CAIRO: Gulf States have taken Saudi Arabia’s lead in a campaign against the Iran-backed Houthis of Yemen, and they intend to issue a “Unified Terrorism Blacklist (UTB)”: a law that some experts see could be a life jacket for the Muslim Brotherhood.
The UTB would stipulate that if any GCC country labeled an armed group “terrorist,” other member states should treat that group as a “terrorist entity,” Middle East expert and former Lebanese Brigadier-General Amin Ehteit told The Cairo Post Saturday.
“The law is a way to legalize illegitimate actions,” that have been launched by a Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis, he added, claiming that GCC countries are “mistreating” armed groups in general.
Interior Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members agreed April 29 that they on a mechanism to pass a unified blacklist against “terrorist entities,” the GCC Secretary General Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani stated.
The decision came during the 16th consultation meeting of the GCC ministers of Interior in Doha. Prime Minister Abdullah Bin Khalifa Al Thani said this matter was discussed amid calls from member states to expedite the adoption of such a list, the Qatari news Agency reported.
“Today’s meeting takes place under exceptional circumstances and unprecedented challenges facing the Gulf region and the Arab region as a whole,” he stated. Al Thani noted that such challenges include the “security and political instability in some countries,” a reference to Yemen.
The member states did not state further details on the mechanisms.
Since March, Sunni Saudi and Arab nations including Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, GCC countries, except for Oman, have launched airstrikes against the Shiite Houthis in Yemen. In January the Houthis troops took control of the capital Sanaa and several cities in the north, putting President Abd-Rabbu Hadi and his Cabinet members under house arrest.
Hadi escaped in February to the southern city of Aden and then to Saudi Arabia, which has mediated the Yemeni national dialogue. Saudi Arabia and GCC claimed the military airstrike of the coalition came after Houthis refused the dialogue.
Ehteit said that the UTB would definitely affect Yemeni national dialogue which is now absent due to Saudi Arabia’s “aggression,” noting that it is difficult to resume it now.
“Gulf States’ ally, the United States, uses terrorism to serve its interests and the Gulf States Council is using the same approach,” Ehteit added.
“Al-Qaeda, al-Nusra Front and The Islamic State Group are being funded by Gulf States,” he noted, adding that although the Islamic State is a terrorist group, Saudi Arabia does not fight it, so the unified terrorism law could give Saudi Arabia “indirect domination” over the council.
Anwar Eshki, the head of Middle East Strategic Centre in Jeddah told The Cairo Post via phone Sunday that “Undoubtedly, the Houthis are terrorists and the next step they should take is either to renounce terrorism that accompanied them or be like the Muslim Brotherhood (MB),” which was designated as a terrorist organization by the Saudi government in May 2014.
Egyptian expert in Gulf Affairs at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies Eman Ragab told The Cairo Post Wednesday that the law could target the Houthis as an armed group (Ansar Allah) not as a political power.
“Each Gulf State has different position towards the Houthis; in November 2014, the Emirates issued a terrorist blacklist that included the group. As for Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Interior issued a terrorism entities blacklist that includes the Houthis in May 2013; however, other countries did not,” Ragab stated.
MB on Gulf’s UTB?
Listing the Qatar-allied Muslim Brotherhood on the UTB has been ruled out by many experts. Ehteit said upon information he received that there are reconciliation talks between the Saudi Arabia and the MB in a Turkish-Qatari attempt that could lead Saudi Arabia to cancel its designation of the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.
“There is no an analogy between the Brotherhood and the Houthis in labeling them as ‘terrorist.’ And Gulf States countries such as Saudi Arabia and Emirates blacklisted the Brotherhood after its regime had fallen in Egypt,” said Ehteit.
Eshky also pointed out Qatar’s stance towards the MB in case it was blacklisted depends on whether its support of the Brotherhood as a terrorist group or as a religious political power.
“The situation could be different with the Muslim Brotherhood group as there are GCC states such as Qatar deals with the Brotherhood as a political power in framework of political pluralism,” Ragab noted, ruling out the Brotherhood could be listed.