T. BELMAN. This article is very soft on the MB. Much more could be said to condemn them. The fact that Erdogan, who is also an Islamist supports them is no recommendation. The US should ban them without delay and deport their members. This ban should include CAIR.
Trump administration taking radically different approach than Obama, Bush; designation could trigger unexpected consequences
Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood supporters run from tear gas fired by police in Cairo in August 2013 during a police crackdown that the Brotherhood said killed hundreds of the group’s supporters.
In the immediate aftermath of the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates were winning elections across the Middle East—a testament to the Islamist movement’s popular appeal.
Now, President Donald Trump’s administration is considering declaring the Brotherhood a terrorist organization, something that could trigger a slew of unexpected consequences across the region.
Founded in Egypt in 1928, the Brotherhood says that it is opposed to political violence and wants to reach its goal of establishing an Islamic society through democratic means. This doesn’t mean that Brotherhood members haven’t pursued violence in the past. The group’s Palestinian affiliate, Hamas, has been designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization since 1997.
Over the past decade, however, the administration of George W. Bush and, to a much greater extent, the White House under Barack Obama maintained a policy of engaging with Muslim Brotherhood members elected to public office. That was especially true after the organization’s candidate Mohammed Morsi won Egypt’s presidential elections in 2012.
The Trump administration, so far, is taking a radically different approach, with some advisers saying the president would support formally designating the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Rex Tillerson, Mr. Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, made little distinction between the Brotherhood and murderous jihadist groups such as Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
“The demise of ISIS will also allow us to increase our attention on other agents of radical Islam like al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and certain elements within Iran,” Mr. Tillerson said in his Senate confirmation hearing this month.
Any U.S. move against the Brotherhood would come as part of Mr. Trump’s broader campaign against Islamist terrorism—a campaign that also includes a planned executive order to temporarily ban entry to citizens of several Muslim nations.
Blacklisting the Brotherhood isn’t something that can happen immediately, cautioned Shadi Hamid, a specialist on political Islam at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
“There is definitely an intention of doing it. But the terrorist designation process is a difficult one and requires a high evidentiary threshold,” he said. “It’s not something that can be done overnight just because you feel like it.”
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, who ousted Mr. Morsi in a 2013 military coup, already considers the Brotherhood a terrorist organization, as do the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia, however, has softened its stance since King Salman came to power in 2015.
Egyptian officials were especially resentful of what they viewed as misguided Obama administration attempts to cooperate with the secretive group.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is the legitimate parent of every violent movement in the region, historically,” Arab League Secretary-General and former Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said in an interview before Mr. Trump’s inauguration.
“I want the U.S. to take firm positions against extremists in the region, against the political Islamists,” he added, declining to say whether he would like Washington to formally designate the Brotherhood as a terrorist group. “The U.S. would have to reach its own conclusions.”
Blacklisting the Brotherhood has several pitfalls. Though the group’s reputation took a hit after the crackdown on dissent and economic meltdown during Mr. Morsi’s turbulent year in power in Egypt, it still retains millions of supporters. Outlawing the Brotherhood could complicate U.S. relations with critical allies in the region.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in particular, is a strong supporter of the group and has allowed the Egyptian Brotherhood to set up offices and TV stations in Istanbul. Mr. Erdogan’s own party stems from Islamist roots and he has refused to recognize the legitimacy of President Sisi.
Elsewhere in the region, a member of a Brotherhood spinoff serves as the prime minister of U.S. ally Morocco, and another Brotherhood offshoot is a key part of the governing coalition in Tunisia. Brotherhood affiliates are represented in the parliaments of Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait.
“Muslim Brothers are part of the society. If you go and try to make pressure against them, you are supporting the violence. You are supporting ISIS. You are supporting al Qaeda,” said Mohammed Dallal, a Kuwaiti lawmaker affiliated with the Brotherhood. “Those kind of terrorist people will be saying: ‘We told you so.’ They will never accept democracy. They will never accept your participation in elections.”
Even if it were to be blacklisted by the U.S., the Muslim Brotherhood would remain committed to nonviolence, said Maha Azzam, head of the Brotherhood-dominated Egyptian Revolutionary Council, which unites exiled opponents of Mr. Sisi’s administration.
Yet, forcing the organization underground would inevitably radicalize some of its members, she added.
“It will make a lot of young people angry. And if they are labeled as being in a violent group, that may actually encourage some of them to move in that direction.”