US President Donald Trump aims to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, a move that would place Washington firmly on the side of its authoritarian allies in the Middle East.
“The president has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern, and this designation is working its way through the internal process,” said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
The Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist movement founded in Egypt in 1928 that has pockets of support across the Arab world, was designated a terrorist organization by Cairo after the military in 2013 ousted Mohamed Morsi, a democratically elected president with links to the movement.
Placing the Muslim Brotherhood on Washington’s list of foreign terrorist organizations would make it a crime for any American to assist the group and would ban from the United States its members, who are active in political parties in several countries.
The move comes three weeks after Trump welcomed Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has cracked down harshly on the Brotherhood as well as other movements ranging from ISIS to secular activists.
During their White House talks, Trump praised Sisi for “doing a great job,” saying the United States and Egypt had “never had a better relationship.”
The terrorist designation would delight Sisi as well as Saudi Arabia, which despite its ultra-conservative Wahabi ideology disdains the Muslim Brotherhood due to its support for political reform in the Gulf kingdom, including changes to Riyadh’s alliance with Washington.
But targeting the movement would be a major new impediment in Washington’s relations with NATO ally Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pushed an Islamist foreign policy that includes support for the Muslim Brotherhood inside Egypt.
Another US ally friendly toward the Muslim Brotherhood is Qatar, with the issue becoming a significant source of friction with its neighbors Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
– with reporting by AFP