[Marxism] White House Weighs Terrorist Designation for Muslim Brotherhood

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Feb 8 05:18:37 MST 2017

NY Times, Feb. 8 2017
White House Weighs Terrorist Designation for Muslim Brotherhood

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s advisers are debating an order intended 
to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization, 
targeting the oldest and perhaps most influential Islamist group in the 
Middle East.

A political and social organization with millions of followers, the 
Brotherhood officially renounced violence decades ago and won elections 
in Egypt after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Affiliated 
groups have joined the political systems in places like Tunisia and 
Turkey, and President Barack Obama long resisted pressure to declare it 
a terrorist organization.

But the Brotherhood calls for a society governed by Islamic law, and 
some of its former members and offshoots — most notably Hamas, the 
Palestinian group whose stated goal is the destruction of Israel — have 
been tied to attacks. Some advisers to Mr. Trump have viewed the 
Brotherhood for years as a radical faction secretly infiltrating the 
United States to promote Shariah law. They see the order as an 
opportunity to finally take action against it.

Officially designating the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization would 
roil American relations in the Middle East. The leaders of some American 
allies — like Egypt, where the military forced the Brotherhood from 
power in 2013, and the United Arab Emirates — have pressed Mr. Trump to 
do so to quash internal enemies, but the group remains a pillar of 
society in parts of the region.

The proposal to declare it a terrorist organization has been paired with 
a plan to similarly designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, 
according to current and former officials briefed on the deliberations. 
Leaders of the corps and its Quds Force unit have already been put on a 
government terrorist list, but Republicans have advocated adding the 
corps itself to send a message to Iran.

The Iran part of the plan has strong support within the White House, but 
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, who argue that there is no 
legal basis for it and that it could alienate allies in the region. 
Former officials said that they had been told the order would be signed 
on Monday, but that it had now been put off at least until next week.

The delay may reflect a broader desire by the White House to take more 
time with executive actions after the chaos associated with hastily 
issued orders, like the temporary ban on visitors from seven 
predominantly Muslim countries. But it also underscored the complex 
dynamics involving the Muslim Brotherhood, whose chapters have only 
loose relationships across national lines.

Critics said they feared that Mr. Trump’s team wanted to create a legal 
justification to crack down on Muslim charities, mosques and other 
groups in the United States. A terrorist designation would freeze 
assets, block visas and ban financial interactions.

“This would signal they are more interested in provoking conflict with 
an imaginary fifth column of Muslims in the U.S. than in preserving our 
relationships with counterterrorism partners like Turkey, Jordan, 
Tunisia and Morocco, or with fighting actual terrorism,” said Tom 
Malinowski, an assistant secretary of state under Mr. Obama.

The Brotherhood has long been a source of alarm on the right, especially 
at Breitbart News, whose chairman, Stephen K. Bannon, is now Mr. Trump’s 
chief White House strategist. A 2007 summary for a film Mr. Bannon 
proposed making on radical Islam in America, obtained by The Washington 
Post, called the Brotherhood “the foundation of modern terrorism.”

Sebastian Gorka and Katharine Gorka, two Breitbart contributors who have 
long warned of Muslim extremists in the United States, also joined the 
new administration. Mr. Gorka is a deputy national security assistant, 
while Ms. Gorka is working at the Department of Homeland Security.

Frank Gaffney Jr., founder of the Center for Security Policy, who once 
asserted that Mr. Obama might secretly be a Muslim, urged Mr. Trump on 
Breitbart’s radio show last week to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as 
a terrorist organization. He has argued that the Brotherhood’s 
philosophy mirrors that of groups that are already on the list.

“The goals of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Mr. Gaffney said in a recent 
interview with The New York Times, are “exactly the same as the Islamic 
State, exactly the same as the Taliban, exactly the same as, you know, 
Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al Nusra Front, on and on, Al Shabab. It’s about 
Islamic supremacism. It’s about achieving the end state that is their due.”

Some congressional Republicans reintroduced legislation last month 
calling on the State Department to designate the Brotherhood as a 
terrorist organization or explain why it would not. “It’s time to call 
the enemy by its name,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who sponsored the 
measure with Representative Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, wrote on Twitter.

Among those objecting is the Council on American-Islamic Relations, 
which describes itself as the largest Muslim civil rights organization 
in the United States. Mr. Gaffney and others have accused it of being a 
front for the Brotherhood, which the council denies. It said such an 
order by Mr. Trump would be a brazen attempt to repress Muslims.

“We believe it is just a smoke screen for a witch hunt targeting the 
civil rights of American Muslims,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for 
the council. He said that, given what he called false attempts to link 
Muslim Americans to the Brotherhood, a terrorist designation would 
“inevitably be used in a political campaign to attack those same groups 
and individuals, to marginalize the American Muslim community and to 
demonize Islam.”

It is unclear what form a presidential order would take. Presumably, Mr. 
Trump could direct Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson to review whether 
the Brotherhood should be designated. At his confirmation hearing, Mr. 
Tillerson grouped the Brotherhood and Al Qaeda together as “agents of 
radical Islam.”

But officials may try to narrow the scope of such an order to avoid 
affecting Brotherhood affiliates outside Egypt, or they may shelve the 
order in favor of waiting for legislation from Congress.

Founded in 1928 in Egypt, the Brotherhood used violence for decades in 
pursuit of its Islamist goals, but officially renounced it in the 1970s 
and embraced democracy as its means.

In recent years, offshoots have joined the political system, including 
Ennahda, a party that belongs to the governing coalition in Tunisia and 
has eschewed extremism. Even in Turkey, a NATO ally, President Recep 
Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party has long supported the 
Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood’s most successful period ended in 2013, when President 
Mohamed Morsi of Egypt, who had succeeded Mr. Mubarak, alienated other 
sectors of society and, after protests, was removed by the military. The 
general who took over, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has cracked down 
on the Brotherhood and lobbied the United States to designate it as a 
terrorist organization

 From 2013 through mid-2015, a former American official said, every 
interaction with Egyptian leaders included pressure on the issue. At one 
point, a senior Egyptian intelligence official personally brought a 
dossier to Secretary of State John Kerry, though it had no new 
information, according to the former American official. The State 
Department decided the Brotherhood did not meet the legal requirements 
for the designation because there was no evidence that its leaders had 
systematically ordered terrorist attacks.

A similar review released by Britain in 2015 found that the Brotherhood 
“selectively used violence and sometimes terror in pursuit of their 
institutional goals,” and that it emphasized engagement in English but 
jihad in Arabic. Its leaders have defended Hamas’s attacks on Israel and 
justified attacks on American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the review 
said. But it did not recommend that it be designated as a terrorist 
organization, either.

In his short time in office, Mr. Trump has already come under pressure 
from Arab allies eager for such a designation. He had phone 
conversations with Mr. Sisi; Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the 
crown prince of Abu Dhabi; and King Salman of Saudi Arabia. But he also 
spoke with Mr. Erdogan on Tuesday.

A top Arab official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity according 
to diplomatic protocol, declined to discuss what was said on the calls, 
but added, “It’s safe to assume since U.A.E., Saudi and Egypt have all 
designated the M.B. as a terrorist organization, that decision would be 
welcome by those countries and several others in the region.”

Follow Peter Baker at @peterbakernyt.

Eric Schmitt and Matthew Rosenberg contributed reporting.

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