After HASM, Will the U.S. Designate the Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Organization?
A few days before the official transfer of power, in the United States, from the Republican President Trump to the Democrat President Biden, political chaos is raging, in an unprecedented way, across the capital city of Washington, D.C. as a result of sharp political fractions between the far-right supporters of Trump and the far-left supporters of Biden. However, this did not prevent the Trump Administration from announcing some important decisions related to the Middle East, in an attempt to fulfill some of Trump’s promises to pursue terrorist organizations in the region.
In the first week of January, the U.S. State Department announced designating the Iran-backed Houthi group, in Yemen, as a terrorist organization. The step came as no surprise to the observers who considered this designation as part of the Trump administration’s war on Iran. But the real surprise happened, a few days after that, in mid-January, when the State Department announced the designation of the Egyptian HASM militia on the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). This designation renewed hope that the U.S. may consider designating the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization of HASM, as a foreign terrorist organization.
Previously, in 2018, the U.S. State Department designated HASM and Liwa’ al-Thawra, which is also a militia affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). HASM and Liwaa Al-Thawra are armed groups affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood and have been operating in Egypt, since the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood regime, in 2013. Their goal was to cause extreme chaos that forces the military to return the Muslim Brotherhood regime back in power.
HASM was formed by young members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who fled to Turkey later on, in early 2015, and from there, the leaders of HASM continued to command operations implemented by the Muslim Brotherhood young members who could not flee Egypt. HASM operations, in Egypt, targeted police and military personnel and their families. The most prominent operation by HASM was the assassination of Egypt’s Attorney General, Hisham Barakat, on his way to work, in June 2015.
In the same statement, the State Department mentioned that they reviewed the FTO designation of the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and decided to maintain it. PIJ operates in Gaza and is generously supported by Qatar and Iran. However, PIJ originally belongs to Hamas, which in turn is one of the military arms of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas, also, is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, Britain, and some other countries, since 1990s.
The U.S. designation of HASM as FTO is a new evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood is a violent group that qualifies to be designated as a terrorist organization. HASM, HAMAS, Liwa’ Al-Thawra, and PIJ are armed factions of the Muslim Brotherhood and all of them are designated as terrorist organizations. The motto of the group, since its foundation a century ago, honors violent jihad as their way to spread the word of God. Yet, unfortunately, the U.S. is still hand-tied by legal and political considerations on this particular issue.
From the legal point of view, there is a difficulty proving that the Brotherhood is acting as a unilateral organization, where all its members, including renowned politicians affiliated to the group in several countries, incite and practice violence. The cluster structure of the Muslim Brotherhood organization and its widely spread cells, worldwide, makes it difficult to prove its unilaterality in systemic use of violence.
Politically, the Muslim Brotherhood has become an expired card for those who previously supported them, including Turkey, Qatar, and Britain, because of the severe divisions among the leaders. Yet, the group still has got high-profile politicians acting in leading official positions in some Middle Eastern countries, such as Turkey, Jordan, Tunisia, and Morocco. Designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization means cutting diplomatic relations with those countries and thus jeopardizing U.S. political, economic, and security interests that are, directly or indirectly, linked to them.
In fact, one can hardly be optimistic that the new US administration of President Biden may take a step towards designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. However, we must continue our efforts to document the violent atrocities practiced by the Muslim Brotherhood and educate the public opinion, around the world, about the extremist ideology of the group, which feeds the extremist rhetoric of all the Islamist terrorist organizations, known to us today. Exposing the ugly face of the Muslim Brotherhood is necessary to limit the group from abusing the current global turbulence in economic, political and health sectors to regain their power or win popular approval.
by: Dalia Ziada