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Old 04-20-2006   #1
SWJED
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Default Flirting with the Muslim Brotherhood

Moderator's Note

In April 2011 I merged four threads, one large and three small. Today April 2014 I have merged five other threads, including a RFI and a thread relating to the MB in the USA (ends).



20 April Counterterrorism blog - State Department’s Flirting with the Muslim Brotherhood by Lorenzo Vidino.

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Over the last weeks there have been numerous signs of a new attitude at Foggy Bottom in relation to the international movement of the Muslim Brotherhood. While scores of moderate Muslims and Islamic scholars, the 9/11 Commission, and European security officials point to the Muslim Brothers as the forefathers of modern Islamist terrorism, the State Department is, in fact, flirting with them. As noted by Doug Farah here, last month the State Department sent its head of counterterrorism, Ambassador Hank Crumpton, to be the keynote speaker at a conference co-sponsored by the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT), an infamous Brotherhood-linked Northern Virginia outfit. And in two weeks, as Rachel Ehrenfeld reported, the U.S. Embassy in Rome will co-sponsor a high-profile two-day symposium about immigration and integration where the highly controversial Swiss scholar Tariq Ramadan has been invited as a keynote speaker.

Isolated blunders? Unfortunately not. Two weeks ago the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing on Islamist Extremism in Europe where various government officials outlined their initiatives to reach out to European Muslims. Particularly interesting was the testimony of the US Ambassador to Belgium, Tom Korologos, who explained how, over the past few months, together with the State Department, has been promoting various seemingly laudable initiatives in which American and European Muslim organizations meet with US officials, opening a dialogue that, in the Ambassador’s hopes, will “break stereotypes and foster networking opportunities.”

Dialogue with Muslim leaders, both in the West and in the rest of the world, is a crucial aspect of America’s war on terror, which, in the long run, is more important than any military or anti-terrorist operation. Yet Ambassador Korologos, and the State Department with him, seems to have completely missed the mark. The organizations that have been chosen to participate in his initiative, in fact, represent the gotha of the Muslim Brotherhood’s network on both sides of the Atlantic, raising serious doubts as to whether a genuinely open and constructive dialogue is being fostered...

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Old 06-12-2006   #2
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Default Muslim Brotherhood

Is it possible that the Muslim Brotherhood is a solution to what ails us in the Middle East? A group of socially conscious individuals who have demonstrated a desire and willingness to work within given political systems, propensity to address poverty and education, and thus who have earned the hostility of al Qa'ida?

Before anyone calls the FBI, no they are not on the FTO list for 2005-2006.

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Old 06-12-2006   #3
Tom Odom
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Adam,

Not to worry about phone calls. The MB started in Egypt, a prototype Sunni fundamentalist and POLITICAL party. They have had their ups and downs over the decades; at times, they have become more fundamentalist than political, matched later by a reversal of that swing. Their tactics also fluctuate; they have worked within the system and they have attacked the system.

They remain of concern in Egypt because in the recent elections that made significant headway, using proxy parties to buffer MB affiliation.

They were a primary threat to the Alawite (shia) regime in Syria with its Sunni majority. Then in 1982 Asad's regime surrounded the MB stronghold of Hama and leveled it (literally). I went through there in early 88 and our Syrian tour guide (referred to the area as the scene of earlier disturbances). The MB remain an opposition force in Syria, albeit from abroad.

And in the larger context, the MB were and are a protoype for al Quaeda, though the MB has not taken its cause outside the Arab/Muslim arena. The MB's instead have largely targeted/attacked Arab regimes whom they consider apostate and corrupt.


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Old 06-12-2006   #4
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Tom, thanks for the quick reply. You referenced just about everything that came to mine mind as well. They have been on-again - off-again within the Egyptian political landscape, to include securing 88 parliamentary seats as independents recently. They have drawn considered criticism from most of the al-Qa'ida theorists/spiritual guides, and thus could be a useful model in the Middle East.

As you stated, Hafez Asad destroyed the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in 1982, and thus the Brotherhood is not fond of the continued Alawite rule. This too could be useful to the US.

Though Hamas has serious baggage concerning its use of suicide bombings, they have shown in the past a propensity for humanitarian assistance and social projects within the PA. Again, I am not forgiving or over-looking any of their actions; however, given the back and forth between the Palestinians and the Israelis, I can easily understand some of the violence.

Finally, the Brotherhood had considerable influence in Sudan, and was instrumental in working out a deal to keep Turabi under house arrest.

I am of the impression that it is time to look "out-side the box," look for potential Muslim allies that have mass appeal, and yet at the same time, disrupt al Qa'ida. Wouldn't this be a good way to potentially further divide Sunni Muslims?

After reading much that was written by several of Al Qa'ida's theorists, they admit that the are vulnerable to US proxy forces - regardless if it they are social, military, or political.
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Old 06-12-2006   #5
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Both the wiki entry and the FAS information on the Muslim Brotherhood points towards them being fairly fundamentalist in their take on Islam, although perhaps not to the degree of al-Qa'ida. Perhaps al-Qa'ida views them more as a threat to their recruiting pool than anything else, or something to keep destabilized in case they should get more organized. The wiki entry is especially interesting. Looks like they've been around for a good while, and seem to be able to "reproduce" themselves in a way similar to al-Qa'ida.

Information aside, I'm not sure exactly how you'd "use" a group like this. Depending on which faction you work with, some may be more willing to meet US interests halfway. It would involve some unpleasent pressure on some of our less acceptable 'allies' in the Middle East (such as the Saudis), but the return might be worth the risk.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_Brotherhood
http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/mb.htm
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Old 06-12-2006   #6
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MB or not, "solution" or not, the key point to keep in mind is that many of the opposition groups to the less-than-democratic regimes in the region are Islamist in nature. If we truly support the emergence of democracy in the region, we are going to end up with more Islamist-tinged governments rather than less. It is in our best interests to learn how to work with these groups as they emerge - if we refuse to, we end up tarred as democracy-hypocrites.

As far as Islamists in government, the relatively mild version in the Turkish ruling AK party is probably a best-case example - the current difficulties with HAMAS are close to being a worst case. Hizbollah in Lebanon, although far from being the ruling party, do have a voice in Parliament and an influence in policy. Given electoral trends and the current operational environment, we can't afford to completely cut off communications with any of them.
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Old 06-13-2006   #7
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Default Excellent Discussion

I am impressed.....

First an interesting thread on a subject few know much about

Second all respondees looked at the issue through analytical eyes

My own take on MB and others are they are indeed the targets we need most to influence, dialogue, and accomodate/compromise with.

I say that because they are there and they are gaining ground. Extremists groups of any ilk ususally have a more centrist core that they themselves spun off of at some stage. And the reverse is equaly true, extremist movements overtime either explode/implode or move back toward a central axis.

The issue is one of targeting/effects: we seek a moderate Islam. Do we target the extremists with IO? I submit that is largely a waste of time and effort. Do we target the Muslim majority? Yes and then no. Yes we do but the group is so large and diverse, messages have to be generalized. My answer is we target the groups like the MB who have stepped into the extremist camp and stepped back from time to time. They are already politicized; they have been (and still have the capacity) militarized; they are the bridge between the extremists and the majority.

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Old 06-13-2006   #8
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In the context of the current discussion, this older (Jul 05) paper from CEIP is still a good read:

The Key to Arab Reform: Moderate Islamists
Quote:
...U.S. and European officials understandably worry that Islamists might jettison democratic transition if and when they gain significant power. While understandable, these fears ignore the diversity of the Islamist spectrum. More importantly, policy makers must recognize the more immediate point that democracy cannot come to Arab societies without the participation of movements that command huge popular support. Rather than resisting Islamists, Western governments should develop policies to positively engage the moderates among them...
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Old 06-13-2006   #9
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Default M.b.

It's my opinion that the Muslim Brotherhood is just using Mao's precepts to gain further ground in Egypt. Mao stated that he believed in a three phase war: first organization and subversion ops, second terrorism and guerrilla warfare, and finally the progression to a conventional army. While this may not perfectly descride the brotherhood, they have been moving between phase one and two as Mao said may be nesscary, depending on the situation. Thus, more pressure they have inverted and worked on portraying them selves as a political alternative, less pressure they have tried to destabilize the Egyptian regimes. Therefore, i don't belive we can work with such groups, as try to take away their base of support by trying to effect substatial political reforms that get to the heart of the problems in the Middle East. One of the biggest factors is econmic liberalization. Oil Regimes and dictatorships around the region have no economic progress to put forth to the poeple allowing them to look on religion and ponder on the corruption in their regions. If we can open their economies and then apply some political reforms, i think we can look past supporting quazi fundimentalist groups.
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Old 06-13-2006   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J.C.
Therefore, i don't belive we can work with such groups, as try to take away their base of support by trying to effect substatial political reforms that get to the heart of the problems in the Middle East.
We can't afford not to work with the Islamist opposition. As the "substantial political reforms" take place, which will include free elections, these groups will either end up in power or, at a minimum, with a significant presence in the country's parliament.

Quote:
Originally Posted by J.C.
One of the biggest factors is econmic liberalization. Oil Regimes and dictatorships around the region have no economic progress to put forth to the poeple allowing them to look on religion and ponder on the corruption in their regions. If we can open their economies and then apply some political reforms, i think we can look past supporting quazi fundimentalist groups.
Your point here isn't quite clear. The continuing corruption in most of those countries is a huge factor in the support for the Islamist movements. Also, economic liberalization isn't always linked with political reform and enjoying the benefits of free trade won't necessarily result in the people dropping support to Islamist political movements. As previously stated, in the current environment, political openings will most likely result in their being filled with Islamist representatives of varying shades.
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Old 06-13-2006   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jedburgh
We can't afford not to work with the Islamist opposition.
I completely agree. It is not like we have not dealt we these types of folks in the past. We should not forget our past relationship with both the Pakistani ISI and Afghani Mujahideen.

After WWII, we found a way to deal with former Nazis to include General Heinrich Muller, Head of the Gestapo, to name but one, thus I think we can find some Islamists to deal with that are palatable. BTW, how long did we deal with Saddam before deciding to put him into "time-out?"

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Old 06-13-2006   #12
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The trick, in my opinion, for dealing with them is to go into the process with both eyes wide open and understanding that there may not be a perfect solution overnight. We shouldn't expect them to suddenly alter their beliefs any more than we would alter ours to deal with them.

That said, the MB does not as a whole seem to prefer violence to achieve its goals. That alone makes them attractive from a "let's make a deal" standpoint. It's also better to get in now when it's still possible to have an influence on at least a small part of their programs. Maybe then we'll be in a better position to influence some democratic reforms once they are elected to positions of power (since given the trend of autocratic Middle East governments it's only a matter of time before they do reach office).

It's also important to keep in mind that working with a group doesn't mean you support ALL of their goals, aims, and programs. But also remember that these groups are often the only ORGANIZED opposition in many areas of the Middle East. We can't create little political parties in our own image and expect them to gain any sort of popular support. Sometimes you just have to play the hand you're dealt.
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Old 06-14-2006   #13
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Default M.b.

Sorry I should have been more clear. It is true democratic reforms due not always follow economic liberalization, but democracies do not stand long with out it. IF any thing i belive we should push economic liberalization before political reforms. After such time we may start to push for changes or look to make in-roads with reform movements.

However, the M.B. is a bad choice. They are diametrically oppossed to the US and belive or state publically that 9/11 was a CIA/Zionist conspiracy. Further, they have many shady contacts with terrorist organizations throughout the region and probably funnel funds for many of these groups. They have toned done their retoric, but this has been becuase of substantial pressure from the current Egyptian Regime. Further, it is true they are gaining ground in the country and may one day take power if elections occur.

As far as other groups go. If we can find some that have a base and want positions that are in our intrest and are not to radical then we may be able to work with them. However, keep in mind our track record at this has not been stellar in this region and those we have supported have cost us allot to clean up.

Also, the total lack of an effective I.O. campian in this region has hurt our efforts. The inclusion of an I.O. campain with economic reforms, and then possible support of reformist groups is probably our best bet. It will be intresting to say the least. IN all Oil Regimes and resource based economies are just too unstable. We have to change this before we can work at greater stabilization.
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Old 06-14-2006   #14
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Generically speaking I think it is a good idea to being fringe groups, whether they are violent or not, into government. Obviously this is not always practical; but when it is I think it benefits society to have these groups forced to deal with day to day governance. This forces them to be more responsive to the society and gives them a stake in the government, theoretically making them less interested in its destruction. Of course you have to remember there are some people you just canít reason with.
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Old 06-14-2006   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J.C.
However, the M.B. is a bad choice. They are diametrically oppossed to the US and belive or state publically that 9/11 was a CIA/Zionist conspiracy. Further, they have many shady contacts with terrorist organizations throughout the region and probably funnel funds for many of these groups. They have toned done their retoric, but this has been becuase of substantial pressure from the current Egyptian Regime. Further, it is true they are gaining ground in the country and may one day take power if elections occur.
Do you have a group or example in mind? Given the choices, if not the MB, then whom? Hizbollah? Al Qaida?

I think I is good to review the Palestinian scenario. Yes, Hamas comes with serious baggage; however, they were democratically elected. Furthermore, given what happened to Shayhk Ahmed Yassin or Dr. Rantissi, I think most of us understand the hatred and desire to respond with violence. While there are many who believe Dr. Mahmoud Abbas is the answer, he received his PhD for a dissertation discussing how the Holocaust was a myth, and was a member of Black September in the 1970s. If we can deal with him, then we can surely deal with the others.
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Old 06-14-2006   #16
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It's also important to remember that the MB is not exactly a united front. There are many sub-factions of this organization, as pointed out in the wiki article I linked to in an earlier post. It's always important to remember that terrorist groups, as well as their political offspring and offshoots, are typically NOT under a "central command" in the sense that we understand it. Their ties are often hazy, united more by a common (or semi-common) idology. This can make them vulnerable to isolation, and also makes them easier to work with once you find a faction that is more compatible with what you want to accomplish.

With regard to Hamas, I do think that we mishandled that one to a degree. They were elected, so if we are the champions of democracy we claim to be then we have a certain obligation to at least make a good faith attempt to deal with them. I don't think it's in our best interest to see the Palestinian situation fall apart, which seems to be happening right now.
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Old 06-14-2006   #17
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I think the value in dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood is the possibility of establishing personal relationships between our foreign service professionals and its influential members. Those ties will make dealing with the MB a lot easier should they come to power - and will provide us with some fair warning of their intentions should they think about committing to a course of violent actions. We can safely ignore their rhetoric, although pointing out that it is painful and embarassing to us. Trying to censor the discussion outright, on rationalist Western terms, won't have any effect.

However, I don't believe that providing financial or material assistance to Hamas (or a Hamas lead Palestinian Authority) is a wise course of action. Hamas is involved in active violence against a long standing US ally. Every dollar we give to them, even if it isn't spent on weapons, frees up another dollar for them *to* spend on weapons. The whole point of money is that it's fungible, after all. Similar logic applies to humanitarian relief - if we're shipping over antibiotics, that's money they're free to spend on high explosives.

We support elections, and a representative Palestinian government. However, that government has decided to make statements and take actions overtly hostile to the United States of America. While declaring war on them isn't in our interests, neither is it in our interests to *give* them weapons with which to clobber us. The Palestinians had a choice between a Fatah lead government that would placate the United States and Israel, and a Hamas lead government that would clear up the endemic corruption in the Palestinian state. That's a crappy choice, but they made it. Continuing to fork over money and aid to Hamas is basically paying them not to hurt us - a strategy that will not succeed. Cutting them off, on the other hand, is treating them as a peer - a fellow nation - and not some helpless bunch of refugees whose words and actions have no meaning for us.
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Old 06-14-2006   #18
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I see that supporting reform groups is a popular idea, but you must remember that Diplomatic, Information, Military, and Economic platforms must be used in conjunction to effect change. Assuming the military is out of the question we should progress on a diplomatic, information, and economic front in the region.

As far as groups we might work with, Hamas as an elected entity must be confronted and handled as the elected body of the Palestinian people. We should not take away their funds or use sanctions. Sanctions rarely work and tend to cause insular conditions to setup with in a society. Look at Cuba, Iran, and our ineffectual dealings with Venezuela. Economic pressure by the U.S. will only harden Hamasí position allowing it to gain an out for lack of progress within the country. However, with money and subtle maneuvering we may be able to get Hamas to establish security, provide jobs, and have a stable government within the West Bank and Golan Heights. These conversely must be followed by reforms by Israel. If we separate the military and political elements of these groups we might see reform in the situation, but because of the networked structure of these groups, they rarely can control all elements with in their networks, requiring substantial political restraint.

Other groups such as Hezbollah might work as with the rise youth groups in Iran pushing for democratic reforms. However, U.S. cooperation with these groups is often a death blow for their leaders. Abbas was substantial hurt in more fundamentalist circles by his perceived partnership with the Bush administration and corruption of Arafat. Any of these actions will have to be back door or through covert contacts. As far as M.B. or Al Qaeda, they are too radical and have to much hate for the U.S. and too widely over arching goals to contend with them. Their might be moderates in the M.B. we could establish contacts with, but I donít see that as a promising option. As far as hate for Israel and Holocaust denial, that is to wide spread an idea in the M.E. to become to much a factor. Wether we like it or not we will have to move past this to gian any ground in the region, while still ensuring Israels viability.

Lastly, we can not expect any group we support to operate with out a viable economy. Without it, it is like asking a one legged man to run a marathon. Large groups of young men allowed to cluster in mosques and tea shops, without a promising future, educated or not, allows them to sit and think, far too much. Employment with security and an economy to create prosperity is a must for the region. If they donít have this, no reforms will succeed.
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Old 06-14-2006   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Blair
With regard to Hamas, I do think that we mishandled that one to a degree. They were elected, so if we are the champions of democracy we claim to be then we have a certain obligation to at least make a good faith attempt to deal with them. I don't think it's in our best interest to see the Palestinian situation fall apart, which seems to be happening right now.
Agreed we do more damage to ourselves by appearing as hypocrites who do not truly support democracy than we would by dealing, cautiously, with Hamas.
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Old 06-15-2006   #20
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Default 800 Pound Gorilla

Again,

Excellent discussion. The 800 pond gorilla in the room, however, is the U.S. relationship with Israel and attempts to balance that with approaches to organizations/parties/groups ala Hamas and the MB. To use an analogy, negotiations are like a playground see saw; it is difficult to achieve balance when you are sitting on one end.

As a point and not trying to stick a finger in RE Jones eye, I would offer this:

Quote:
Every dollar we give to them, even if it isn't spent on weapons, frees up another dollar for them *to* spend on weapons. The whole point of money is that it's fungible, after all. Similar logic applies to humanitarian relief - if we're shipping over antibiotics, that's money they're free to spend on high explosives.
The exact same paradigm applies to U.S. funds supplied to Israel that are not accounted for and have served as offsets for projects like settlements on the West Bank and in Gaza.

So in applying a degree of real politik to Hamas or the MB, a DIME approach must look at all nodal linkages with an equal degree of realism.

Best
Tom

P.S.

Adam, here come the phone calls

Last edited by Tom Odom; 06-16-2006 at 01:42 PM.
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