Last February the Prince of Wales paid a formal visit to Saudi Arabia. It was his second in less than a year, and his 10th official trip to the Saudi kingdom.
He spent a cheerful few days. However, by no means all of it was pleasure. As often in the past, his Saudi hosts left the Prince in no doubt as to their opinions on crucial issues. In particular, I understand that the Saudis eloquently articulated their intense bafflement and dismay that the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Saudi Arabia, is nevertheless permitted to operate freely in London.
When Prince Charles returned home, he repeated these frustrations to the Prime Minister, as well as Foreign Office officials. Shortly afterwards it emerged that Sir John Jenkins, British ambassador in Riyadh, had been appointed to investigate the links between the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorism.
The timing is telling. Sir John’s investigation came only a few weeks after the Saudis themselves had classified the Brotherhood as a terror group. Egypt, whose President Sisi had carried out a coup d’etat against a democratically elected Brotherhood government, had already taken this step. So Britain’s investigation gave a certain legitimacy to Saudi assertions that the Muslim Brotherhood uses violence for political ends. Sir John Jenkins, however, has done a thorough job. He has travelled widely across the Gulf and North Africa in his search for the truth. From the Saudi point of view he has been much too thorough.
By last July the report was complete. Sir John, insist Whitehall sources, had discovered no grounds for proscribing the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group. In theory, that should have been that. Sir John’s report should have been published by now, gathered dust and been nearly forgotten. This has not been the fate of the Jenkins document.
The problem is that Sir John failed to reach the conclusion that the Prime Minister, Prince Charles and their vociferous Middle Eastern allies wanted. They had hoped for confirmation that the Saudis had been correct in their assessment of the Brotherhood. Sir John Jenkins’s exculpation has caused grave affront to powerful interests, and has led to a long, vicious Whitehall battle that began over the summer, persisted throughout the autumn and shows no signs of ending.
Publication of the Jenkins report as originally written would infuriate the Prime Minister’s Saudi allies – and not just them. The United Arab Emirates have long been agitating for the defenestration of the Brothers. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed has the Prime Minister’s personal telephone number, and does not hesitate to use it to voice the UAE’s anxiety that Britain is not taking a firm enough line…
…The Brotherhood was founded in 1928 in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. In many ways it is a spiritual movement, there to enable people to apply the principles and norms of Islam to their everyday lives, comparable in some ways to the Christian Democrats in Germany…
Not supporting the Muslim Brotherhood simply because of the Gulf Arab countries’ objections: that part I understand. I do not understand why Prince Charles is so chummy with the Saudis at all.
But the author is being irrational.
The Christian Democrats in Germany bear not the slightest resemblance to MB, whose equivalent across the border is Hamas.
As for Egypt, let us not forget that there was very high popular support in to oust the Brotherhood. Christians were doing badly under MB, and perhaps more tellingly, MB was completely incompetent. Political Islam is a disaster.