Trump pushes to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group

By | April 30, 2019

The New York Times reports:

The White House is pushing to issue an order that would designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization, bringing the weight of American sanctions against a storied and influential Islamist political movement with millions of members across the Middle East, according to officials familiar with the matter.

The White House directed national security and diplomatic officials to find a way to place sanctions on the group after a White House visit on April 9 by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, for whom the Brotherhood represents a source of political opposition. In a private meeting without reporters and photographers, Mr. el-Sisi urged Mr. Trump to take that step and join Egypt in branding the movement a terrorist organization.

Such a designation imposes wide-ranging economic and travel sanctions on companies and individuals who interact with the targeted group. The president responded affirmatively to Mr. el-Sisi, saying it would make sense. Some of Mr. Trump’s advisers have interpreted that as a commitment, officials said.

But the proposal has prompted fierce debate within the administration, including at a senior-level meeting of policymakers from various departments convened last week by the White House’s National Security Council, the officials said. [Continue reading…]

In 2017, William McCants and Benjamin Wittes wrote:

The idea of designating the Brotherhood has been kicking around a long time and is part of a larger enthusiasm, which Trump certainly shares, for a kind of civilizational battle against “radical Islam.” Trump’s idea has lots of detractors. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Yaroslav Trofimov worries that “Blacklisting the Brotherhood has several pitfalls,” mostly related to the fact that the group “still retains millions of supporters. Outlawing the Brotherhood could complicate U.S. relations with critical allies in the region,” he writes—most notably Turkey.

Nathan Brown and Michele Dunne likewise warn that a designation is:

more likely to undermine than achieve its ostensible purpose and could result in collateral damage affecting other U.S. policy goals. The greatest damage might be in the realm of public diplomacy, as using a broad brush to paint all Muslim Brotherhood organizations as terrorists would be understood by many Muslims around the world as a declaration of war against non-violent political Islamists—and indeed against Islam itself.

But there’s at least one other reason why Trump should stay his hand on a Brotherhood designation: It would be illegal.

The Brotherhood as a whole, in several different respects, does not meet the criteria for designation under the statute. That’s why, despite pressure from governments like Egypt and the UAE over a protracted period of time, it has not been designated to date under any of the previous three administrations. Barring a change in statute that would almost certainly render the material support law unconstitutional, a designation, notwithstanding the ferment for it, would not be lawful today either, even under a Trump administration. [Continue reading…]

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