Why is the State Dept Undermining President Trump’s Egypt Policy?

Front Page Magazine, by Daniel Greenfield, Aug. 23, 2017:

President Trump has been very clear that he wants to pivot away from Obama’s backing for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. And the Arab Spring’s whole democratization program.

Senator McCain has been equally clear that he wants to double down on it.

Guess whom the State Department is listening to?

Egypt passed a law restricting foreign funding of NGOs. Egypt joins a number of countries, including Hungary, Poland and Israel, that are working to curb the influence of the Leftist/Islamist network which operates internationally through non-profit NGOs. Each such effort has led to hysteria and angry threats from the political figures associated with those networks.

Now the State Department is taking action against Egypt over the NGO law.

Officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had decided to withhold $65.7 million in military assistance and $30 million in economic aid to Egypt that has been on hold since fiscal 2014, the officials said. That money will be reprogrammed, meaning it will now be sent to other countries, they said.

At the same time, the officials said Rex Tillerson had signed a waiver saying that $195 million in military assistance to Egypt is in the U.S. national interest but had decided to hold off on spending it. Under federal law, Tillerson had until the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30, to either sign the waiver, certify that Egypt is meeting the human rights conditions or return the money to the Treasury. The waiver gives Egypt additional time to meet the requirements for the $195 million, which Congress appropriated for fiscal year 2016.

When Trump met with el-Sissi in the White House in April he made no mention of Egypt’s human rights record in the post-meeting statement, an omission that many took as a sign that the issue was not a priority for the administration. Yet, two months later, two senators from Trump’s Republican Party slammed as “draconian” the law that effectively bans the work of non-governmental organizations and urged that it be repealed.

Can you guess who those 2 senators are?

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called it “draconian legislation” and they said the US Congress should in response “strengthen democratic benchmarks and human rights conditions on the US assistance to Egypt.”

US Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, and nine other senators sent Trump a letter on June 19 urging the president to press Sisi on the issue.

Unless I missed something, President John McCain is not in the White House. So why is Tillerson listening to him instead of to Trump?

According to Egyptian officials, this is an effort to stem funding to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Alaa Abed, chairman of the Free Egyptian Party’s parliamentary bloc, told The Daily Caller in a recent interview that although the idea behind NGOs is charitable and very needed in his country, a good number of them have taken a wrong turn.

“And the proof of that are the billions that have been given to these NGOs without any noticeable results that you can see,” Abed said.

According to Abed, about 48,000 NGOs are in Egypt and some are supported by the state. Of that number, though, “Only 500 receive foreign funds and 10 operate within the norms of the law…the rest (490) take the money into their pockets and 30 or 40 use the money to transfer to the [Muslim Brotherhood] or small terror cells.”

It obviously also starves some leftist NGOs of funds.

Why is McCain so agitated over it? The media won’t tell you. Few sources will.

But McCain chairs the International Republican Institute. The IRI was a Reagan idea to fight Communism. It’s since gone way off course and was involved in the Arab Spring. Sam LaHood was at the center of it. The international advisory board includes Mo Ibrahim whose daughter is a board member of the Clinton Foundation.

The question here is who is running the country. Whom did American vote for?

It was Trump who was running against nation building. Particularly of the ugly kind we’re seeing here. But Tillerson is obeying President McCain instead of President Trump. Our foreign policy is still being made by the same old people. That’s why the Iran deal is in place (and has not been made public), it’s why Israel is still being pressured to make concessions to terrorists and there’s yet more pressure on Egypt’s President Sisi to open the door to the same folks who brought you the Arab Spring.

It’s why Tillerson backed the Muslim Brotherhood’s backers in Qatar while Trump initially backed pressure on the terror state.

T o change the outcome, you have to change the policy. To change the policy, you have to change the people. Under McMaster and Tillerson, the foreign policy will be set by President McCain, not President Trump.

***

Also see:

In Egypt, Clashes Between The Institution Of The Presidency And The Institution Of Al-Azhar

MEMRI, By: C. Meital, Aug. 21, 2017:

Introduction

Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, the most important institute of learning in the Sunni Muslim world, and its head, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayeb, are currently facing a political and media attack led by the institute of the Egyptian presidency, headed by President ‘Abd Al-Fatah Al-Sisi. This is the latest episode in the past two years of ongoing tension between the two institutions, over Al-Azhar’s apparent refusal to comply with the president’s dictates in matters of religion.

One aspect of the attack on Al-Azhar is President Al-Sisi’s direct criticism of Al-Azhar Sheikh Al-Tayeb; another is criticism of Al-Azhar in the government press; and yet another is parliamentary moves led by Al-Sisi’s associates aimed at limiting the authorities of the Al-Azhar sheikh. There have also been calls for Sheikh Al-Tayeb himself to step down.

The main criticism against Al-Azhar is that the institution has failed to join the ideological war on terrorism that is led by President Al-Sisi. Critics say that Al-Azhar is not complying with Al-Sisi’s major goal, announced in 2014 and frequently reiterated by him, to promote a renewal of the religious discourse in Egypt, and also point out that it is refusing to level the accusation  of heresy against the Islamic State (ISIS), which has claimed responsibility for several terror attacks in the country.[1] It is also being said that Al-Azhar’s curricula encourage young people to turn to terrorism. In addition, there is criticism of Al-Azhar’s refusal to change how divorces are handled, as Al-Sisi has also demanded.

Al-Azhar representatives, headed by Sheikh Al-Tayeb, have rejected these criticisms, calling them deliberate lies that damage Islam. To show that it is indeed fulfilling its role and that it is a moderate Islamic institution, Al-Azhar has in recent months held international conventions on the subject of fighting extremism, as well as meetings with young people, and has waged anti-extremism and anti-terrorism campaigns.[2]

It should be noted that despite the harsh criticism of Al-Azhar, and of Sheikh Al-Tayeb, it still has the public’s sympathy, and significant support from many members of parliament.

This report will focus on the tension between the Egyptian presidency and Al-Azhar, as reflected in statements by the leaders of both institutions, in parliamentary activity against it,  and in articles in the Egyptian press.

Al-Azhar Institute (image: balkans.aljazeera.ne)

Tension Between President Al-Sisi And Al-Azhar Sheikh Al-Tayeb

As stated, in recent months it has become evident that there is considerable tension between President Al-Sisi and Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayeb, as reflected in the president’s criticism of the sheikh both in public and in closed meetings. Currently, the main criticism against Al-Azhar is that it is not making sufficient efforts to advance the renewal of religious discourse in Egypt, as Al-Sisi has demanded. 

President Al-Sisi Repeatedly Reprimands Al-Azhar Sheikh – And Reportedly Threatens To Replace Him There have been several Egyptian newspaper reports concerning President’s Al-Sisi’s displeasure with Al-Azhar’s lack of action on this issue; he has made this clear in individual meetings with Sheikh Al-Tayeb and at public events.

At January 1, 2015 festivities marking the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad at the Egyptian Ministry of Endowments, Al-Sisi said to Sheikh Al-Tayeb: “The preachers are responsible to Allah for the renewal of the religious discourse and for improving the image of Islam. [On Judgment Day,] I will argue against you before Allah [if you do not do this].”[3]

Following a November 30, 2016 meeting between the two, the independent Egyptian daily Al-Misriyyoun reported on their chilly relationship and noted that the president was furious at Al-Azhar’s failure to vehemently attack political Islam organizations, specifically ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and for its continuing aggressive anti-Shi’ite position.[4]

There are, however, only a few such reports; for the most part, Al-Sisi is careful to express respect for Al-Azhar while at the same time clarifying his position vis-à-vis how it functions. Thus, he told the editors of government newspapers in a May 2017 interview: “Our general line is to protect the institutions of the Egyptian state, to urge them to fulfill their roles, and to develop them in a way that will suit the challenges and dangers that we face. Al-Azhar has a monumental status both inside and outside Egypt, and that is why we insist that it fulfill its role, because both the region and the world need it to do so.”[5]

At a June 21, 2017 event marking Laylat Al-Qadr, the night when, according to Muslim tradition, the Quran was first revealed to Muhammad, Al-Sisi praised Al-Azhar as a source of pride and for the position it has held for over a millennium. He went on to reiterate the need for a renewal of the religious discourse, calling it “a matter of life and death for the people and the ummah.”[6]

On July 26, 2017, four months after the April 8, 2017 Palm Sunday attacks on Mar Girgis church in Tanta and St. Marks Cathedral in Alexandria, Al-Sisi confirmed his decision to establish a Supreme Council for the Fight Against Extremism and Terrorism,” to be headed by him, and whose members would include the parliamentary speaker, the prime minister, the Al-Azhar sheikh, the Coptic Patriarch, various government ministers, the head of Egypt’s general intelligence service, the head of the Administrative Supervisory Authority, and public figures such as former Egyptian mufti Ali Goma’a.[7] However, even though the Al-Azhar sheikh is on the council, Egyptian media members who are close to the regime interpreted the establishment of the council as a blow to Al-Azhar’s authority; some even called it proof of Al-Azhar’s “demise.” The establishment of this council, they said, meant that the institution of the presidency had decided that it itself would act on the matter of renewing the religious discourse, instead of waiting for the Ministry of Endowments or for Al-Azhar to do so.[8]

Another serious dispute between Al-Sisi and Sheikh Al-Tayeb erupted over the issue of talaq ­– that is, a Muslim husband’s power to divorce his wife on the spot by merely telling her three times “I divorce you.” Al-Sisi again reprimanded Al-Tayeb in public. During a January 24, 2017 speech marking Police Day, he addressed him directly, saying: “You’ve tired me out, my friend.”[9] Al-Sisi went on to call for an end to this divorce practice, which is common in Egypt, and for divorce to be documented legally in order to reduce the rate of talaq divorces in the country.[10] In response, MP ‘Amr Hamroush hastened to prepare a bill regulating divorce.[11]

This demand by President Al-Sisi, which also garnered support from the Egyptian media, was perceived by the Al-Azhar institute as an affront to Islam, an attempt to secularize Egypt, and an attempt to circumvent the authority of the institute. In an announcement, Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars clarified that “by virtue of Al-Azhar’s religious responsibility and its status in the Egyptian ummah, as determined by the constitution of Egypt,” it had in recent months convened to discuss current social issues, among them the issue of divorce in a religious context, and that it had decided that talaq is permitted. In this way, the council made it clear that Al-Azhar does indeed have decision-making authority in matters of Islamic law.[12]

Al-Azhar cleric Dr. Yahya Ismail said: “The war against Islam and its rulings is an old war. There is an ongoing, focused campaign to secularize Egypt…” He added: “This is a conspiracy against Islam and its guidelines… The rulings and conditions regarding divorce are known… The game of [legally] documenting divorce is an old one, and it is Christian clerics who were behind it [and who] tried to persuade some of [Egypt’s] presidents in this matter…” Al-Azhar lecturer Ahmed Karima also criticized Al-Sisi’s demand, saying: “Who will successfully eradicate this [talaq]? Only Allah or His Messenger… “[13]

Following the media uproar over the divorce issue, there was an attempt to calm the waters by both sides, and to show that things had returned to normal. On February 26, 2017, Al-Sisi stressed, in a meeting with Sheikh Al-Tayeb, that Al-Azhar is like a lighthouse for moderate Islamic ideology.[14] Al-Tayeb advisor Muhammad ‘Abd Al-Salam also denied that there was any disagreement between the two institutions of Al-Azhar and the presidency.[15]

Measures Against Al-Azhar: A Bill To Limit Al-Azhar Sheikh’s Authority And Establishment Of A Committee To Examine Al-Azhar Curricula

One manifestation of the anger at Al-Azhar was recent parliamentary measures against it and its sheikh aimed at limiting his authority and independence. Recently, MP Muhammad Abu Hamed, known to support Al-Sisi, proposed a change to the 1961 Al-Azhar Law regulating the authority of both the institute and its head. This bill was supported by parliamentary speaker Ali ‘Abd Al-A’al, who argued that the bill did not harm Al-Azhar.[16]

The main points of the amendment bill proposed by Abu Hamed make it clear that it is aimed at limiting the Al-Azhar sheikh’s authority and at increasing governmental control of the institute itself. For example, Section 2 of Abu Hamad’s bill states that the Al-Azhar sheikh is the Grand Imam of all Muslim clerics and that he represents the institute, but also states that his term is six years and that he can be reelected only once. The 1961 law did not mention the length of the sheikh’s term. Also according to the bill, the candidates for the position of sheikh are to be selected not just by Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars, as has been the case to date, but jointly by the council and Al-Azhar’s Academy of Islamic Research. Further, according to Section 5 of the  bill, if two-thirds of the members of Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars feel that the sheikh is not fulfilling his role appropriately, he is to be sent before an investigative committee comprising seven of this council’s leading members. This committee has the power to warn him, reprimand him, or “revoke his authority.” The original 1961 law included nothing regarding internal oversight of the Al-Azhar sheikh.[17]

Section 8 of the bill authorizes the president to appoint the imam and preacher of Al-Azhar’s mosque, from among three candidates that are to be put forward by Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars.[18] Also, Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars is to determine the content of the Friday sermons delivered at Al-Azhar mosque, and set regulations for religious, social, and cultural activities at the mosque.

It should be noted that an addition to the general definition of Al-Azhar’s role focuses on the importance of its role in developing religious discourse in a manner highlighting humane principles and unifying the Muslim ummah, and undermining the sources of the extremist discourse that crudely interprets Islam.[19]

Abu Hamed said of the bill that in today’s circumstances it is inconceivable that the Al-Azhar sheikh cannot be fired, and emphasized that three senior members of Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars are MB members.[20]

A further parliamentary step taken against the Al-Azhar institute relates to its educational curriculum. The chairman of the Religious Affairs Committee in the parliament, Osama Al-‘Abd, said that the committee has established a working group to examine the curriculum at the institute as part of a process to renew religious discourse in Egypt.[21]

Despite Abu Hamed’s bill and the examination of the curriculum, it is evident that there is much support in parliament for Sheikh Al-TayebAbu Hamed’s bill was criticized by several MPs who said that they had been unaware the law harmed the status of the Al-Azhar sheikh and asked that their signatures be removed from the bill. Further, MP Osama Sharshar wrote a memorandum to the parliamentary speaker that was signed by the majority of the 406 MPs demanding that the bill be opposed and not submitted because it was clearly aimed at harming one of the institutions of Egyptian society. Al-Azhar is a red line, he said, much like the military, and firing the Al-Azhar sheikh is practically heresy.[22]

For his part, Abu Hamed rejected the MPs’ request that their signatures be removed, and said that he would try to enlist the support of additional MPs and re-submit the bill during the next parliamentary session.[23] In this context, parliamentary sources revealed to the Egyptian daily Al-Shurouq that top-echelon officials had ordered that the bill be shelved.[24] Nevertheless, on several additional occasions Abu Hamed stressed that he intended to submit the bill, and that he had the signatures of 80 MPs who support it.[25]

On May 9, a delegation of MPs met with Sheikh Al-Tayeb, who thanked them for their opposition to those aiming to harm Al-Azhar and warned that any affront to it was a blow to Egypt’s position as defender of Islam and its moderateness.[26]

Allegations In Media That Al-Azhar Is Not Acting Against Terrorism; Calls For Sheikh Al-Tayeb To Resign

Read more

Is Al-Azhar University a Global Security Threat?

American Thinker, By Cynthia Farahat, Aug. 23, 2017:

Al-Azhar University, the world’s largest Sunni Islamic educational institution, is where many of the world’s most brutal terrorists received their formal religious training. This is to be expected, given the nature of the material taught there. Al-Azhar has thousands of affiliated mosques, schools, learning centers, and universities around the world, such as the Islamic American University in Michigan. The institution has also been unofficially controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood for decades.

Al-Azhar Mosque

According to the most recent data released by the Egyptian government, there were 297,000 students studying at al-Azhar University in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, there were 39,000 foreign students studying at al-Azhar. These students are taught the theological legitimacy of cannibalizing infidels, gruesome ways totorture non-Muslims to death, and the importance of raping and humiliating non-Muslim women.  This explains why numerous Egyptian public figures and intellectuals have called for a terrorism investigation of al-Azhar University. For example, Egyptian historian, Sayyid Al-Qemany, called upon the Egyptian government to designate al-Azhar University as terrorist organization.

In 2015, El-Youm el-Sabi, an Egyptian newspaper, published an investigative report about the curriculum at al-Azhar University. According to the report, one of the books called, al-Iqn’a fi Hal Alfaz ibn Abi Shoga’a (Convincing arguments according to Abi Shoga’a), taught to al-Azhar’s high school students states, “Any Muslim, can kill an apostate and eat him, as well kill infidel warriors even if they are young or female and they can also be eaten, because they are not granted any protection.”  On the treatment of non-Muslims, the report quotes the same book as saying, “to preserve one’s self from the evil of an infidel, any Muslim can gouge their eyes out, or mutilate their hands and legs, or sever one arm and one leg.”

Even Muslims aren’t safe from al-Azhar’s teachings. According to the same the report, another book states, “Any Muslim is allowed to kill a fornicator, a warrior, or a [Muslim] who misses prayer, even without permission of the [ruling] Imam.”

This is expected given the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood dominates the organization. Not only does the Muslim Brotherhood use the university to recruit hundreds of thousands of students to adopt ISIS-style beliefs, the Brotherhood used the organization to train young people for combat. For example, In 2006, avideo leaked from inside al-Azhar showed 50 masked young members of the Brotherhood in black uniforms, performing a military exercises in front of the head of al-Azhar University, resulting in a government investigation and arrests in what later became known as, “the case of al-Azhar militia.”

Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of the world’s most brutal Islamists either worked for al-Azhar, or graduated it from it. For example, Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, is a graduate from al-Azhar.

Also, the first leader of al-Qaeda Abdulla Azzam (1941 –1989), studied at al-Azhar. The spiritual mentor for Osama Bin Laden (1957 –2011), and a leader of the international arm of al-Qaeda, Omar Abdel Rahman (1938 – 2017), known as “the Blind Sheikh,” was a scholar at al-Azhar.  The Nazi Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin el-Husseini (1897-1974), studied at al-Azhar University. As well as, Abu Osama al-Masri the mastermind of the Russian plane crash over Sinai in 2015

Not only is al-Azhar involved in the spreading of the violent Sunni Wahhabi sect, the government funded institution uses Egyptian blasphemy law to imprison critics of its radical teachings, halting any hope for Islamic reformation. For example, the President of al-Azhar University recently declare that Muslim scholar Islam el-Behery, who was previously imprisoned in Egypt for blasphemy, “an apostate of Islam.” According to the al-Azhar’s Sunni theology, apostasy is punishable by death.

Al-Azhar is also responsible for the apostasy Fatwa that resulted in the murder of Egyptian secular figure Farag Fouda (1945-1992). After uproar in Egypt against the University for essentially placing a hit on Mr. Behery by calling him an apostate of Islam, it’s president was forced to resign, but the militant teachings remain untouched.

Al-Azhar was also responsible for the imprisonment of another very popular Muslim scholar, Sheikh Mohammed Abdallah Nasr, for adopting a non-theocratic modern interpretation of Islam, landing him an unprecedented 13-year prison sentence for blasphemy with hard labor. Incredibly, one of the formal charges in al-Azhar’s court case against Mr. Nasr, is that he criticized Khalid ibn el-Waleed (585 –642), a Muslim warrior and sacred Sunni figure for being a rapist and a cannibal. During a televised debate with radical al-Azhar University scholars, Mr. Nasr scrutinized el-Waleed, for decapitating a Muslim poet, Malik ibn Nuwayrah, cooking his head and eating from it, before raping Nuwayrah’s wife. Mr. Nasr’s criticism of the Muslim warrior and cannibal was among the official reasons for his conviction. Speaking to al-Azhar scholars Mr. Nasr said, “you wonder where terrorism is coming from? It’s from your religious heritage.”

Last month, China demanded from Egypt that it deport its students studying at al-Azhar.  While neither Egypt nor China gave a reason for the unusual procedure, the obvious reason could be that China is proactively attempting to protect itself from possible terrorist recruitment at the al-Azhar. Al-Azhar University is a global security threat. The western governments and their Egyptian counterpart should investigate al-Azhar University and its affiliated institutions for possible ties to terrorism. If President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is serious about combating Islamic militancy, his government must immediately halt its funding of the university, and stop al-Azhar’s daily terror indoctrination of future potential Rahmans, Azzams and Shekaus.

Cynthia Farahat is an author and Fellow at the Middle East Forum

Arab allies of US welcome push against Muslim Brotherhood

Fox News, by Ben Evansky, Aug. 8, 2017:

Arab allies of the U.S. are expressing support if the Trump administration declares the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, according to statements from foreign officials and a senior administration official who spoke to Fox News.

Speaking last week at the United Nations in response to a question from Fox News, the Egyptian Ambassador to the U.N., Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta, expressed support for such a move.

“It would be a positive step forward indeed,” he said.

Salman Al-Ansari, president of the Saudi American Public Affairs Committee, told Fox News that the West is suffering from “laziness and must do its homework.”

“The U.S. needs to confront the evils of the Brotherhood as soon as possible,” he said. “If you have Saudi Arabia saying the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist group, if you have Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) saying it’s a terrorist group, then what should stop the U.S. from designating the MB as a terrorist group as long there are hundreds of pieces of evidence that prove this fact?”

The Brotherhood is banned as a terrorist organization in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt.

Fox News previously reported on the internal debates and deliberations in the Trump White House on the move to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO.)

“The fight is far from over,” a senior administration official told Fox News.

“The commitment inside the West Wing to the question of designating the Brotherhood has not waned,” the official told Fox News.

“The White House completely understands how the modern global jihadi threat, which the president has rightly described as radical Islamic terrorism, can be driven back at its roots to the Brotherhood.”

“This president is unprepared to follow the disastrous policies of prior administrations, especially the Obama White House’s empowering of the Brotherhood that led to the catastrophic consequences of the so-called Arab Spring and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people from the Sinai to Sinjar,” the official concluded.

Christopher Holton of the Center for Security Policy, a group that has been at the forefront of efforts to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization, told Fox News, “It is an absolutely essential step. As the Egyptian ambassador well knows, the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood are identical to those of all the jihadist organizations, such as ISIS, Al Qaeda and Hamas: the establishment of an Islamic state ruled by Sharia.”

Holton blamed what he called “The Swamp in the State Department” for stopping the designation so far. He blamed some members of the Trump administration, including National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

“Combined with all the other distractions that have largely paralyzed so many initiatives on Capitol Hill, the effort to block the designation has thus far succeeded,” he said.

Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News that during the early weeks of the Trump presidency a large number of analysts warned that the move was, “ill-advised,” arguing that the move “would alienate the Muslim world and encumber diplomacy.”

Schanzer, a former terrorism finance official at the Treasury Department, said he does not believe the administration has given up on designation of the Brotherhood but he suggested it would be easier to target certain Brotherhood groups through the U.S. Treasury’s targeted sanctions program.

“The way forward is not to pursue the FTO approach at the State Department, primarily because the initiative is likely to fail,” Schanzer said. “The State Department will remain opposed…the Muslim Brotherhood is not a homogeneous organization, rather, it is made up of disparate affiliates, some of which could likely be classified as terror groups, and some not.”

“The right move is to pursue these designations in the less-politicized Treasury process in a way that is incremental and pragmatic. From there, additional affiliates can be added,” Schanzer said.

David Reaboi, the senior vice-president for strategic operations at the Security Studies Group, added, “Designating the Muslim Brotherhood would be a tremendous step in the right direction. The Muslim Brotherhood has been identified, rightly, as a threat by the countries that know it best — like Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia — among others.”

“These countries understand that the MB isn’t just another political or religious movement,” Reaboi added. “It’s the main engine driving the terror radicalization process. Any effort to combat Islamist terrorism needs to take the MB’s global network into account.”

Ben Evansky reports for Fox News on the United Nations and international affairs. He can be followed @BenEvansky

Trouble among America’s Gulf Allies

Gatestone Institute, by John R. Bolton, July 11, 2017:

  • The State Department should declare both the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), thus triggering the penalties and sanctions required by law when such a declaration is made.
  • Those “affiliates” of the Muslim Brotherhood that, in whole or part, meet the statutory FTO definition should be designated; those that do not can be spared, at least in the absence of new information.
  • Qatar can legitimately complain that it is being unfairly singled out. The proper response is not to let Qatar off the hook but to put every other country whose governments or citizens are financing terrorism on the hook.

In recent weeks, governments on the Arabian Peninsula have been having a diplomatic brawl. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain (together with Egypt and other Muslim countries) have put considerable economic and political pressure on Qatar, suspending diplomatic relations and embargoing trade with their fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member. Kuwait and Oman, also GCC members, have been mediating the dispute or remaining publicly silent.

The Saudis and their supporters are demanding sweeping changes in Qatari policies, including suspending all financial support to the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist groups; joining the other GCC members in taking a much harder line against the nuclear and terrorist threat from Shia Iran and its proxies; and closing Al Jazeera, the irritating, radical-supporting television and media empire funded by Qatar’s royal family.

The United States’ response so far has been confused. President Trump has vocally supported the Saudi campaign, but the State Department has publicly taken a different view, urging that GCC members resolve their differences quietly.

As with so many Middle East disputes, the issues are complex, and there is considerable underlying history. Of course, if they were easy, Saudi Arabia and Qatar would not be nearly at daggers drawn seemingly overnight.

Washington has palpable interests at stake in this dispute and can make several critical moves to help restore unity among the Arabian governments, even though the issues may seem as exotic to the average American as the Saudi sword dance Trump joined during his recent Middle East trip.

Twin issues to confront

Confronting the twin issues of radical Islamic terrorism and the ayatollahs’ malign regime in Iraq are central not only to the Arab disputants but to the United States as well. In addition to providing our good offices to the GCC members, the Trump administration should take two critical steps to restore unity and stability among these key allies.

First, the State Department should declare both the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), thus triggering the penalties and sanctions required by law when such a declaration is made. Both groups meet the statutory definition because of their violence and continuing threats against Americans. The Obama administration’s failure to make the FTO designation has weakened our global anti-terrorist efforts.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s defenders argue that it is far from monolithic; that many of its “affiliates” are in fact entirely harmless; and that a blanket declaration would actually harm our anti-jihadi efforts. Even taking these objections as true for the sake of argument, they counsel a careful delineation among elements of the Brotherhood. Those that, in whole or part, meet the statutory FTO definition should be designated; those that do not can be spared, at least in the absence of new information. The Brotherhood’s alleged complexity is an argument for being precise in the FTO designations, not for avoiding any designations whatever.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab governments already target the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization but Qatar does not. That may sound suspicious, but as of now, of course, the United States hasn’t found the resolve to do it either. Once Washington acts, however, it will be much harder for Qatar or anyone else to argue that the Brotherhood is just a collection of charitable souls performing humanitarian missions.

A direct terrorist threat

Similarly, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps is a direct terrorist threat that has been killing Americans ever since the IRGC-directed attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, in October 1983. The only real argument against naming the IRGC is that so doing would endanger Obama’s 2015 nuclear agreement, given Tehran’s expected response to an FTO determination.

Second, Trump should follow up his successful Riyadh summit by insisting on rapid and comprehensive implementation of the summit’s principal outcome, the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (GCCEI). This center can provide governments across the Muslim world a face-saving mechanism to do what should have been done long ago, namely taking individual and collective steps to dry up terrorist financing.

U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump join King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, and the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in the inaugural opening of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, May 21, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

One could write books on the intricate financing that supports international terrorism, and finger-pointing at those responsible could take years. But whether terrorists are financed by governments, directly or indirectly, or by individuals or groups, with or without government knowledge or encouragement, it must all stop. Qatar can legitimately complain that it is being unfairly singled out. The proper response is not to let Qatar off the hook but to put every other country whose governments or citizens are financing terrorism on the hook.

Although superficially the ongoing crisis among the oil-producing monarchies may seem a setback to American efforts in the war again terrorism and the struggle to eliminate the Iranian threat, in fact it provides a rare opportunity to make considerable progress on two of our top priorities. The Trump administration should not miss its chance.

John R. Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is Chairman of Gatestone Institute, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and author of “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad”.

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BREAKING: Major Confrontation Between Saudi, Egypt, UAE Against Qatar Over Terror Support

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, June 4, 2017:

Several countries took major moves against Qatar today over its support for terror. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties, setting off a major crisis in the Middle East.

The move also cuts Qatar’s transit rights with these countries:

The BBC reports:

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilising the region.

The countries say Qatar is supporting terrorist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Saudi state news agency SPA said Riyadh had closed its borders, severing land, sea and air contact.

It cited officials as saying it was to “protect its national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism”.

Egypt has also closed its airspace and ports for all Qatari transportation, the foreign ministry said.

The United Arab Emirates has given Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave the country. Abu Dhabi accuses Doha of “supporting, funding and embracing terrorism, extremism and sectarian organisations,” state news agency WAM said.

Bahrain’s state news agency said the country was cutting ties with Qatar over “shaking the security and stability of Bahrain and meddling in its affairs”.

Kuwait and Oman are sitting this one out for the moment:

Which leaves Iran as Qatar’s main lifeline:

And with transit rights cut off, they’re going to need one:

Of course, Qatar’s support for terrorism is no secret in the Middle East:

And the behind-the-scenes activity may have been behind reports over the weekend regarding Qatar’s sponsorship of Hamas:

It remains to be seen if Qatar will invoke its joint defense agreement with Iran in response to these measures.

Apparently it was Qatar’s close ties with Iran and siding with the Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen that contributed to this crisis.

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Muslim Brotherhood Incites More Terror Attacks Targeting Egypt’s Coptic Christians

Women cry during the funeral for those killed in a Palm Sunday church attack in Alexandria Egypt, at the Mar Amina church, Monday, April 10, 2017. Egyptian Christians were burying their dead on Monday, a day after Islamic State suicide bombers killed at least 45 people in coordinated attacks targeting Palm Sunday services in two cities. Women wailed as caskets marked with the word “martyr” were brought into the Mar Amina church in the coastal city of Alexandria, the footage broadcast on several Egyptian channels. (AP Photo/Samer Abdallah)

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, May 29, 2017:

This past Friday I reported here at PJ Media on the attack just hours before the beginning of Ramadan on Coptic Christian pilgrims in Upper Egypt who were on their way to pray at a remote monastery in the desert.

Three vehicles full of gunmen opened fire on a bus with mostly women and children, killing 28. Only three children survived the attack.

This most recent attack, claimed Saturday by the Islamic State, comes amidst a rising tide of anti-Coptic incitement by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood here and abroad.

Over the weekend Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy published an article at Foreign Policy identifying some of the recent examples of Muslim Brotherhood incitement and encouragement of terrorism targeting Coptic Christians.

Among the examples Trager discovered after Friday’s attack on Coptic pilgrims was a Facebook post by Muslim Brotherhood youth leader Ahmed El-Moghir:

That comment has caught the attention of several Middle East media outlets. Here in the U.S., not so much.

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