If the White House is out to offend some of its closest Arab allies and is intent on heightening their suspicions, it’s succeeded. Egyptians, in particular, were outraged to learn that top officials from the US State Department recently hosted a delegation that included two senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders and others closely aligned with the organisation deemed terrorist by some of its closest Middle East allies.
According to Brotherhood attendees, talks with the State Department were “fruitful” and the department “is open for engagement” whatever that means. Judging by the self-satisfied grin of delegation member, Waleed Sharaby, a spokesman for “Judges for Egypt” — a group known to have Brotherhood sympathies — they certainly were. He was confident enough to pose for a photograph while flashing the notorious four-fingered Raba’a sign in front of the State Department logo.
Another delegate Jamal Heshmat, boasted that he held talks with a White House representative. When White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked for details on the visit during a press briefing, she responded, “Well, State Department officials recently met with a group of visiting Egyptian former parliamentarians…” So that’s alright then. What’s wrong with kindly US officials getting together over coffee with a bunch of down-trodden has-been lawmakers, to give them a friendly pat on the back!
If there is a plot, then it’s unfolding. Just two days after the controversial visit, the Brotherhood called for a war against their fellow Egyptians. “It is incumbent upon everyone to be aware that we are in the process of a new phase, where we summon what is latent in our strength, where we recall the meanings of jihad and prepare ourselves, our wives, our sons, our daughters, and whoever marched on our path to a long, uncompromising fight, and during this stage we ask for martyrdom,” its statement read.
Since then, the Muslim Brotherhood has terrorised Egyptian cities with improvised explosive devices while its de facto military wing in Sinai, Ansar Beit Al Maqdis that’s pledged allegiance to Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), on Thursday, launched attacks on Egyptian soldiers, killing 30.
The Brotherhood announced that the Egyptian military should retreat to its barracks to end “the shedding of Egyptian blood in Sinai”. The founder of Islamic Jihad Nabeel Naeem revealed to Al-Masry Al-Youm that Ansar Beit Al Maqdis is being funded by the Brotherhood and serves their goals. That makes sense, in light of one of the senior Brotherhood leaders, Mohammad Al Beltagy’s 2013 pledge to the effect that terrorist attacks in Sinai would end when former president Mohammad Mursi returns to the palace.
There’s been speculation regarding President Barack Obama’s buddy-buddy relationship with the Brotherhood. Generally speaking, this allegation is written-off as a conspiracy theory that evolved due to his paternal antecedents, his middle name “Hussain” and the fact that his half-brother Malek, the best man at his wedding, is reportedly the executive-secretary of the Sudanese Islamic Dawa Party. What is indisputable is the fact that he’s been accused by various lawmakers of permitting his administration to be infiltrated by individuals linked to the Brotherhood. In 2013, five members of Congress — Michelle Bachman, Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Tom Rooney and Lynn Westmoreland — called for an investigation into the influence the Brotherhood had over the administration.
According to Katie Gorka, President of the Council on Global Security, earlier on there were members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council “who were known Islamists or Muslim Brotherhood members who had gone on record defending terrorist groups and acts of terrorism.” A senior advisor, Mohammad Elibiary who had served on the Department of Homeland Security for five years, resigned in September last year. He is open concerning his close involvement with the Brotherhood which he terms as a “social group” and was quoted as saying if the Brotherhood didn’t exist, “the world would rush to create it.”
For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that the above allegations are hogwash. It’s out of the question that the de facto Leader of the Free World and America’s commander-in-chief would knowingly embrace suspect Islamist organisations at a time when the world is coming together to take on Daesh, Al Qaida, Boko Haram and other Islam-distorting killing machines.
The problem here is, though, that his behaviour in reaction to Egypt’s June 30 revolution triggering the ousting of Mursi was illogical to say the least. Put simply, the White House ignored the will of many millions of Egyptians and fought tooth and nail to get Brotherhood figures released from detention and the organisation reinstated within Egypt’s political spectrum. The lingering unanswered question is why would the US champion political Islam in preference to the type of secular system that exists in all western democracies?
Bill O’Reilly of Fox News summed-up the situation with his trademark bluntness. “The truth is that the Muslim world, most of it, would like to see extremists defeated. They’re bad for business, bad for the soul. But America is not going to put the extremists out of business because the commander-in-chief lacks the will.” Does he lack the will or is something more sinister going on behind the scenes?
Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at email@example.com