IT WAS all smiles in the Qatari capital, Doha, when leaders of the Gulf Co-operation Council met on December 9th. Unusually, the annual summit of the six-member club of Arab oil monarchies packed more politics than pageantry. It marked the official healing of a deep rift between Qatar and its neighbours. More accurately, it confirmed the small but immensely rich host nation’s retreat, under sustained pressure, from an activist foreign policy its neighbours viewed not only as irksome but as downright subversive.
For the past decade Qatar had given quiet, generous and persistent support to the Muslim Brotherhood. It had lent money, diplomatic backing and a powerful media platform not only to the mother organisation, founded in Egypt in 1928, but to a range of affiliated and like-minded Islamist groups across the region. Qatar’s leaders leant ideologically towards the Brotherhood’s conservative but centrist Islamism. They also saw its tentacular reach as a force-multiplier for their own ambitions, and wagered on Brotherhood-style Islamism as the political wave of the Arab future.