Foreign Affairs

White House huddles with Muslim Brotherhood

The White House spokesman said “we have broadened our engagement” by hosting the Islamist group that seeded al Qaeda and Hamas, praises Iran’s Hezbollah, and will transform Egypt into a Shari’a compliant state that seeks Israel’s destruction and creates a new terrorist sanctuary.   

Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said representatives from the world’s largest Islamic supremist movement, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, met with National Security Council staff last week because the group plays a “prominent role” in Cairo.  Further, NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor explained “It is in the interest of the United States to engage with parties that are committed to democratic principles, especially nonviolence.”

Evidently Vietor is not aware of the Brotherhood’s violent and anti-democratic history.  But obscuring its history was the group’s intent in coming to Washington — it needs President Barack Obama’s support as Egypt transitions from a caretaker military council government to one monopolized by Islamists.  

The Brotherhood wants to conceal its real intentions, says Said Sadek, a Cario-based political sociologist.  “The Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party are trying to appease the growing fears of an Islamist takeover.  They want to appear liberal.  But what they are saying is just lip service,” Sadek said.

They expect Obama to lend his support in part because the president’s fingerprints are all over Egypt’s 2011 revolution.  Recall that Obama called for former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s “immediate” resignation.  Then, instead of working with the moderates, Obama embraced the Brotherhood and boasted “I have an unyielding belief that you will determine your own destiny.”

They did determine their “own destiny” by electing a majority Islamist parliament that declared Israel “enemy number one” and now is drafting a Shari’a-based constitution, with liberal and Christian groups withdrawing for lack of roles.   Next month Egyptian voters go to the polls to elect a president, who will likely be an Islamist as well.

That election concerns Obama because the leading candidate is a radical Salafist.  The threat of a Salafist presidency prompted Obama to embrace the Brotherhood’s more “moderate” candidate and host meetings with representatives last week as a tacit endorsement to the skeptical ruling military council and the Egyptian people.

There are seven candidates for Egypt’s presidency with three running on Islamist platforms.  Khairat el-Shater, the Brotherhood’s former deputy supreme guide and presidential candidate, has met with many American officials “who have praised his moderation, business savvy and effectiveness,” according to the New York Times.   Shater says his top priority would be installing Islamic law.

Shater’s late entry into the race turned the campaign into an election over the degree of Islam the voters want in their government.   He faces a more liberal former Brotherhood leader (Aboul Fotouh) and Abu Ismail, an ultraconservative Salafist. 

But the Islamist challenge changed late last week when Ismail was effectively disqualified, after the election commission determined that his mother had been an American citizen.  Whether Ismail is really out, an Islamist will eventually win because 95 percent of Egyptians favor an Islamic leaning government, according to a 2010 Pew Research poll.

At this point no single candidate is expected to earn the required 50 percent of the votes in the May 23-24 first voting round.  Then the two top-scoring aspirants face off in the June 16-17 voting round. 

Likely, Shater will emerge victorious this June and then take the reigns of government unless the ruling military council refuses to relinquish power.  What could that mean for Egyptians, their neighbors and the West?

First, Egypt’s expected Shari’a-based constitution will be “the main source of legislation” which could radically transform that country.  Brotherhood chief cleric Shaykh al-Qaradhawi said on al-Nahar TV this January that Islamic law should be implemented gradually in Egypt.  “There should be no chopping off of hands in the first five years,” Qaradhawi said.

Qaradhawi promotes other Shari’a-based legislation as well.  He accepts wife-beating as a “last resort,” believes homosexuality should be punishable by death and female circumcision for “whoever finds it serving the interest of his daughters.” 

The Brotherhood’s Salafi partner, the al-Nour party, calls for laws mandating a shift to Islamic banking (no interest or fees for loans), “just and equal distribution” of income to the poor, restricting the sale of alcohol, providing special curriculums for school children, and impose restrictions on the freedoms of religious minorities such as the Coptic Christians.

Islamic law could radically transform the country’s trade arrangements, use of the strategic Suez Canal, and tourists visiting Egypt — a main source of income — could be required to abide by “Islamic principles, values, and laws.”

Second, an Islamist Egypt would realign partnerships and international obligations.  Cairo would grow closer to the Palestinians, Syria, Lebanon and Iran while becoming hostile to Israel and most of the West.  

Tensions with Israel and the West will skyrocket.  The Brotherhood’s supreme guide, Muhammad al-Badie, said Muslim regimes must confront Islam’s enemies, Israel and the U.S., and that waging jihad against them is a commandant of Allah.  Also, Qaradhawi publicly supports Palestinian suicide bombing and Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel.

The 1979 Camp David Accords will be in jeopardy.  Senior leader of the Brotherhood Essam el-Erian told the New York Times that the Accords are a “commitment of the state…and this we respect.”  But other members argue parts of the widely unpopular treaty will be revised and some still call for a national referendum on the pact.

Third, an Islamist-controlled Egypt will eventually purge its American-trained and -equipped military much like the transition that is now happening with Islamist Turkey.

The U.S. has given Egypt more than $70 billion in military aid since 1979 for abiding by the Camp David Accords.  This year those funds plus another $250 million to promote civil society and democracy were granted over congressional objections.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disregarded those objections in order to encourage the military’s cooperation during the transitional period.

Egypt’s military has contained the Islamists until the present.  There is little doubt that once the Islamists control Cairo they will purge that military and in the future Egyptian guns financed by U.S. taxpayers will be pointing at Americans, Israelis, and some will find their way into terrorist hands.

Finally, terrorist groups will find support in Egypt to radicalize the region like Pakistan.  Hamas, a Brotherhood off-spring, already enjoys renewed Egyptian support and could be emboldened to re-ignite a new war with Israel.

We have seen an increase in Egyptian-based terrorism.  Last week a rocket fired from Egypt’s Sinai desert hit Eilat, a southern Israeli resort city.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the Sinai was becoming a “terror zone.” “We cannot grant immunity to terror, we must fight against it.”

The Muslim Brotherhood is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  It came to Washington to appease the growing fears of an Islamist takeover.  But after taking power this summer expect the Brotherhood and its Salafi allies to abandon all “moderate” pretenses to become a Sunni version of the radical Islamic Republic of Iran.

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