The governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia have expressed outrage over the warm visit Muslim Brotherhood members allegedly received at the White House in January, which the State Department eventually admitted to only after the Muslim Brotherhood members boasted of their visit on social media.
“The Egyptian regime, outraged by the visit, accused the U.S. administration of not respecting the Egyptian law that defines the MB as a terrorist organization, and of discounting the will of the Egyptian people,” reports the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
President Sisi himself reacted to the State Department’s belated confirmation of the Muslim Brotherhood meeting by describing the Brotherhood as “the world’s most dangerous secret terrorist organization” and saying it “has clandestine wings and secret ideas and tools… which is why Egyptians rose up against it.” Other comments from Sisi’s government were even more pointed, as translated by MEMRI:
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed outrage at the U.S. State Department’s hosting of the MB delegation. At the end of the African Union summit, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry addressed the State Department’s explanation, saying: “I do not understand [the State Department’s] claims. We do not understand the existence of such ties with elements that are involved in terrorist activists meant to terrify Egyptians.” He added: “The MB movement is not a political party. Egyptian law – which should be respected, just as we respect the laws of others – defines it as a terrorist organization, based on evidence and testimony we have that indicates their involvement in terrorist actions meant to harm the lives of Egyptians, terrorize them, and threaten their security.” Shoukry said further: “If we wanted to bury our heads in the sand so as not to face reality, that would be another matter. But we see very well.” According to him, “terrorism is not just ISIS or Boko Haram, but rather all terrorist groups, regardless of what name they use, since they [all] champion the same ideology and the same ideas leading to death and destruction…”
An Egyptian Foreign Ministry communique from February 1, 2015 states that the Egyptian Revolutionary Council and the MB’s parliament in exile consistently incite violence and terrorism, spread lies abroad regarding the situation in Egypt, and do not represent the will of the Egyptian people. Moreover, some of their members are wanted by the Egyptian authorities, and therefore holding ties with these “illegitimate organizations disrespects the will of Egyptians and grants legitimacy to entities that attack it.” The communiqué states further: “The contacts held by some countries with these terrorist entities enable them to spread their ideas, which incite violence and terrorism. They also contradict [these countries’] presumed commitment to the struggle against terrorism and extremism…”
Egyptian newspapers called out the Obama Administration for hypocrisy in meeting with the Brotherhood just a few weeks before convening a summit on the threat of “extremist organizations,” with an Al-Ahram editorial calling on the Egyptian government to skip the extremism summit as a gesture of disapproval. This was written before ISIS kidnapped and beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians who had been working in Libya; at last report, Egypt was planning to send representatives to the White House extremism summit.
The Administration has been less than forthcoming about this meeting at every turn, so there is reason to believe the Muslim Brotherhood is telling the truth about its final disputed claim, which is that White House officials were also present at the meeting. The Brother making this claim is notorious for referring to Jews as “the descendants of pigs and monkeys.”
The matter became a significant embarrassment for the Administration after Muslim Brotherhood members began bragging about the fine reception they received from Team Obama, Facebooking pictures of themselves flashing Brotherhood gang signs at the State Department building, and, most disturbingly, claiming that the Obama Administration is supportive of their quest to overthrow the government of Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi, who deposed the Brotherhood in a coup, formally winning the presidency in a subsequent election. Needless to say, the Egyptian government is not happy to hear these claims, and the Saudis have expressed outrage as well.
Sisi has been an outspoken critic of Islamist extremism, a position Al-Ahram’s editors support by saying the Obama Administration’s “illusion that supporting the streams of political Islam [will enable them to] play a role in dividing control [of the region] will only lead the region to crumble further and will increase discontentment there. Then the U.S. will find itself dealing with the heritage of hatred for its policy on a much larger scale than today.”
This critique was punctuated with an editorial cartoon showing a happy Muslim Brotherhood representative (they all look immensely pleased with themselves in the Facebook photos that blew the Obama Administration’s cover) greeting an ISIS terrorist on the State Department steps and excitedly informing him, “They welcomed me, which means that they welcomed you, so this house is your house!”
The Saudi newspaper Al-Watan echoed Egypt’s concerns about the U.S. government conferring unwarranted legitimacy and prestige on the Muslim Brotherhood, charging that Team Obama “has yet to grasp the scope of the extensive popular opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood movement across the Middle East, particularly in the wake of the June 30, 2012 mass protests, the likes of which had never been seen in Egypt.” The protests in question featured banners accusing Obama and his ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, of being allied with terrorists and fascists.
“History proves that peoples always emerge victorious in their campaigns against the forces of darkness and destruction,” Al-Watan warned. “Furthermore, all political Islam movements must realize that every crime they commit or to which they are an accessory increases the popular opposition to them.” The question of legitimacy is an important one in battling the spread of terrorist organizations; its predilection for hiding in caves kept al-Qaeda from acquiring the sort of nation-state credibility that its hideous stepchildren in ISIS have achieved.
The Muslim Brotherhood craves legitimacy, which is why they loudly trumpeted a meeting the State Department would rather have kept quiet. The Obama Administration’s strange fascination with the Brotherhood – a group that Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, once infamously tried to claim was “largely secular” – seems to be paying dividends for the MB. It is difficult to see what the United States and its allies against terrorism are getting out of the relationship.