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Why US Mulls Blacklisting Muslim Brotherhood?

Alwaght – The 9/11 attacks solved the post-Soviet US foreign policy uncertainty crisis by pushing the American strategists to embark on the doctrine of fighting terrorism. Military invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq ensued under the ruse of fighting terrorist groups but for the real reason of establishing a global hegemony in a unipolar world. Since the beginning, the opposition by various sides poured to the US, accusing Washington of having its interest-seeking interpretation of terrorism. But the US administrations appeared to be shrugging off the criticism and continuing their course unceasingly. Just yesterday, the US congressman called on the Departments of State and Defense to provide a report to the Congress about the nature of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) movement.

Muslim-BrotherhoodThe lawmakers asked for a list of information on the movement’s assets, its funders across West Asia, its branches’ sources of income, details about its organizational structure, and its leadership in West Asia and North Africa.

The MB, an Islamic organization which announced existence in Egypt in 1982, is one of the oldest Muslim movements in the world’s contemporary history. So, the US decision to blacklist the movement as a terrorist organization is not disconnected from the region’s current developments. In the past, the US designated as terror entities a number of MB offshoots, including Hamas and Hasm movements, both organizationally related to the Muslim Brotherhood. However, Washington has so far declined to declare the MB as a terrorist organization.

MB, a threat to the US interests

Since the second half of the twentieth century, the Muslim world saw the rise of political Islamist movements with the aim to fight for independence in the face of colonial powers. One of the movements was the Muslim Brotherhood. The US, in an effort to save its interests, embarked on an anti-MB policy in the region. For example, the US intelligence provoked the Algerian army to plot a coup against the Islamic Salvation Front (ISF) which won the parliamentary election in 1991 to lead the country. The US intervention led to a decade-long civil war in the North African state as the military took over the rule through a putsch. The fighting killed thousands of Algerians. Despite the intervention in the Arab world, the confrontation of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, which brought down the Western-aligned monarchy in Iran and installed a pro-independence system in the country, took a center stage in the US strategy for the region. But Washington and the Brotherhood mainly clashed after 2011, the year that ushered in a series of uprisings in the Arab world.

The February 2011 marked a turning point in the Egypt history as month-long protests forced the pro-Western dictator Hosni Mubarak to step down as a president. The country held a presidential election in 2012 and MB candidate Mohamad Morsi won to become first democratically-elected Egyptian president. On February 1, 2011, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a Republican-led meeting meant to explore why the US should be afraid of MB power gain and what tools it can use to bring the Egyptian army to its side to play its role in accordance with the American regional interests in the post-Mubarak Egypt.

In the region, the US and MB are on a collision course in terms of policies. Washington gives a top priority to the protection of the Israeli regime and its interests in its regional strategy. The Brotherhood of Egypt and Palestine (Hamas), on the other side, adopts resistance to the Israeli occupation and expansionism as a key ideological pathway. So, when Morsi took the power, the US started counter-actions. Finding the Cairo-Tel Aviv accords and cooperation to squeeze Hamas in Gaza Strip at stake, the US, colluding with the Israelis and the Saudis, orchestrated a military takeover in Egypt. Morsi was ousted on July 3, 2013, and his chief of staff Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took the power.

Since Trump assumed power in the US, Washington, assisted by Riyadh and Tel Aviv– both finding the Brotherhood an existential threat– intensified pressures against the Islamist organization. Earlier this year, Trump said he was considering to put a ban on the MB. He, however, declined to do so as his State Department diplomats warned him that the move could prompt dangerous consequences to the American interests. Still, the Foreign Relations Committee, presided by Senator Ed Royce of California, added Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on its terror blacklist. Sanctions against him ensued as part of Taylor Force Act, a legislative aimed at hitting the roots of funding to the Palestinian movement.

In February, the US Congress approved Hamas Human Shields Prevention Act to justify additional sanctions against Hamas. In July, Ron DeSantis, the Republican of Florida, pressed for a bill, titled Muslim Brotherhood’s Global Threat, suggesting that the US designates MB in its entirety a terrorist organization and impose large-scale sanctions against it.

Pressing Turkey and Qatar

Aside from the innate US opposition to the MB and the political Islam as a whole, the recent months’ regional developments, including the tensions between Washington and Ankara, are the main drives for the congressmen to ban the Islamist organization. The Congress demanded a list of funders of the organization, mainly Qatar and Turkey as political and financial supporters, signaling that Ankara and Doha could be the center of a Washington pressure effort.

The US and Turkey have been at loggerheads since 2016 when a military coup sought President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ousting. Erdogan blamed the failed power grab attempt on the US and its home operatives. The tension even sharpened lately as Ankara rejected a US demand to free an American pastor imprisoned in Turkey for espionage and subversion charges. The Congress also suspended F-35 fighter jets delivery to Turkey, complicating the rift. Trump even added fuel to the fire by announcing sanctions on Ankara and waging a war of tariffs against the fellow NATO ally, forcing the Turkish national currency lira into a huge value loss and causing an economic predicament to Erdogan. Qatar, itself under an all-out blockade by US Arab allies led by Saudi Arabia, announced a $15 billion investment package to allied Turkey to handicap Trump’s effort to bring Erdogan to his knees.

Now the anti-MB bill provides the golden chance to press the two backers. But, if the bill is passed into a law, will the advantages preponderate over the consequences, having in mind that the MB has profound political influence and even holds parliamentary representation in countries such as Jordan? Apparently, the US strategists are divided on the answer.

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