Saturday,26 May, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1328, (19 - 25 January 2017)
Saturday,26 May, 2018
Issue 1328, (19 - 25 January 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Trump and the Muslim Brotherhood

The director of the CIA of the outgoing Barack Obama administration has acknowledged that Washington miscalculated when it imagined that the Arab Spring would sweep away the region’s authoritarian regimes and usher in democratic systems. His government was therefore wrong to have supported the Arab Spring on the basis of this premise. Moreover, he added, as he, like other members of the administration, gathered his papers together preparatory to leaving office, Washington was also mistaken in its decision to withdraw from Iraq. Were it not for this withdrawal, the Islamic State group (IS) would never have appeared.

While some of Obama’s senior staff members had the courage to admit mistakes, the key figures in that administration did not. The explanation for this is that the real reason for that government’s support for the Arab Spring had its origins in a pre-prepared vision and plan. Every step and every course of action had been studied in advance by the Obama administration which had inherited the essence of its vision for the region from the administration of George Bush Jr and his national security advisor and then secretary of state in his second term Condoleezza Rice.

That vision was founded on the premise that the Muslim Brotherhood was a moderate political group and that if it had the chance to rule in a number of Arab countries this would rein in Islamist extremist groups that had turned to violence and terrorism because of the closed political horizons in their countries as well as due to widespread corruption. Accordingly, the Obama administration worked to promote the Muslim Brotherhood and leverage it into power in several Arab countries after having reached certain deals with Muslim Brotherhood leaders on issues that were crucial to Washington, above all Israeli security and the stability of the Camp David Accords. The White House also opened its doors to the Muslim Brotherhood, enabling its members to enter administration ranks as senior staff advisors and to infiltrate other crucial institutions. Huma Abedin became deputy chief-of-staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, in turn, promised Abedin the secretary of state post if she won the presidential elections.

The confessions of Obama administration staff members are emerging at a time when President-elect Donald Trump, who will be sworn in tomorrow, 20 January, has warned of the danger of the Muslim Brotherhood that he described as the mother of all terrorist organisations. Trump also stated that Egypt was the only Arab country that was fighting terrorism seriously and relentlessly and that Washington had been wrong to let Egypt fight that vicious war on its own. This was a policy that he vowed to change.

It appears that Trump’s sentiments on this issue are shared by other members of his forthcoming administration. During his confirmation hearings in the Senate, Trump’s nominee as secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, held that the next step after eliminating IS was to focus on the fight against Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is a clear sign of a fundamental change in Washington’s vision and policies toward the Middle East.

Trump’s nominees for other posts voiced similar opinions in their congressional hearings. They, too, held that militant fundamentalist organisations were the main source of threat to the US. For the first time, the Muslim Brotherhood was explicitly listed together with IS and Al-Qaeda in this context. In fact, one nominee stated that the text target in the war against terrorism after IS should be the Muslim Brotherhood. Such statements indicate that the forthcoming administration will be the first in Washington to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation.

This signals a remarkable turnaround in US policy. In addition to the abovementioned success in penetrating executive ranks in Washington, the Muslim Brotherhood had enjoyed total and unrestricted freedom to operate on US soil during Obama’s eight years in power. No wonder we saw images of Muslim Brotherhood leaders prostrating themselves and kissing the ground the moment they reach the US, in spite of the fact that all of the same had been nurtured on the ideology of Sayed Qotb to whom the concept of the nation meant no more than “a handful of putrid dirt”.

Of course, the Muslim Brotherhood had been pinning their hopes on a Clinton victory and more years in which to infiltrate US institutions. They were looking forward to a golden age in the White House, heralded by Clinton’s appointment of Abedin as her secretary of state. This is why Saudi Arabia (King Salman and his son the deputy crown prince) had rallied all their resources behind Clinton and why Qatar was a major funder of her campaign. It is also why the shock they received was doubly strong when the Republican candidate, Trump, defeated the Democratic one. Trump regards the Muslim Brotherhood as the mother of all terrorist organisations. The defeat of that group would signal the defeat of the forces of evil that have dominated the Middle East after 2011 and that have spread their violence and terrorism across the globe.

Trump’s pick for attorney general was one of the co-sponsors of the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act. If that bill passes into law, he would be an enthusiastic enforcer of its provisions, which would entail confiscation of the group’s assets and banning its activities in the US.

Washington would then ask its allies in Europe, Asia and Africa to join in the new wave of the American war against terrorism as embodied in the International Muslim Brotherhood organisation. The campaign would inevitably lead to a confrontation against the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief international backers, Erdogan’s Turkey, and Tamim’s Qatar, which, in turn will have a major impact on Erdogan’s political future and Turkey’s relations with the US and with NATO. Major changes are in store for the Gulf region as well.

An ideal opportunity lays ahead for Egypt. Is Cairo prepared to seize it?

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