Trump Is Pushing to Hamstring the Empire, Designate Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Group

Trump is pushing to commit the US to a crusade against an outfit that wiser stewards of the Empire have always seen as its plan B for the Middle East

Editor’s note: Trump’s amateurism keeps disrupting and destabilizing the Empire. He is the gift that keeps on giving.

You can think whatever you want about the Muslim Brotherhood. I think the act of the Egyptian branch in presenting itself as the cuddly, Copts-friendly Islamists was suspect, and I think the Syrian branch are bigoted sectarian killers.

But that said, there are numerous organizations in the world which would fit the description of terrorists far better. In most places the Brotherhood, which started out as a Lenin-inspired Muslim revolutionary movement, is now just an underground political party. One that is a threat to Sisi (secular) and the Saudis (Wahabi) alike because it promises more democracy than they do, and might actually mean it to an extent.

No wonder the career Empire operatives are up in arms against Trump latest bright idea:

1.) It’s a great way of alienating hundreds of millions of Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia who know MB isn’t a terrorist organization (certainly less so than the Empire itself).

2.) The US does not owe the Saudis or Cairo any such gesture. They are the clients and are not owed appeasement at such a cost to the Imperial center.

3.) Sisi and Saudis hate democracy-espousing Islamists but the Empire does not. The Empire has been willing to work with, and use to its advantage far worse groups than the Brothers, and was willing to work with Morsi’s Egypt 2012-13. A competently run Empire would not tie its fate to Middle East autocrats against the Brothers, but would be perfectly willing to work with whomever came up on top.

The Trump administration is pushing to issue an order that would designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization, bringing the weight of American sanctions against a storied and influential Islamist political movement with millions of members across the Middle East, according to officials familiar with the matter.

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.

Such a designation imposes wide-ranging economic and travel sanctions on companies and individuals who interact with the targeted group.

The president responded affirmatively to Mr. el-Sisi, saying it would make sense. Some of Mr. Trump’s advisers have interpreted that as a commitment, officials said.

But the proposal has prompted fierce debate within the administration, including at a senior-level meeting of policymakers from various departments convened last week by the White House’s National Security Council, the officials said.

In a statement, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, acknowledged that the administration was working on designating the Muslim Brotherhood terrorists.

“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,” Ms. Sanders said.

John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, support the idea, officials said.

But 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.

As a matter of law, officials have argued that the criteria for designating a terrorist organization are not a good fit for 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. Several political parties in places like Tunisia and Jordan consider themselves Muslim Brotherhood or have ties to it, but eschew 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.

A former general, Mr. el-Sisi helped lead a coup in 2013 that deposed Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president and a former Brotherhood leader, and has reimposed strongman rule on Egypt. The Egyptian government deemed the Brotherhood a terrorist organization several years ago as part of a brutal crackdown on its supporters, and Mr. el-Sisi repeatedly pressed the Obama administration to follow suit. But the Obama team refused, for both legal and policy reasons.

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 in Egypt, and in the 1940s formed a secret, armed wing to fight against British colonial rule. It renounced violence in the 1960s and later embraced electoral democracy instead, although some offshoots and former members have engaged in terrorism.

The push for sanctions on the Brotherhood is the latest of several significant foreign policy decisions by Mr. Trump that appear to have been heavily influenced by talking to autocratic foreign leaders without first being fully vetted by career government professionals — such as his abrupt choice, since partly reversed, to swiftly pull American troops out of Syria.

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.

Source: The New York Times

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