Trump weighs terrorist tag for Brotherhood and IRGC

US President Donald Trump
Updated 09 February 2017

Trump weighs terrorist tag for Brotherhood and IRGC

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump’s Middle East policy attracted more controversy Wednesday after reports that the administration is mulling executive orders that would designate both the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as foreign terrorist organizations. 

Middle East experts who spoke to Arab News pointed to a “compelling case” for adding the IRGC on the terrorist list, but a more thorny one when it comes to the Brotherhood.  

Given the particularities of its offshoots and its regional reach, the potential designation of the Brotherhood carries more risks than the IRGC, experts said.

Sources within the Trump administration told Arab News that a broad designation of the Brotherhood across different countries is “less likely”, and the preference would be in targeting ideological, country-based and clerical affiliates of the organization that espouse violence.

Both the New York Times and Reuters reported Wednesday on a debate within the Trump administration over adding the Brotherhood and IRGC as foreign terrorist organizations, similar to Hezbollah, Hamas or Al-Qaeda who sit on a long list of groups that Washington has targeted since 1997.

The Times noted that “the Iran part of the plan has strong support within the White House” and that “momentum behind the Muslim Brotherhood proposal seems to have slowed in recent days amid objections from career officials at the State Department and the National Security Council.” 

These objections, Arab News learned, have halted the designation of the Brotherhood and broadened the circle of consultations on the topic within the administration. 

While advisers to the president including Michael Flynn, Stephen Bannon and Sebastian Gorka are keener on designating the Brotherhood, it is the high-ranking officials at the State and Defense departments who are urging more caution in approaching this issue.  

Hassan Hassan, a fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, told Arab News that designating the Brotherhood as a whole “is not a good idea but the broad ideology of the organization (is) somewhat implicated in the violent extremism problem.”

The expert and co-author of New York Times bestseller “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror” offered the reasons to be alarmed about the Brotherhood. “Carrying out a suicide bombings, for example, is justified by Islamists even though they affirm peaceful engagement,” he said. “The contribution of Islamism to the jihadist ideologies is extremely downplayed and even overlooked by so-called experts.” 

Hassan added: “Anyone with basic knowledge of jihadists will know the depth of revolutionary Islamist contribution to their worldview and ideology.” 

Still, and while Hassan highlights the need to recognize and counter the Brotherhood’s destructive contribution, he recommends a way forward that would target this stream of thought and practice “without having to deal with the complexity of actually designating them.” 

Designating the IRGC on the other hand is gaining more traction in Washington. Perry Cammack, a fellow in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Arab News that there is “a stronger and more compelling case for designating the IRGC, because it perpetrates violence and undermines US interests in the region.” Cammack, who worked previously at the Congress and State Department, questioned the impact of such a designation. 

“We have had sanctions against Iran for decades now, and the IRGC has only become bolder and more entrenched regionally,” Cammack said. The former US official sees “a positive short term benefit coming from the IRGC designation” but not necessarily a game changer in the chess match between Iran and the US. 

Both Hassan and Cammack see a larger benefit in isolating the offshoots of the Brotherhood and designating each or wings within each of them, on a case-by-case basis. Ennahda in Tunisia is starkly different from Hamas or the Brotherhood in Syria or Egypt, said Cammack. 

Hassan called for “labeling the dangerous ingredients of the movement” or clerics aligned with it such as “Youssef Al-Qaradawi who (has said) it is okay to blow yourself up.” This issue could come up during CIA director Michael Pompeo’s visit to Turkey, which starts today. 

In the aftermath of Trump’s controversial executive order issuing a travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries, it is expected that the administration will pursue its deliberations more carefully on designating the IRGC or the Brotherhood. The process could take weeks entailing a State Department review before an authorization or rejection by the president himself.


Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

Updated 23 August 2019

Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

  • The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide

CAIRO: Egypt is seeking Japan’s help to improve its education system, which has fallen to 130th place in international rankings.

The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide, and Cairo is hoping to apply key aspects of Japan’s approach to the Egyptian curriculum.

Education has played a major role in transforming Japan from a feudal state receiving aid following World War II to a modern economic powerhouse. 

During a visit to Japan in 2016, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi discussed political and economic development with Japanese officials, and was also briefed on the Japanese education system.

The Egyptian leader visited Japanese schools and called on Japan to help Egypt introduce a similar system in its schools.  

As part of Egyptian-Japanese cooperation, Japan’s embassy established cultural cooperation as well as technical and professional education links between the two countries. Collaboration has been strengthened from kindergarten to post-university, with Japanese experts contributing in various education fields.

Japanese experts have held seminars in schools across the country, focusing on basic education. 

During one seminar, Japan highlighted the importance of enhancing education by playing games during kindergarten and primary school, encouraging children’s ability and desire to explore.  

Education expert Ola El-Hazeq told Arab News that the Japanese system focuses on developing students’ sense of collective worth and responsibility toward society. This starts with their surrounding environment by taking care of school buildings, educational equipment and school furniture, for example.

“Japanese schools are known for being clean,” El-Hazeq said. “The first thing that surprises a school visitor is finding sneakers placed neatly in a locker or on wooden shelves at the school entrance. Each sneaker has its owner’s name on it. This is a habit picked up at most primary and intermediate schools as well as in many high schools.”

Japanese students also clean their classrooms, collect leaves that have fallen in the playground and take out the garbage. In many cases, teachers join students to clean up schools and also public gardens and beaches during the summer holidays.

El-Hazeq added that neither the teachers nor the students find it beneath their dignity to carry out such chores.

The academic year in Japan continues for almost 11 months, different from most other countries, with the Japanese academic year starting on April 1 and ending on March 31 the following year.

Japan’s school days and hours are relatively longer in comparison with other countries. Usually the school day is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Teachers normally work until 5 p.m. but sometimes up to 7 p.m. Holidays are shorter than in other countries. Spring and winter holidays are no longer than 10 days, and the summer holiday ranges from 40 to 45 days.