An e-mail written by former Director of Policy Planning Jake Sullivan to Hillary Clinton should seriously call into question the USA’s real stance towards the Muslim Brotherhood after the Arab Spring. At the beginning of 2012, Sullivan forwarded information provided by a person with access to the highest levels of the Muslim Brotherhood. It included reports about Muslim Brotherhood meetings in which the organization discussed ways to promote their agenda that among other things aims at transforming the Egyptian state into an Islamic Republic and at ending the cooperation between Egypt and Israel. Hence, the current US-administration cannot deny knowing the true intent of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Notwithstanding, it encouraged and supported the Muslim Brotherhood and presented the organization to the public as pragmatic political force. Furthermore, Huma Abedin, longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, is meanwhile generally known for her personal connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. Hillary Clinton must have been aware of the danger that Egypt under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood could easily develop into the same direction as post-Shar Iran. This would mean an acute threat to human rights in the country. Summing up, one can say that the US-State Department and the Obama administration have supported a party that wants to apply Sharia law and tendencies within the Arab Spring that turned stable nations into chaotic war countries in which Islamists continuously gain strength.
Five years ago, Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown by a military coup as a reaction to 18 days of mass protests. Since then, the USA has been uncertain about an adequate reaction to the events. In fact, supporting the protesters was a interests-versus-values decision and led to internal debates within the US-administration. President Barack Obama called for a political transition while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was reluctant regarding that question. The USA had been in a dilemma because support for the uprising caused damage to its relationships with regional allies while support for the Egyptian president would have hurt the USA’s reputation as defender of democracy. Nevertheless, the debate itself overstated US-influence over the dynamic uprising during the so called “Arab Spring”.
During the mass protests initially non-Islamist activists took to the streets and later where joined by followers and activists of the Muslim Brotherhood. The military acted against protestors according to its mandate but in reality was not willing to disperse the protests with force. Despite Obama’s call for a political transition, Mubarak had to resign due to public pressure. An important lesson learned from the Arab Spring is that the USA can best exert influence by acting decisively and according to the realities on the ground.
Barack Obama visited a mosque for the first time during his presidency in order to show his appreciation for the contributions of Muslim Americans to the nation. In addition he also aimed at the promotion of religious tolerance in times of increasing Islamophobia. It is a way to counter election campaigns of presidential candidates like Donald Trump or Ben Carson who constantly link Islam with terrorism.
Thereby, Obama ignores the fact that Muslims themselves make public statements that connect their religion to terrorism. For instance, the latest video of the Islamic state is titled “Kill them wherever you find them”, a quotation from the Quran. Another example is the rhetoric of a convert to Islam who shot a police officer in Philadelphia and pretended to follow Allah and the Islamic State by committing the attack.
However, Obama not only chose to visit a mosque that is closely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood but he also disregards the negative side when celebrating the contributions of Muslims. Examples are checkpoints and security measures at the entrance of buildings and at the airport, video surveillance and data monitoring that shall prevent jihadist attacks. Furthermore, Muslim terrorists made necessary the creation of new government agencies, the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security. All those actions are costly and burden the US-budget. That is the other side of the coin.
Five years ago the well established Muslim Brotherhood seemed to be the winning force of the Arab Spring and was able to transform its popular support into political power in several countries in the Middle East. Today we see that the Brotherhood failed to cope with the difficult realities of politics in those countries. The Islamic State’s rejection of politics and usage of violence provides a viable alternative for many disappointed people who would have expected more progress.
The Muslim Brotherhood has always tried to separate the parties from its movement that is dedicated to social change and operates a broad network of charities. Thus, the Egyptian Freedom and Justice Party was supposedly independent but in practice its leadership and membership corresponded to that of the Muslim Brotherhood. The politicization of the movement led to a shortcut in its actual bottom-up approach of Islamization of the society. In addition, Egyptians started connecting social care provided by the Muslim Brotherhood with expectations of electoral support for the party and thereby the Brotherhood became indistinguishable from other political competitors.
When the political crisis erupted in 2013, the Brotherhood calculated that it has to risk the movement to save the party. Finally, with the military coup against the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood lost both. The party is banned in Egypt and the movement’s network of religious and social service is uprooted due to its central role in the political success of the party. At the moment, the Muslim Brotherhood is unable to articulate its mission without reference to electoral politics.