Why It Matters Who Wins in Egypt

egypt-cairo-man_2645464b-448x350By Daniel Greenfield:

These days and weeks of bloody struggle in Egypt have implications that go far beyond the country and the region.

The conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and its opponents will determine whether an Islamic terrorist group will run Egypt.

Forgotten in all the Arab Spring cheerleading is the simple fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist group. And not only is it a terrorist group but it is the single most influential Sunni Islamic terrorist group in the world, spawning entire networks of terrorist organizations; including Al Qaeda.

Egypt holds great resources and great wealth, advanced weapons and even limited nuclear capability. But beyond that it is also where the modern age of terror began, where Western ideas crossbred with the ancient Jihad of Islam to create a new strategic threat.

The Arab Spring, the Islamist Winter and the Military Summer are more than just seasons for Egypt, they are also transformative phases for the country that long stood at the crossroads of terrorism.

The road to America’s modern confrontation with Islamic terrorism began in Egypt. The World Trade Center bombing was spawned by a leader of the Egyptian Islamic Group, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mohamed Atta, the key figure in the September 11 attacks, was an Egyptian member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Today the Engineers Syndicate, the Brotherhood front group that Atta was a member of, is holding rallies in support of Morsi.

The Syndicate is one of many front groups that the Muslim Brotherhood uses to recruit new members. That same process takes place at most American colleges through front groups such as the Muslim Students Association; four of whose chapter presidents became high-ranking Al Qaeda members. One of whom co-founded Al Qaeda.

The clash between the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood is at the heart of the War on Terror. Al Qaeda may often be associated with Saudi Arabia, but its real roots lie closer to Egypt.

Before Ayman al-Zawahiri became the leader of Al Qaeda, he was a member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and headed up the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization spun off from the Muslim Brotherhood that eventually merged into Al Qaeda.

Membership in the Muslim Brotherhood is a biographical note that Ayman al-Zawahiri shared with Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda’s interim Emir after Bin Laden’s death was Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, maintaining the Egyptian identity of the new Al Qaeda leadership.

Zawahiri was described as the “brains” of Al Qaeda while Bin Laden was its purse and its public image. That organizational and interpersonal relationship mimics the greater one between the Muslim Brotherhood and its wealthy Gulf oil backers.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and other oil kingdoms may fund terrorism, protect terrorists and fill out their ranks; they may spread the corrosion of its clerics into the West, but they aren’t its brains.

Al Qaeda after Bin Laden is more “Egyptian” and more “Brotherhood” than ever. It draws its rank and file Jihadists from the usual sources, but its orientation has shifted away from Azzam’s global Jihad against the infidels and toward the Islamic civil wars that Zawahiri had sought to fight all along.

There have been no major Al Qaeda operations launched against America. Instead Al Qaeda has reemerged as a loosely aligned group of franchises fighting to take over Muslim countries.

Read more at Front Page

 

Egypt Pursues Hezbollah

Hezbollah supporters at a rally in Lebanon (Photo: Reuters)

Hezbollah supporters at a rally in Lebanon (Photo: Reuters)

By Clare Lopez

Sunnis and Shi’ites are literally at each others’ throats these days in Syria, much as they have been for over 1300 years of Islamic fitna, but elsewhere rapprochement may be the word of the day. The Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon was quoted in a December 29, 2012 Daily Caller interview talking about pursuing a relationship with Hezbolllah, Iran’s Shi’ite terror proxy.

Calling Hezbolllah a “real political and military force” on the ground in Lebanon,” Ashraf Hamdy, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s envoy to Beirut, provided the latest signal that a new Cairo-Tehran axis of jihad may be taking shape.

Of course, contrary to what sometimes passes for conventional “wisdom” among some so-called “national security experts,” this would hardly be the first time that Sunnis and Shi’ites have found common cause based on pan-Islamic ideology. As Mehdi Khalaji, senior fellow at the Washington Institute, pointed out in a remarkable 2009 essay, “Iran has maintained informal ties to the Muslim Brotherhood for many years.”

The Ayatollah Khomeini was named Time Magazine's Man of the Year (seen here on the January 7, 1980 cover of the magagzine).

The Ayatollah Khomeini was named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year (seen here on the January 7, 1980 cover of the magagzine).

The most visible cross-sectarian relationship may be the mullahs’ longstanding support for HAMAS, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in 1987. Personal relationships among Brotherhood members who later would found some of the most savage of all Islamic terrorist organizations — such as Al-Qaeda and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad — and Shi’ite cadres who would become the Ayatollah Khomeini’s anti-Shah shock troops likely began in the Beka’a Valley in the 1970s when the Soviet KGB was running terror training camps for an array of the world’s militants.

Indeed, the Iranian regime’s operational collaboration with Al-Qaeda in the attacks of 9/11 demonstrably can be traced back to those early relationships, later solidified at the Khartoum Jihad Jamboree gatherings of the early 1990s that were co-sponsored by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his sometime collaborator, Hassan al-Turabi, a key Sudanese Brotherhood figure.

Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri (both found safehaven in Sudan in those years and were introduced while there to Iranian regime leadership figures including then-President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, intelligence chief Ali Fallahian and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Mohsen Reza’i.

The intellectual affinity between Iranian Shi’ite clerics such as the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini or current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and pivotal Brotherhood theoreticians such as Sayyed Qutb rests on the conviction that intra-Islamic sectarian differences must be set aside so that Muslims may form a united front to wage jihad against Christians, Jews, the West in general and, ultimately, the entire Dar al-Harb (non-Muslim world).

Hassan al-Banna2As elaborated by Mehdi Khalaji (here) and Tom Joscelyn (here), it was a young Iranian cleric named Nawab Safawi who, in the early 1950s, introduced the Ayatollah Khomeini to the pan-Islamic, jihadist ideology of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Perhaps equally little known is the scholastic course that brought current Supreme Leader Khamenei to translate two of Qutb’s books, Al-Mustaqbal li hadha al-Din (The Future of this Religion) and Al-Islam wa Mushkelat al-Hadharah (Islam and the Problems of Civilization).

The 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat by Islamic jihadis and the subsequent clamp-down on the Brotherhood by Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, temporarily put a damper on overt expressions of Khomeinist-Brotherhood mutual admiration, but by 2009, former Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Muhammad Mahdi Akef, openly asserted that “The Muslim Brotherhood supports the ideas and thoughts of the founder of the Islamic  Republic.”

The Iranian regime was quick to claim an inspirational role once the 2011 Al-Qaeda/Muslim Brotherhood revolutions broke out, although the Ikhwan did not immediately (or publicly) embrace the overture.

It is true that Khomeini’s 1979 revolution in Iran did capture the imagination of the entire Muslim world, both Shi’ite and Sunni, and nowhere more enthusiastically than among Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and two of its offshoots, Omar Abdel-Rahman’s Gama’at Islamiyya and Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad, both later to become founding members of Al-Qaeda.

But the Shi’ite-Sunni face-off in Syria that began in 2011, followed by the HAMAS departure from longtime headquarters in Damascus, brought Islam’s perennial sectarian strife back to the front pages, while tending to obscure the simultaneous but less visible developing potential for a diplomatic thaw between Iran and Egypt.

Now, however, with the Brotherhood in firm control of Egypt and the three-decades-old peace treaty with Israel no longer a given, indicators like Ambassador Hamdy’s remarks about Hezbolllah may take on a more ominous cast.

A reported August 2012 meeting between the then-head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, Maj. Gen. Murad Muwafi, and a senior official of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) was followed by a August 22 statement from Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, that indicated Egypt and Iran are moving towards restoring diplomatic relations.

Salehi said that Iran seeks ties of “friendship and brotherhood” with Cairo. Then, at the late August 2012 Non-Aligned meeting in Tehran, Morsi and his Iranian host, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, exchanged pledges as “strategic allies” and discussed enhanced bilateral cooperation in the areas of “science and technology.”

Egypt scholar Raymond Stock noted in a stunning September 7, 2012 Gatestone Institute essay that such cooperation could possibly include an Iranian offer to share nuclear technology with Morsi’s Brotherhood regime. Coupled with statements from Muslim Brotherhood and military figures about an Egyptian desire to acquire a “nuclear weapon,” the Iranian model of revolution, terror and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) looks increasingly likely to metastasize to the Arab heart of the Islamic Middle East.

The advantages of rapprochement with Egypt for Iran, which is currently facing crushing financial sanctions, a grueling and probably losing struggle to shore up the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, plus at least some measure of international opprobrium over its nuclear weapons program, are obvious.

Read more at Radical Islam

Clare Lopez is a senior fellow at RadicalIslam.org and a strategic policy and intelligence expert with a focus on the Middle East, national defense and counterterrorism. Lopez served for 20 years as an operations officer with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

 

 

Ansar al Sharia Egypt founder ‘honored to be an extension of al Qaeda’

Ahmed Ashush, a high-profile jihadist who has longstanding ties to al Qaeda and who has founded Ansar al Sharia Egypt. Image from Al Arabiya News.

Ahmed Ashush, a high-profile jihadist who has longstanding ties to al Qaeda and who has founded Ansar al Sharia Egypt. Image from Al Arabiya News.

By Thomas Joscelyn

In an interview with the Cairo-based publication Al Shuruq al Jadid  in late October, Ahmed Ashush, the founder  of Ansar al Sharia Egypt, praised al Qaeda and defended the terrorist  organization against criticisms. Ashush also named Mohammed al Zawahiri, the  younger brother of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, as one of the jihadist  leaders who remained true to his ideology during his time in prison.

The interviewer asked, “Does Egyptian Salafi-jihadism represent an extension  of the al Qaeda organization?”

Ashush first offered to “correct the view of the al Qaeda organization,”  according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. Ashush  proceeded to call al Qaeda the “House of Honor,” the “Title of Glory,” and the  “Home of the Nation’s Dignity.”

“We must perpetuate [Osama] bin Laden whether alive or dead,” Ashush  continued. “If the revolutions of the Arab Spring were fair they would have  adopted bin Laden as the symbol of heroism and sacrifice.”

Ashush declared, “We are honored to be an extension of the al Qaeda  organization in its beliefs, principles, and concepts.”

The senior Egyptian jihadist went on to describe al Qaeda itself as an  “extension” of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), which has long been headed by  Ayman al Zawahiri and merged with Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group prior to the  Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Ashush named two EIJ leaders, Abu Ubaidah al  Banshiri and Abu Hafs al Masri, as co-founders of al Qaeda. Both served as al  Qaeda military chiefs prior to their demise.

Ashush’s embrace of al Qaeda is consistent with his past rhetoric and  behavior. Since his release from an Egyptian prison, Ashush has repeatedly  praised al Qaeda.

And Ayman al Zawahiri is so fond of Ashush that clips of the Ansar al Sharia  Egypt leader are frequently included in al Qaeda’s videos. A Sept. 10 video  starring Ayman al Zawahiri featured a clip of Ashush praising Osama bin Laden. A  two-part al Qaeda video released on Oct. 24 included nine video clips showing  Ashush and other Egyptian jihadists.

During his interview with Al Shuruq al Jadid, Ashush did not shy  away from al Qaeda’s terrorism.

Al Qaeda is “fighting a criminal enemy,” Ashush claimed, and only the  terrorist group has prevented Muslim countries from being divided “into  mini-States” ruled by “the Jews and the Christians.” The US has authored this  anti-Muslim conspiracy, according to Ashush. “Al Qaeda is the one that stopped  the American scheme aimed at splitting Egypt into four States and dividing all  Islamic countries.”

Ahush’s organization, Ansar al Sharia Egypt, is dedicated to implementing  sharia law and rebuilding the Islamic Caliphate. As he made clear during his  interview, Ashush is also deeply hostile to the West.

“We are at war with the United States and Israel and all the Worldly Rulers  whom they appointed in the countries of the Muslims to carry out their  imperialist blueprint in our countries,” Ashush said.

Ashush has used the name “Salafi Vanguard” to describe his efforts and those  of his compatriots. Ashush described the group as part of the jihadist  “current,” explaining that they chose this name to prevent any jihadist who has  renounced his ideology from speaking for them.

“Those who speak in the name of the current are those who remained firm and  did not change inside prison,” Ashush said. “Sheikh Mohammed al Zawahiri is  among them.”

Read more at the Long War Journal

 

Al Qaeda-linked jihadists helped incite 9/11 Cairo protest

Osama bin Laden, Mohammed al Zawahiri, and  Sheikh Tawfiq Al ‘Afani, as seen in the Al Faroq video on the protest at the US  embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11, 2012. Courtesy of SITE Intelligence Group.

 

By Thomas Joscelyn:

Several al Qaeda-linked jihadists helped incite the protest outside the US  embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11. The jihadists include senior members of Egyptian  Islamic Jihad (EIJ), a group that merged with al Qaeda, and a senior Gamaa  Islamiyya (IG) leader who has longstanding ties to al Qaeda’s senior leadership.

Spontaneous anger over an obscure anti-Islam video titled “Innocence of  Muslims” has been widely cited as the cause of the embassy protest in Cairo. But  clear evidence shows that these al Qaeda-linked jihadists used clips from that  film that were televised on Egyptian television as a pretext to incite a mob.

The most conspicuous of these jihadists is Rifai Ahmed Taha Musa, an IG  leader who was named as a signatory on al Qaeda’s infamous February 1998 fatwa  announcing an Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders. The fatwa  justified terrorist attacks against American civilians and others. Musa would  later disavow his participation in the Islamic Front, but his al Qaeda ties are  well established.

Al Faroq media video

The role of al Qaeda’s allies, including Musa, in the embassy protest was  documented in a video released by Al Faroq media earlier this month. Al Faroq,  which is based in Egypt, is not an official al Qaeda media outlet, but it  clearly espouses al Qaeda’s ideology and frequently trumpets the terrorist  organization’s message. Al Qaeda has also used clips from Al Faroq’s productions  in its own official videos.

The Al Faroq video of the Sept. 11 US embassy protest in Cairo was first  obtained and translated by SITE Intelligence Group.

The Al Faroq video attempts to brand the protest as an al Qaeda event. And  indeed pro-al Qaeda sentiment was rampant. Flags commonly used by al Qaeda in  Iraq are shown throughout the al Faroq video. The protesters chanted, “Obama, Obama! We are all Osama!” And the Al Faroq video splices together footage of al  Qaeda’s senior leaders with clips of the senior al Qaeda-allied jihadists at the  embassy protest.

Osama bin Laden is heavily featured. Specifically, Al Faroq shows a clip from  the deceased terror master’s March 2008 message concerning cartoons that  insulted the Prophet Mohammed. “In closing, I tell you: if there is no check on  the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our  actions,” bin Laden threatened, according to SITE’s translation.

The video ties bin Laden to two men who took part in the embassy protest:  Mohammed al Zawahiri, who is the brother of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, and  Sheikh Tawfiq al ‘Afani, an EIJ leader who does not hide his pro-bin Laden  views.

Mohammed-Zawahiri-Cairo-Embassy-Faroq-Video.jpg
Mohammed al Zawahiri at the US embassy  protest in Cairo on Sept. 11, 2012.

Mohammed al Zawahiri

Mohammed al Zawahiri is shown at the embassy rally during the Al Faroq video.  In fact, Mohammed al Zawahiri admittedly helped stage the Cairo protest.

“We called for the peaceful protest joined by different Islamic factions  including the [Egyptian] Islamic Jihad (and the) Hazem Abu Ismael movement,”  Zawahiri has explained, according  to CNN.

During his appearance in the video, according to SITE’s translation, Mohammed  al Zawahiri calls for the makers of the film “Innocence of Muslims” to be  prosecuted and “demand(s) the questioning of all of those and to stop that film  that is calling for trouble.”

Mohammed al Zawahiri has been coy about his al Qaeda ties. For instance,  during an interview on Egyptian television earlier this month he tried to  distance himself from the al Qaeda organization, while admitting that he adheres  to the group’s ideology.

“I do not belong to al Qaeda or any other organization, but ideologically  speaking, I am in agreement with all these organizations,” Zawahiri said, according to a  translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). “Our common  denominator is the Islamic sharia,” Zawahiri continued, reiterating that he  agrees with al Qaeda’s “ideology, but I’m not involved in its activity.”

On other  occasions, Mohammed al Zawahiri has used the word “we” when speaking about  al Qaeda and has attempted to justify the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The Wall Street Journal has  reported that US intelligence officials think Mohammed al Zawahiri put one of the suspects responsible for the terrorist attack in Benghazi in touch with  his brother.

The Journal’s sources identified “fighters” tied to Muhammad Jamal Abu Ahmad, an EIJ member who was released from prison last year, as participants  in the Benghazi attack. Abu Ahmad “has long ties” to Ayman al Zawahiri, the Journal reported, and he “has petitioned” al Qaeda’s emir “for  permission to launch an al Qaeda affiliate and has secured financing from al Qaeda’s Yemeni wing.”

Ahmad “is building his own terror group, say Western officials, who call it  the Jamal Network,” according to the Journal. EIJ members are suspected of funneling Egyptian militants to training camps in Libya as well.

The Journal added: “US officials believe [Mohammed al Zawahiri] has  helped Mr. Ahmad connect with the al Qaeda chief.”

Read more: Long War Journal