US Senate attempts to label Muslim Brotherhood as 'terrorist' organisation

#Politics

DO NOT PUBLISH --- Official justifications for the bill expose confusion over which Islamist groups are which, as well as their relations with each other

Former ExxonMobil executive Rex Tillerson shakes hands with US Senator Ted Cruz (R) during his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State in Washington, DC on 11 January, 2017 (AFP)
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Tuesday 21 March 2017 15:00 UTC
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A fresh attempt by US Senator Ted Cruz to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization has exposed the confused and contradictory positions in US foreign policy in the Middle East. [ THIS INTRO FEELS A BIT TOO OPINIONATED - CAN YOU TONE IT DOWN TO STEER INTO ANALYSIS - REPORTING INSTEAD ]

[ WE NEED A GRAF OR TWO NEAR THE TOP TO SET THE STAGE - WHO THE BROTHERHOOD ARE AND THEIR STATUS IN THE US - TEMPO OF THE PIECE SLIGHTLY TOO FAST FOR CASUAL READER AT THIS STAGE ]

Cruz reintroduced a bill [ WHEN WAS IT REINTRODUCED? ] called the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act that would require the Secretary of State to submit a report to Congress on whether the Muslim Brotherhood meets the criteria to be designated as a terrorist organization.

“It's time to call the enemy by its name,” says Ted Cruz

If it does not, the Secretary of State would have to justify to Congress which criteria were not met.

The official justification for the bill on Cruz’s website, combined with statements and positions by President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet, betrayed confusion over which Islamist groups are which. [ SLIGHTLY REPETITIVE - CONFUSION MENTIONED IN HEAD, STANDFIRST AND TWICE IN SENTENCES SO FAR ]

Confusion, clashes, and conspiracy theories [ ANOTHER CONFUSION! ]

On his website, Cruz said he would reintroduce two bills “that will protect Americans from the threat of radical Islamic terror, directing the State Department to hold accountable both the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Muslim Brotherhood, two foreign entities that espouse a violent Islamist ideology with a mission of destroying the West.”

The Muslim Brotherhood is a Sunni reformist Islamist movement who seek implement their vision through participation in democratic elections.

The IRGC are a Shia military organization responsible for defending the Khomeinist revolution at home and promoting it abroad through overt and covert military action.

The Muslim Brotherhood and the IRGC are on opposite sides of conflicts across the Middle East, not least in Syria where they are in open, military conflict with each other.

“I am proud to reintroduce these bills that would codify needed reforms in America’s war against radical Islamic terrorism,” said Cruz, undeterred by the local politics of the region and lumping all shades of Islamists into one camp. [ HAVE WE GOT ANYONE WHO HAS MADE THE POINT YOU MAKE? ]

“A grand détente with the Muslim Brotherhood and a blind eye to the IRGC are not pathways to peace in this struggle; they guarantee the ultimate success of our enemy,” he said.

“It is time to call this enemy by its name and speak with clarity and moral authority,” he added, without clarifying the ideological link between the Muslim Brotherhood and the IRGC.



Ted Cruz said he was "proud" to reintroduce the two bills (AFP)

With regards to the Brotherhood, Cruz said that: “The U.S. has officially listed individual members, branches, and charities of the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists, such as Hamas, al Qaeda, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but has not designated the organization as a whole.”

Al-Qaeda, however, was formed in response to the Muslim Brotherhood’s disavowal of violence and belief in democratic elections. [ AGAIN, CAN  WE HAVE AN EXPERT SAY THIS? ]

Furthermore, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is not only not part of the Muslim Brotherhood but serves as one of Hamas’ main rivals in the besieged Gaza Strip.

[ GENERAL THOUGHT - CAN WE MAYBE PULL TOGETHER ALL OF CRUZ'S ETC ACCUSATIONS IN ONE PLACE - AND THEN USE AN EXPERT TO REBUT THEM ? ]

The PIJ have been increasingly backed by Iran and the IRGC in response to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood support of the Syrian opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s government, which is also backed by Iran.

Cruz continued: “The intent of the Brotherhood is stated within its Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Brotherhood in North America; ‘The process of settlement is a Civilization-Jihad process…The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers.’”

However, the ‘Civilization-Jihad’ document has been widely, conclusively, and repeatedly debunked as a conspiracy theory.

Cruz’s bill is being introduced with Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, who has filed companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Diaz-Balart said on Cruz’s website: “Designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization is an important step in defeating violent extremists.” 



There are areas of overlap and conflict between Trump, his cabinet, and his supporters (AFP)

He gave no further details as to how this would work, an important omission considering the coup against Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government emboldened violent extremists in the region.

The Muslim Brotherhood “should perhaps learn a little from the lessons of history and those ‘democratically elected’ before them in Algeria or even Hamas,” Somalia’s al-Qaeda branch al-Shabaab tweeted at the time

“It’s now time for the MB to revise its policies, adjust its priorities and turn to the one and the only solution for change: jihad,” they continued.

“It’s time to remove those rose-tinted spectacles and see the world as accurately as it is, change comes by the bullet alone; NOT the ballot.”  [ HOW DOES THE AL SHABAAB TWEET RELATE TO CRUZ BILL - SLIGHTLY TANGENTIAL IT SEEMS? ]

While claiming al-Qaeda and the PIJ as Brotherhood offshoots, Cruz’s website notably made no mention of Tunisia’s lauded Ennahda Party or Turkey's ruling AK Party. [ ARE THEY RELATED TO THE BROTHERHOOD? IF SO THEN NEED TO MAKE IT CLEAR... ]

Complicating matters still further is that Turkey’s ruling party has been lobbied for by Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn, who in turn vigorously opposes the Muslim Brotherhood, despite Turkey and its ruling party being one of its primary sponsors in the region.

Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson also seemed to take Flynn’s line on Turkey: “We have to reengage with President Erdogan in Turkey,” Tillerson said. “This is a long-standing NATO ally that in the absence of American leadership… turned to an ally in Russia.”[ SLIGHTLY GOING OFF ON A TANGENT HERE WITH TURKEY ETc? ]

But in the same confirmation hearing, he described the Brotherhood as an "agent of radical Islam," saying: "The demise of ISIS would also allow us to increase our attention on other agents of radical Islam like al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and certain elements within Iran."

Conservative Americans seem to be pleased with Tillerson’s position on the Muslim Brotherhood

If confirmed as the American foreign minister, Tillerson would have the authority to designate groups as terrorist organizations.

Michele Dunne, a Middle East and foreign-policy analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the Washington Post that if successful, Cruz’s effort would signify “the first time that the United States would declare an organization to be a foreign terrorist organization on ideological grounds.”

She said the designation is reserved for groups that have carried out acts of terrorism against civilians or U.S. citizens, adding “the Cruz bill certainly doesn’t establish that the Brotherhood has done anything like that.” [ COMMENTS FROM DUNNE ARE GREAT - BUT WE NEED MORE OF THESE HIGHER UP TO SHOOT DOWN CRUZ ETC IF THAT'S THE PLAN ]

‘It’s great’

Quick off the blocks to show his support for Cruz’s plan was Egyptian MP Mohamed Abu Hamed.

Abu Hamed is a self-styled ‘liberal reformist’ who aggressively advocated for and supported the 2013 military coup against Egypt’s first-democratically elected president.

The following year, he became the spokesman for the ‘Sisi Supporters Front,’ a merger of 28 groups that were calling on then defense minister and coup leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to run for president.

Abu Hamed is an MP on behalf of the Free Egyptians Party, which is founded and funded by one of Egypt’s most famous billionaires Naguib Sawiris – who in turn has had warm words for Trump, another billionaire who entered politics.

Tarek Radwan, deputy chairman of Egypt's parliamentary foreign affairs committee, also said that his government was “at war” against the Muslim Brotherhood and other “radical political Islam movements.”

He said it was “important to exploit the new anti-radical Islam atmosphere in America to achieve our goal."

Radwan made his comments ahead of a US visit by a delegation of Egyptian MPs and pro-government civil society members that will begin on 21 January.

The Brotherhood rebuts

In a press release released on 11 January, the Muslim Brotherhood said it was “committed to adopting a revolutionary path in resisting the coup.”

“This does not mean ‘the militarization of the revolution’ or the use of violence,” the statement continued, “but it means opposing the coup regime through every means of legitimate nonviolent resistance, compatible with all relevant international standards, to remove military dictatorships, and restore freedom and dignity to the people.”

“The Muslim Brotherhood is acting according to its new vision,” the statement added, saying that this vision includes “drawing a new map of political alliances based on common ground with the revolutionary and youth political forces, and other actors of the community, as well as the liberation movements and blocs that defend freedoms and human rights all over the world.” [ I JUST WONDER IF WE SHOULD HAVE THIS WAY FURTHER UP - AS A REBUTTAL TO THE BILL ]