Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

The Brotherhood Bogeyman

While the Muslim Brotherhood claims it is the victim of lies and distortions, policymakers aligned with the “Israel lobby” want the organization excluded from any role in Egypt’s future.

Print Friendly

Inter Press Service


While the many and far-reaching implications of last Friday's transfer of power to what is apparently a military junta in Egypt have yet to be absorbed here, the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in any transition to a more democratic regime is certain to figure high on the political agenda.

For a number of prominent politicians and commentators, especially those closely associated with the so-called "Israel lobby", the Brotherhood's possible pathway to power in Cairo constitutes the nightmare scenario which Washington should do everything it can to prevent.

Indeed, the fact Friday's dramatic events coincided with the 32nd anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran – another day of popular jubilation that was followed, however, by bitter factional struggles ending with the consolidation of a radical Islamist and bitterly anti-U.S. and anti-Zionist regime – offered a poignant reminder that liberation from oppressive Middle Eastern rulers does not always turn out well, at least from Washington's perspective.

Thus, while calling for "a calm and orderly transition process towards freedom and democracy in Egypt", the Republican chair of the influential House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Florida Republican Ileana Ros- Lehtinen, Friday said the Brotherhood should be excluded from the process.

"We must urge the unequivocal rejection of any involvement by the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists who may seek to exploit and hijack these events to gain power, oppress the Egyptian people, and do great harm to Egypt's relationship with the United State, Israel, and other free nations," she said in a statement.

Similarly, in his weekly op-ed in the Washington Post Friday, Charles Krauthammer, a neoconservative hard-liner who coined the phrase "the Unipolar Moment" in celebration of Washington's global hegemony after the Soviet Union's collapse, warned that "Islamism" had taken the place of Communism in the "long twilight struggle" for freedom.

"Therefore, just as during the Cold War the United States helped keep European communist parties out of power (to see them ultimately wither away)," he wrote, "it will be U.S. policy to oppose the inclusion of totalitarian parties – the Muslim Brotherhood or, for that matter, communists – in any government, whether provisional or elected, in newly liberated Arab states."

Widely considered the best organized and most disciplined political grouping in Egypt, the Brotherhood, whose popularity is credited to its network of social and medical services for poorer sectors in the society, as well as its longstanding opposition to and persecution by the Mubarak regime, is believed to hold the loyalty of as much of 30 percent of the population.

In the 2005 parliamentary election, candidates associated with the Brotherhood – the party itself has been officially banned since 1954 – won 20 percent of the seats in the Egyptian Parliament. They received only negligible support in last November's elections which, according to local and international observers, was blatantly rigged in favor of the ruling National Democratic Party whose future is now considered very uncertain.

The big question here is whether and, if so, how the Obama administration will deal with the Brotherhood – a question that top officials have clearly not yet resolved.

U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials met informally with Brotherhood leaders sporadically in the 1990s, primarily for purposes of assessing the political situation in Egypt. After the 2005 elections, some U.S. lawmakers, including a senior member of the House Democratic leadership, held meetings with their Egyptian counterparts, including Brotherhood members.

But while the administration has been in close contact with secular political leaders – as with senior Egyptian military officers through their Pentagon counterparts – since demonstrations began Jan 25, they had not consulted directly with Brotherhood leaders, according to the deputy national security adviser, who briefed reporters late Wednesday.

At the same time, the administration has repeatedly insisted that any political transition to a more democratic regime must be an "inclusive process" embracing all political groups. And earlier this week, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said it "has to include a whole host of important non-secular actors" – a notion that drew special scorn from Krauthammer.

"Why gratuitously legitimize Islamists?" he asked, stressing that "Americans should be urgently supporting secular democratic parties in Egypt and elsewhere with training, resources, and diplomacy."

Concerns about the Brotherhood here are based primarily on its historic opposition to Zionism, and particularly its position that the 1979 Camp David Accords with Israel should be scrapped.

Its close ties to the Palestinian Hamas, which the State Department lists as a "terrorist" organization, is also of great concern here to the Israel lobby. If the Brotherhood were to exercise power in any new regime, it is widely accepted here, Egypt's cooperation with Israel's blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza would end.

The fact that al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman Zawahiri, was a member of the Brotherhood before it adopted a policy of non-violence has also been cited repeatedly by those who believe Washington should oppose any process that could bring it to power. To some commentators, like Clifford May of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the Brotherhood is the "soft" edge of a global "jihad" movement, while al Qaeda and Iran represent the "hard" edges.

Finally, the fact that the Brotherhood has supported the application of Sharia, or Islamic law, to Egypt's judicial system, according to many of its critics here, raises key questions about its commitment to basic democratic principles, notably the status of women.

In op-eds appearing in both the Post and the New York Times this week, Brotherhood leaders have sought to rebut many of these concerns, in part by insisting, as a member of its guidance council, Essam El-Errian wrote in the Times, it had no intent either "to take a dominant role in the forthcoming political transition" or to put "forward a candidate for the presidential elections schedule for September.

"(A)ny future government we may be a part of will respect all treaty obligations in accordance with the interests of the Egyptian people," wrote another Brotherhood leader, Abdel Moneim Abou el-Fotouh, in the Post, stressing as well that the group had been the victim of "patent falsehoods, fear mongering and propaganda concocted against us in Mubarak's palaces the past 30 years and by some of his patrons in Washington."

Most regional specialists agree that the worst fears that have circulated about the Brotherhood are either exaggerated or unfounded.

Indeed, some have noted that a successful democratic transition that includes the Brotherhood would constitute a serious setback to al Qaeda, which has bitterly attacked the group in recent years precisely for practicing non-violence and committing itself to democratic processes.

Even a few prominent neoconservatives, notably the Brookings Institution's Robert Kagan, have defended the Brotherhood against some of its charges and called for Washington to accept it as a necessary participant in the transition process.

"What are we going to do – support dictators for the rest of eternity because we don't want Islamists taking their share of some political system in the Middle East?" Kagan, who co- chairs the bipartisan Working Group on Egypt which repeatedly urged the White House to break with Mubarak over the past two and a half weeks. "We've got to put our money where our mouth is."

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to IPS Right Web (http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/). He blogs at http://www.lobelog.com/.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

The Foreign Policy Initiative, founded in 2009 by a host of neoconservative figures, was a leading advocate for a militaristic and Israel-centric U.S. foreign policies.


Billionaire investor Paul Singer is the founder and CEO of the Elliott Management Corporation and an important funder of neoconservative causes.


Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is known for his hawkish views on foreign policy and close ties to prominent neoconservatives.


Ron Dermer is the Israeli ambassador to the United States and a close confidante of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


Blackwater Worldwide founder Erik Prince is notorious for his efforts to expand the use of private military contractors in conflict zones.


U.S. Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis is a retired U.S Marine Corps general and combat veteran who served as commander of U.S. Central Command during 2010-2013 before being removed by the Obama administration reportedly because of differences over Iran policy.


Mark Dubowitz, an oft-quoted Iran hawk, is the executive director of the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

The time has come for a new set of partnerships to be contemplated between the United States and Middle East states – including Iran – and between regimes and their peoples, based on a bold and inclusive social contract.


Print Friendly

Erik Prince is back. He’s not only pitching colonial capitalism in DC. He’s huckstering ex-SF-led armies of sepoys to wrest Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and perhaps, if he is ever able to influence likeminded hawks in the Trump administration, even Iran back from the infidels.


Print Friendly

Encouraged by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statement late last month that Washington favors “peaceful” regime change in Iran, neoconservatives appear to be trying to influence the internal debate by arguing that this is Trump’s opportunity to be Ronald Reagan.


Print Friendly

When asked about “confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing in world affairs,” 22 percent of those surveyed as part of a recent Pew Research Center global poll expressed confidence in Donald Trump and 74 percent expressed no confidence.


Print Friendly

A much-awaited new State Department volume covering the period 1951 to 1954 does not reveal much new about the actual overthrow of Mohammad Mossadeq but it does provide a vast amount of information on US involvement in Iran.


Print Friendly

As debate continues around the Trump administration’s arms sales and defense spending, am new book suggests several ways to improve security and reduce corruption, for instance by increasing transparency on defense strategies, including “how expenditures on systems and programs align with the threats to national security.”


Print Friendly

Lobelog We walked in a single file. Not because it was tactically sound. It wasn’t — at least according to standard infantry doctrine. Patrolling southern Afghanistan in column formation limited maneuverability, made it difficult to mass fire, and exposed us to enfilading machine-gun bursts. Still, in 2011, in the Pashmul District of Kandahar Province, single…


RightWeb
share