Is the US about to fatally wound the Muslim Brotherhood?
Does Washington’s reported plan to label the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization mean the imminent end of the group? Everyone is talking about this, with the allies of the Brotherhood — Iran and Turkey mostly — attacking the White House over this move, which was set in motion by US President Donald Trump a few days ago.
The Muslim Brotherhood, already designated as a terrorist organization in many Arab countries, is emerging once again as the hottest topic. Not as a victim, as it insists on presenting itself to the world, but as the party responsible for the chaos, tension and proliferation of terrorism in the Arab world. The Muslim Brotherhood is once again grabbing headlines, not behind the curtain of its premier ally and supporter in the region, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but by attacking the White House, which will apparently soon confirm its decision.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the White House was pushing to issue an order that would designate the Muslim Brotherhood a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), after a White House visit on April 9 by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. It also reported that El-Sisi, in a private meeting without reporters and photographers, urged Trump to take that step. The US president apparently responded affirmatively, saying this “would make sense.”
The US newspaper also said National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo supported the idea, and that such a designation would have consequences on America’s relationships with the likes of Turkey and Qatar.
In a statement, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said: “The president has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern, and this designation is working its way through the internal process.”
If the decision is implemented, it really could mean the end of the Brotherhood, as it will be followed by a travel ban on all individuals involved with the group and economic restrictions on its members, along with the deportation of immigrants who have worked for the organization.
This step — if implemented — directly opposes the direction of the US during Barack Obama’s presidency. The White House then was not only in contact with the group, but helped it come to power, mainly in Egypt and Algeria, amid the changes in the Arab world in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring.
US action will undoubtedly lead to the Muslim Brotherhood’s resources drying up, a limiting of its illegal activity and the beginning of the end.
Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy
Some have described the anticipated US move as the “decision of the century,” much like its planned “deal of the century” to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict. Trump, since the beginning of his presidential campaign, expressed disgust at “those who espouse hatred and evil.” It is hoped that the American sparring, whether explicit or implicit, over the Muslim Brotherhood and Muslims in general, will not hamper the decision, which has been long-awaited by many Arab governments, including those that have suffered at the hands of the terrorist Brotherhood.
The significant thing is that this step is being discussed after discord between the Brotherhood’s younger members and older leadership, as well as between its domestic and foreign leaderships, along with many accusations of financial corruption inside the organization. It also comes after many Arab states made it clear that the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood on their lands constituted a heavy burden.
Once the Muslim Brotherhood is designated as an FTO, as expected, this will undoubtedly lead to the group’s resources drying up, a limiting of its illegal activity and the beginning of the end of this illicit organization.
The US decision might have its basis in the fact that, some years ago, Washington was seeking to establish Islamic governments in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood. However, certain events have changed the US position.
The first was the Brotherhood’s failure in Syria and its reporting of lies and false information to the US regarding the situation there. Washington later discovered that the group’s misleading reports had dragged it somewhere it did not wish to go.
The second problem was the Brotherhood’s submission of the people it governed and its control over them, as well as using violence to achieve its objectives, which soon polluted its reputation and unveiled its true image to the world. Moreover, the Muslim Brotherhood created sharp divisions among Arab societies and sponsored extremists seeking to destroy countries and civilizations. If allowed to continue, they would cause the entire region to drown in violence and blood. This is not something the US wants, for its goal is to preserve and protect its interests.
Another very important reason is the White House’s strong desire to suffocate Iran, mainly to eliminate the radical governments in the region that are directly threatening US interests. This reason probably comes first for the Americans.
Trump is also likely seeking to increase his chances of winning the next election. The president knows his people well and the election is months away. The decision to include the Muslim Brotherhood on the list of terrorist organizations might increase his chances, as Americans totally and explicitly reject the terrorist acts occurring around the world that are caused by members of armed Islamist organizations.
Regardless of the reasons, the American decision is important. It might not only reshape the court of political interests, but also the whole map of alliances and understandings. The US decision will also have a direct impact on declaring the end of an organization that emerged in Egypt in the first half of the 20th century. But the main challenge will be in cutting off the negative consequences that might affect normal citizens, whose only guilt is their political preference.
- Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy is a critically acclaimed multimedia journalist, writer and columnist who has covered war zones and conflicts worldwide. Twitter: @ALMenawy