A short history of U.S. involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood
This is an interesting blog on one of the most prominent and influential Islamist movements in the Muslim world. The Brotherhood was already important before the protests in Egypt, but now they’re apparently downright integral to what ever transition occurs in the most populous Arab country in the Middle East. And that means the U.S. has to pay close attention — again — to the Brotherhood.
Washington’s Secret History with the Muslim Brotherhood
As US-backed strongmen around North Africa and the Middle East are being toppled or shaken by popular protests, Washington is grappling with a crucial foreign-policy issue: how to deal with the powerful but opaque Muslim Brotherhood. In Egypt, the Brotherhood has taken an increasingly forceful part in the protests, issuing a statement Thursday calling for Mubarak’s immediate resignation. And though it is far from clear what role the Brotherhood would have should Mubarak step down, the Egyptian president has been claiming it will take over. In any case, the movement is likely to be a major player in any transitional government.
Journalists and pundits are already weighing in with advice on the strengths and dangers of this 83-year-old Islamist movement, whose various national branches are the most potent opposition force in virtually all of these countries. Some wonder how the Brotherhood will treat Israel, or if it really has renounced violence. Most—including the Obama administration —seem to think that it is a movement the West can do business with, even if the White House denies formal contacts.
If this discussion evokes a sense of déjà vu, this is because over the past sixty years we have had it many times before, with almost identical outcomes. Since the 1950s, the United States has secretly struck up alliances with the Brotherhood or its offshoots on issues as diverse as fighting communism and calming tensions among European Muslims. And if we look to history, we can see a familiar pattern: each time, US leaders have decided that the Brotherhood could be useful and tried to bend it to America’s goals, and each time, maybe not surprisingly, the only party that clearly has benefited has been the Brotherhood.
How can Americans be unaware of this history? Credit a mixture of wishful thinking and a national obsession with secrecy, which has shrouded the US government’s extensive dealings with the Brotherhood.