The Egyptian government formally labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group on December 25, banning all of its activities including protests. The Obama Administration, advised by Brotherhood-friendly groups in the U.S., is unlikely to follow in Egypt’s footsteps in calling a spade a spade.
The announcement came after the government blamed the Brotherhood for the suicide bombing of a police station in Mansoura. No proof was offered of Brotherhood involvement. A pro-Al-Qaeda group named Ansar Jerusalem, based in the Sinai Peninsula, took credit.
The Brotherhood may or may not be involved in that specific bombing in Mansoura, but that doesn’t mean it is peaceful. It has threatened to form a rebel armed force. After the Egyptian military’s crackdown on the Brotherhood began, Egyptians outraged by the response of the U.S. government and media posted eye-opening videos showing Brotherhood members threatening violence, attacking Egyptian security forces and churches, and putting children at risk for the sake of propaganda.
In addition, Brotherhood preachers continue to instigate violence in Egypt and abroad. The organization knows what it’s doing. Why officially engage in violence when individual members and Salafist allies will do so on their own accord, leaving room for deniability?
The labeling of the group as terrorists comes as the government prosecutes former President Morsi and many other Brotherhood operatives. Morsi is accused of involvement in a “terrorist plan” begun in 2005 to send Brotherhood fighters to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip for training by Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.
The Obama Administration has decided to swim against the regional anti-Brotherhood wave, cutting aid to Egypt’s government and siding with the Brotherhood. The result is a realignment in alliances that pushes the Arab world into the arms of Russia.
It is extremely unlikely that the U.S. State Department will similarly designate the Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, even though it meets the qualifications. It is more likely that the administration will condemn Egypt’s latest action.
The State Department says there are three criteria a group must meet to be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
First, the group must be foreign. The Brotherhood’s home base is in Egypt. Its International Organization reportedly moved to Tunisia. Turkey has become its“regional hub” and senior leaders are hosted in Qatar. Check.
Second, it must threaten U.S. nationals or national security, including the American economy. Its regional ambitions for a Caliphate undoubtedly threaten U.S. security. As for nationals, the Brotherhood has justified attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also steadfastly supports the terrorism of Hamas and other groups against U.S. allies.
In August 2012, I had an intriguing exchange with the Brotherhood’s English-language Twitter account. It started off with insulting me as “delusional” and a “scaremonger.” It later posted an article arguing that it opposes violence. I asked whether there were exceptions, such as for U.S. soldiers.
“Unless if they were aggressors and invaders of our lands no matter what nationality? Of course,” was the response.
I followed up by asking if the staging country of the “aggressors and invaders” would be an acceptable target in that scenario. The answer was, “Yes, according to International Law, it’s an act of war.”
Of course, the Brotherhood regularly slams the U.S. and its allies as “aggressors and invaders.” Therefore, as the Brotherhood indirectly admitted, the U.S. can be considered a legitimate target.
Thirdly, to qualify as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, the group must “engage in terrorist activity or retain the capability and intention to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism.”
That’s easy. Hamas is labeled a Foreign Terrorist Organization and Hamas’s charter states that it is the Palestinian “wing” of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas changed its name in December 2011 to clarify that it is a “branch” of the Brotherhood. There is even video of Hamas leaders publicly pledging allegiance to the Brotherhood and, specifically, to its jihad.
Brotherhood apologists will argue that the group is not operationally supportive of Hamas terrorism, only ideologically. This is false. For example, the Treasury Department designated the Union of Good as a terrorist entity for financing Hamas. It is led by Yousef al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Brotherhood.
Israeli aircraft have conducted numerous airstrikes on Iranian rocket shipments to the Gaza Strip through Sudan and Egypt. Hamas does not have an independent structure in Egypt. It is obvious that the Brotherhood networks in Egypt helped manage this route.
It was also proven in court that the Muslim Brotherhood infrastructure in America is guilty of terrorist activity by financing Hamas. The Holy Land Foundation was a key U.S. Muslim Brotherhood component, managed under the Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee, until it was shut down in 2001 for financing Hamas.
When the Holy Land Foundation was found guilty in court in 2008, the Muslim Brotherhood was essentially found guilty. The two are one and the same.
Other U.S. Brotherhood components like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) were labeled unindicted co-conspirators in the trial. In 2009, Judge Solis upheld the labels because of “ample” evidence linking the unindicted co-conspirators to Hamas and the overall terrorism-supporting Brotherhood infrastructure.
Federal prosecutors separately confirmed the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s involvement in terrorism in a 2007 court filing. It stated:
From its founding by Muslim Brotherhood leaders, CAIR conspired with other affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood to support terrorists … the conspirators agreed to use deception to conceal from the American public their connections to terrorists.
The Muslim Brotherhood fulfills all three requirements to be labeled a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department.
There are three reasons why this has not happened: The Brotherhood’s lobby, ignorance and fear.
The political influence of the Brotherhood lobby is enormous. President Obama even addressed the annual convention of a U.S. Brotherhood entity in September. It continues to advise the administration, just as it did the two before it. The impact can even be seen on the Department of Homeland Security.
The lobby’s influence triggers the second factor: Ignorance. Politicians, media figures, even counter-terrorism personnel are left in the dark.
Then, there’s the third factor: Fear. Designating the Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization would be messy.
Dozens of mosques and Islamic centers would be raided and the most powerful Muslim-American organizations would be shut down or, at least, publicly investigated. The outcry of “Islamophobia” would be louder than ever as news cameras repeatedly aired footage of federal agents entering mosques.
The global Brotherhood apparatus would go into anti-American overdrive and some of those refraining from violence would reconsider. It would spark outrage from Muslim governments and organizations around the world, especially from “ally” Qatar and NATO member Turkey.
None of these excuses are acceptable. If a group qualifies as a terrorist organization, it needs to be treated as such, regardless of convenience. The facts speak for themselves: The Muslim Brotherhood is a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.