The Trump administration is gearing up to issue an order that would designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization after Egypt’s president encouraged President Trump to do so while visiting the White House earlier this month, according to the New York Times, citing loose-lipped officials familiar with the matter. According to the report, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are supportive of the idea – which has been under consideration since 2017.
The designation would bring the weight of American sanctions on the influential Islamist political movement which counts millions of members in its ranks, as well as those who interact with or support the organization (such as Turkey’s President Erdogan).
The White House directed national security and diplomatic officials to find a way to place sanctions on the group after a White House visit on April 9 by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, for whom the Brotherhood represents a source of political opposition. In a private meeting without reporters and photographers, Mr. el-Sisi urged Mr. Trump to take that step and join Egypt in branding the movement a terrorist organization. –New York Times
The Muslim Brotherhood is already listed as a terrorist organization by Russia, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and the post-Soviet CSTO states.
The motion has sparked an internal debate within the administration, according to the report, “including at a senior-level meeting of policymakers from various departments convened last week by the White House’s National Security Council,” according to the leaky officials.
“…the Pentagon, career national security staff, government lawyers and diplomatic officials have voiced legal and policy objections, and have been scrambling to find a more limited step that would satisfy the White House,” reports the Times.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged the push to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists, saying “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.”
Officials opposed to the designation have argued that the criteria for designating a terrorist organization don’t apply to the Muslim Brotherhood, “which is less a coherent body than a loose-knit movement with chapters in different countries that either use that moniker or have strong historical ties to it.” Meanwhile, various political parties in places such as Jordan and Tunisia identify as being part of the Muslim Brotherhood, or acknowledge ties to it, while stating they oppose violent extremism.
As a matter of policy, such a designation could have rippling consequences, including further stressing relations with Turkey, whose president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is a staunch Brotherhood supporter. It is also unclear what the consequences would be for Americans and American humanitarian organizations with links to the group, and human rights officials have worried that Mr. el-Sisi might use it to justify an even harsher crackdown against his opponents.
Among the alternative ideas raised at the meeting last week were trying to identify and target a terrorist-linked group with ties to the Brotherhood that has not yet been designated or limiting any designation’s scope to the Egyptian branch, officials said. –New York Times
If you recall from 2013, el-Sisi is a former Egyptian general who helped lead a coup to overthrow Mohamed Morsi – Egypt’s first democratically elected president and a former leader within the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi and other senior figures from the then-ruling Muslim Brotherhood was sentenced to 20 years in prison in connection with the killings of protesters during 2012 demonstrations.
The men were convicted in April 2015 on charges including kidnapping, torture and the killings of protesters during unrest in 2012. The Muslim Brotherhood denies responsibility and says that most of those killed were from its own ranks. –SMH
The Trump administration had weighed whether to designate both the Muslim Brotherhood and an arm of Iran’s military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, as terrorist organizations during its chaotic first weeks in 2017. But the ideas lapsed amid objections from career professionals and the fallout from other capricious early steps, like Mr. Trump’s ban on visitors from several predominantly Muslim countries.
But this spring, the administration abruptly pushed through the terrorist designation for the Revolutionary Guards. Mr. Pompeo, who has the most important voice in the debate besides Mr. Trump’s because the secretary of state controls the list of designated terrorist organizations, announced sanctions on the Iranian military arm on April 8, the day before Mr. el-Sisi visited the White House. –New York Times
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928, and amassed a secret armed wing to fight against British colonial rule. It grew to 200,000 members by 1936, and over 2 million by 1948. After the Egyptian government arrested 32 leaders of the Brotherhood’s “secret apparatus” in 1948, banning the organization – its ranks fell to around 500,000 members or sympathizers across 2,000 branches.