elections, its longer-term aims are less clear.
“Egyptians aren’t stupid—they know this isn’t money given because Qatar is grateful of our historical contributions to the region, but because [Qatar] is mysterious and wants something,” said Hamdeen Sabahi, a secular opposition leader of the National Salvation Front who finished in third place in Egypt’s presidential elections last year.
American officials have long worried that Qatar is playing a double game—hosting a U.S. military base but also supporting Islamist movements in the region that are opposed to American interests. By supporting so many sides, U.S. officials have said, Qatar is able to navigate the Middle East’s complex political networks and support whichever movement stands to come out on top.
Qatar is locked in a battle for clout with Saudi Arabia, another traditional Sunni power in the region—which, alongside its staunch ally, the United Arab Emirates, has historically opposed the Brotherhood in the region and has openly clashed with Mr. Morsi’s government in Cairo.
The backlash against Qatar has reached a point of hysteria in Egypt that could work against the Brotherhood in elections this fall. Local newspapers and popular television programs are full of sensational accusations that the tiny Gulf state will buy up national treasures—the pyramids and the Suez Canal.
The popular Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef last month dedicated an episode of his program—seen as Egypt’s answer to John Stewart’s “The Daily Show”—to Qatar-Egypt relations.
The episode flashed between frantic newscasters in Egypt trading superlatives about Qatar’s diminutive size. Mr. Youssef later led a choir singing to the tune of an Egyptian national song from the 1950s. The choir boomed “Qatar, you’re so sweet, our pockets are full of you…This is what we achieved from the Brotherhood. We sold Egypt wholesale.”
Mr. Youssef then turned to the camera: “Nobody will give us money without something in return,” he said.
—Muhammad Mansour contributed to this article.
Link to the entire article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324031404578480771040838046.html?KEYWORDS=Qatar