Spotlight: Trump's plan to blacklist Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood triggers regional debate

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-05 17:41:04|Editor: Yamei
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CAIRO, May 5 (Xinhua) -- The recently announced intention of U.S. President Donald Trump to designate the Muslim Brotherhood group as a terrorist organization has raised debate among key players in the Middle East region.

About three weeks after the visit of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to Washington and his talks with Trump, the White House said last week that the U.S. president is working to label the group as a terrorist organization.

In response, the 90-year-old Islamist group said in a statement on its website that it will stick to its "moderate and peaceful" approach despite Trump's plan.

The U.S. plan is surely welcomed by Egypt and its allies in the Gulf region including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which largely supported the Egyptian army's ouster of former Muslim Brotherhood-oriented President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

The Egyptian authorities blacklisted the group a few months after the army removed Morsi in response to mass protests against his one-year controversial rule, launching a massive security crackdown on the group's loyalists.

Since then, Egypt has been facing a wave of terrorist activities that killed hundreds of policemen, soldiers and civilians, while the Egyptian forces killed hundreds of terrorists and arrested thousands of suspects in the country's anti-terror war declared by al-Sisi.

Meanwhile, Cairo's ties with Washington improved under Trump after a rift during the time of former U.S. President Barack Obama whose administration rejected Morsi's popularly-backed military removal.

"The anticipated move is a big change in the U.S. policy toward groups that the former U.S. government dealt with as political entities," said Samir Ragheb, head of the Cairo-based Arab Foundation for Development and Strategic Studies (AFDSS).

The Egyptian expert referred to a state of "closer understanding" between the United States and Arab allies like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, which led to a change in the U.S. position in their favor.

Most terror activities in Egypt over the past few years have been claimed by a Sinai-based group loyal to the Islamic State regional militant group.

The Egyptian leadership considers the Muslim Brotherhood the source of all evil and terror while the group denies it.

"If the U.S. decision is implemented, it will be considered a big victory for the Egyptian diplomacy," the AFDSS chief told Xinhua.

It took Egypt a lot of diplomatic efforts to dissuade the U.S. Democrats who used to see the Muslim Brotherhood as part of the solution in fighting terrorism, Ragheb added.

Meanwhile, regional players Iran and Turkey rejected the U.S. plan to classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, arguing that Trump's move would undermine the region's stability and promote extremism.

Ties between Egypt and Iran have been cut off for decades, since Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

Egypt is also at odds with Turkey and Qatar for hosting and sheltering fleeing Muslim Brotherhood members, accusing them of supporting terrorism and interfering in the Egyptian domestic affairs.

The charges have been dismissed by both countries.

The rift with Qatar led Egypt to join a Saudi-led blockade against Qatar in June 2017, cutting its diplomatic ties and economic cooperation with the oil-rich country to pressure it to give up its support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

"Implementation of the U.S. decision is likely to face some difficulties, including Turkey's rejection whose ruling party is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood," Ragheb said.

The expert pointed out that the required approval of decision by the U.S. Congress is among the challenges facing Trump's approach targeting Muslim Brotherhood.

Notably, Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are longtime regional rivals, as Riyadh sees Tehran's regional expansion ambitions as a threat to its sovereignty.

This also explains their conflicting positions on the controversial group which was founded in Egypt in 1928.