Our Secret Connections with the Muslim Brotherhood
Ian Johnson - March 10, 2011
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 on February 3 calling for Mubarak’s immediate resignation. And though it is far from clear what role the Brotherhood would have if Mubarak were to step down, the movement is likely to be a major player in any transitional government.
Journalists and pundits are already giving advice on the strengths and dangers of this eighty-three-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, that 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.
Tags: Muslim Brotherhood