This is from one of my e-correspondents who wants be to be known as an anonymous “observer inside the Beltway.” He is not just an observer; he has worked long in the Beltway, most likely within the State Department.
In this missive, “Insider” describes a U.S. foreign policy apparatus that is distressingly out-of-touch and manipulated by our very enemies. Our government has relied and is still relying on the Muslim Brotherhood — no friend to the United States, Israel, and Western civilization — for intelligence! “Insider” also points out what we already know — the collusion between the Left and Radical Islam.
Since “Insider” wrote this as a stream-of-consciousness e-mail — with many “beltway” bureacratese acronyms — instead of as a polished publishable piece, I did some very minor editing to enhance his writing.
Some of us (in media, thinktanks, academia, government) have been in a running dialogue about the recent events in Lebanon, Tunisia and Egypt and the role of the Muslim Brotherhood. A theme has been the range of possible spill-on effects across the region, the Arab and Muslim world, and our allies and enemies near and far.
For a recap, here’s the scoop on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin, or simply the ‘Ikhwan’ (brothers):
c. 1928, Egypt; supportive cooperators and combatants of Hitler (and Mussolini); fought in initial war against Israel; active in +- 89 countries; inspiration and/or parent of a working quorum of U.S. SDGTE’s (Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entities) to include AlQaeda, PIJ, Hamas, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Sudanese ruling front, etc.; established U.S. support network (CAIR, ISNA, MAS, CSID, and others, many of which, and their leaders/cadres, are indicted/unindicted co-conspirators or convicted, deported or fugitives in U.S. federal terrorism cases. This whilst the groups remain trainers and partners with the FBI, State, DHS, national law enforcement, chaplains in the US military and prison system, human rights commission members in many jurisdictions including NYC, etc.); Homologue apparatus exists in many countries of operation, to include major institutes, banks, Islamic movements and parties, e.g., that of MB senior Anwar Ibrahim and his family in Malaysia.
Previous MB attempts to overthrow the Government of Egypt (GOE) include assassination attempts on Nasser and his PM (successful), Sadat (successful), and Mubarak. MB has access to billions of dollars of funds. Increasingly cooperative with shi’ite Iran/Hez’b’allah (Party of God), vice only Saudi/OIC and sunni dominated countries/groups.
MB’s End game goal: Establish the caliphate and achieve global governance under Islam.
MB’s Motto: the very democratic, moderate, pluralistic and inclusionary verses of:
Allah is our objective.
The Prophet is our leader.
Qur’an is our law.
Jihad is our way.
Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.
[For a reasonably fair and accurate, well footnoted summary, see the main MB Wikipedia entry, and notably MB original documents and US trial evidence in the footnotes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_Brotherhood#cite_note-24. Pro-MB authors (Leiken, Graham Fuller, others), are in the mix and a dance card is useful, but the overall picture emerges.] See also, www.GlobalMBreport.com
Irrespective of the accuracy of The Telegraph‘s story that the U.S. cleverly has been planning/aware of this effort in Egypt for 3 years, working with “democracy activists” — who are rather clearly the Muslim Brotherhood (for which there is significant evidence) — it serves at least to highlight unsettling trends. Not least re our inability, in our present state, to consider, contain or even react in any effective way to these events and effects — of which there seems to be endless permutations.
It should be noted that the Obama Administration has been all over the map on the issue in recent days, to include contradictory statements by the Pres, VP, SecState, and spokesmen as to human rights, Tunisia, whether Mubarak is or isn’t a dictator, whether the GOE is stable, whether we will suspend US aid, whether we support Arab world “people’s” movements (no in Iran, yes in Tunisia, maybe in Egypt, etc.), whether the claims of such movements are legitimate or not, etc. Not to mention inconsistencies, silence, reversals on similar subjects in the case of Lebanon, Syria, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc. Crisis management is not their forté and the Middle East has not been the scene of Administration victories.
Re the “activists,” interlocutors and agents provocateur, aka, Muslim Brotherhood cadres: Virtually our whole approach to understanding of, and ‘outreach” to, the Arab and Muslim world, at home and abroad, has been contracted out — increasingly formally (funding, billets inside our decision and analytic loop, not just advisory, seats at tables, etc.) — to our enemies at home and abroad for years now, notably CIA, State, INR, and domestically — the Bureau, DHS, and the soft powers (NED, USIP). Same for the UK. The history of the UK and U.S. services, and others, over a long period stretching to the 1920-40’s, with the MB is another topic. Suffice it to say it is long and convoluted; but the point is that the engagement is of long standing, which might raise more questions than it answers.
The main, or even exclusive interlocutor, in Egypt and generally in the Muslim basket, is directly and indirectly the MB in all its disguises. As Melanie Phillips put it in Londonistan — “we have long contracted our understanding of the extremists to the extremists”, with the predictable result. At the very definitional level, the enemy has come to designate the parameters of the engagement and debate, to a remarkable extent. It is all so handy and timely, and certainly saves us having to read their damnable history, books and reams of doctrine and to learn their secret language, locate the Hijaz on a map, etc. It even runs the Islamic World polling operation of Pew and other major opinion firms who in turn stoke our policy and informational data inputs and objectives, and our broadcasts to the Muslim/Arab world, our Democracy/Civil Society money in Iraq and the greater MidEast/NoAfrica region. How very useful these MB friends and “assets” are.
A consensus seems to emerge among us that, sadly, none of this is likely to get us what the (US Govt/architects) imagine. If the recent Obama awarding of $60B arms to Saudi was part of this fantastic calculus for replacing dictatorships, then this is even dumber. In any case, the MB have no intent of being our partner, or dealing in any normative context of quid pro quo beyond whatever is strictly in their interest — which self-evidently does not include moderating or restraining world Islamist trends and capabilities. The Islamists are in particular need of a serious propaganda and recruitment boost on both the political and armed side, and now they are getting it. Losing in Cairo, or a setback there of some sort, will only redouble the bracing effects, there and globally, of a new shot of adrenalin for their ummah-wide aspirations. I don’t expect them to lose, or to be held back for long, but rather to be strengthened overall.
The Mubarak regime is weakened already, the police and military have fissures and know their future lies beyond the 80-year-old weakened Mubarek. The concession on the resignation of the Cabinet came quickly. The armed forces are unlikely to crush the MB — managing revolutions is notoriously difficult. But in such fluid situations the advantage most always accrues to the party with the most fervent willingness to ruthlessly apply the level of violence needed to prevail, especially if they have advantage of initiative. It is not a game for moderates, nor is there any serious “moderate” opposition in evidence. Such moderates as exist, who may hope to influence the MB, will suffer the usual fate of being swept along, co-opted, used and discarded by the revolutionary elite once power is consolidated.
Revolutions also can benefit from a focus on external enemies — safety valves for the unrest they inherit, create and cannot quickly enough manage or suppress. Eliminating the border blockade and any pretense of partnership with Israel/U.S. in a peace process, recognizing a Palestinian state, and moving a war against Israel, are just some of the logical options for early action by an Islamist regime. U.S. influence in Egypt, as in the rest of the region, is fast eroding and nearly impossible to advance in effective timeframes given the recent and near term realities and the overwhelming contingencies of the fortnight (Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon, the Hariri tribunal, civil war within Lebanon, war with Israel, the Iranian program, to name some obvious ones).
Thus the table could soon shift, all over the globe, in the Islamists’ favor — with too few offsets for our side, even were we prescient and resourced enough to be able to exploit such.
Part of our failure to ever conduct a serious global net-assessment of the Islamists or otherwise examine them in the global context — indeed to view them as global at all — was/is often rationalized as “We need to deal with them in Egypt, don’t trouble us about the rest”. In the 1990’s, State Dept essentially said the same thing about elevating Hamas (officially the MB) viz Arafat and the ‘process’ — “We need a 2nd ‘party’ to have a Palestinian democratic entity, and one we can deal with that has legitimacy and isn’t so corrupt — Hamas is it!” (they speak English, went to school in the West, understand the media and can be trusted to run AID projects efficiently, are good organizers, earn us points in the Arab Street, etc. — same thing State said to justify support to the legacy parties of the CCCP in Russia in the same timeframe). I was at the table as a Democracy/Governance Advisor at State at that time as these things were said and programmed.
Recent US Govt-sponsored efforts have whitewashed the MB by selective reporting, notably the IC-sponsored Robert Leiken paper in Foreign Affairs, which strove to portray the MB as a political party, democratic and moderate, while acknowledging its role as the predominant Islamist movement in the world. This report was anchored by numerous interviews, yet curiously done without reference to the three most important leadership cadre of the MB –then Supreme Guide, Atkef; the lead cleric, Qaradawi; or the chief fundraiser, Nada — whose positions repeatedly and consistently are opposite to those represented by Leiken and his sponsors (a charter founder of the Social Democrats USA, Leiken’s record with the Sandinistas was similar, and very late into the regime). So the belief that another Iran won’t happen and that the revolutionary forces are moderate and manageable, gets another run.
This “pragmatic” approach — along with factors such as Islam’s millenia of institutionalized D & D (in the religion’s books, shari’a, statecraft and culture); the IC’s Saudi black box (and the cash box of billions of dollars in Saudi funding since 1975 to ensure Islamist domination of all aspects of Islam, thus ensuring only the radicals are heard and effective while the chimerical ‘moderates’ are defunded, displaced, demoralized and discredited); the overall Arabist tilt and romance in the U.S. foreign service arms and the academy; and, the brilliant playing of the PC and fake “civil liberties-Muslim bigotry” elements domestically by the MB’s apparat orchestra — abetted by our witling and/or willing bureaucrats across government, media and academia, all have combined to blind us to the realities of the Islamist vision, resources, capabilities and networks and to their avowedly global project. In the process, our approach has also smothered and penalized any who ask the inappropriate or inconvenient questions (whether in the IC, Law enforcement, agencies, congress, media, publishing and the culture at-large). A controlled and shaded mirror guides our analysis under the cover of providing us the needed crescent of light.
It will become increasingly hard to turn all this around, especially if Egypt does become MB soon, and as we go from crisis to crisis along a shifting, reactive, policy line (Saudi, Israel, Turkey, Yemen, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, etc.). Ponder whether we would then be better positioned for managing the dead “peace process’; affecting the leadership transitions in Saud, et al.; countering Iran’s nuclear program; holding the oil price in a reasonable range; containing Turkey’s Islamist government (and WMD development); or, prevailing in policy and security goals re Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, or among Central Asian Muslims, Nigeria’s Muslims, and all the relevant pipelines, governments, WMD’s, SLOCS, MB offspring and related Islamist terrorist groups, etc.
Or imagine whether, after a MB-takeover in Cairo, France would be better able to manage its hundreds of Muslim “no go” areas, or England, Spain, Germany and the Benelux advancing increasingly needed countermeasures. Consider effects on Right-wing, Nazi, anti-immigrant and already heightened anti-semetic/anti-Israel activity, and other sectarian reactions and concomitant stressors, in a Europe already fraught with domestic pressures re economy/jobs, fuel supply/pricing, sovereign/unsustainable debt, immigration/welfare, aging populations and negative birth rates. Imagine the effects in, say, the Balkans, Malaysia, Indonesia, the India-Pakistan subcontinent, and in energy patches of FSU (not to mention the Russian military and its Muslim cohort or the vast Muslim population proximate to the Moscow ring road). None of these situations will be ameliorated by a renewed Islamist energy, added state sponsorship for Islamist fronts and terror groups, or the cascading effects of wars, blockades, commodity shortages, Muslim led strikes (Marseilles, e.g.), an Iran and Russia reaping windfall oil profits and arms sales markets, and a visibly weakened U.S. authority/credibilityand an attenuated crises of confidence generally among friends and allies.
If it is the US/Western assumption that the MB in Egypt or elsewhere is “a kind of solution,” then we are in deeper trouble considerably sooner than expected.
It is possible that this might turn out to be the most grievous failure of strategy, intelligence and analysis in our time. It may also turn out to be among the most rapidly and deeply effective influence operations ever perpetrated against us. [The MB came here informally in the early 1960’s, and began formalizing institutions in the early 1980’s, and entering government and dominating dialogue in the 1990’s — all under foreign, illegal and criminal sponsorship and funding, and while actively criminally providing material support to global terrorism, including that aimed at the US and its allies. Truly an impressive feat from most any applicable metric.]
One objective of the series of Senate hearings and other investigative, analytic, law enforcement support and reporting efforts that colleagues and I led and supported in 2003, was to set the predicate for an independent B-team analysis of Islam and Arab related intelligence, since so clearly much had been wrong, ignored or sidetracked. This certainly would have quickly come to focus on the global MB and the strength and growth rates of its efforts. Two former Directors of Central Intelligence were willing to oversee such a blue-ribbon effort; no such comprehensive review or competitive analysis effort, to my knowledge, has occurred. Nor has there been any similarly aimed top level coordination against the global MB/Islamist target. Instead, considerable efforts have been devoted to loading the deck in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the requisite zig-zagging around the Sauds, while the majority of daily IC effort otherwise applied to things Muslim/Arab is devoted directly to warfighter support, something limned as “Al Qaeda and its affiliates,” Iran’s nuclear program and some marginal drug/terrorist/threat finance support and WMD possibilities — all results of Islamist growth and depth earlier misjudged.
Yet, almost assuredly, there now will be no time, even if demanded by Congress, for reviews, new assessments, independent forward thinking, all-points questioning, the sponsorship of rapid mastery of Islam or Arabic/regional certification programs, enhanced CI [counter intelligence] training and Islam awareness programs. All instead will be invested in managing the daily crisis traffic and threat streams, defending the mistakes and investments already made, and maintaining endless cycles of rationalization and delusion, and general political spin. The damage will evolve slowly and unevenly, continuing a long pattern. Disasters will be attributed to uncontrolled ‘unforseeable’ forces. We will adapt without retribution, reform or meaningful correctives — short of a 9/11 of some sort, and even then. Perhaps the defeat of Israel, who knows?
It becomes a thing beyond Orwell — or Fred Ikle’s ‘semantic infiltration’ or V. Bukovsky’s remarking (speaking about arms control with the Soviets) on “the West’s need for delusion” — when we find ourselves rationalizing the Muslim Brotherhood as a force for democracy and moderation. And when, from our institutionalized post-religious, post-ideological, post-everything viewpoint, we imagine that we might usefully manage our rather global equities among the soon-to-be 1-in-4 persons who are Muslim (Pew’s latest projection for 2020) through the Muslim Brotherhood’s tender offices and missions. Such delusion makes our China policy seem considered, deeply informed and sober. Fools who tried to hustle the East.
All enemies will now redouble their hustling of us –from China and Russia to DPRK and Iran, sensing, as jackals and rug merchants alike preternaturally do, the weakened tourist lost in the sands — the easy mark, the overextended, exhausted and fever-blinded grasping hand.
Of course, the situation may be in varying degrees more happily positive than suggested. Yes, Mubarak or the military may find an interim hold on power, sufficient for U.S. policy to sort itself out. Yes, the MB if in power will have to divert attention to managing Egypt, feeding its people, controlling its military, refining MB 3.0 and the “democratic mask”, balancing the local of Arab world and the larger Islamist project, etc. The MB and the Islamist project could be diminished for a time by this, more likely over a dangerous amount of very bloody time. Its capacity for adaptation is not fully understood. Yes, China’s masses may be stirred, the CCP may be weakened, its military empowered more rapidly or the whole friable mess overturned (one can’t bear to think how unprepared we are for that!). Or some unknowable internal chain of struggle may be set off within and among actors such as Iran or Saudi, or over time between the MB and the rest of Islam, that is somehow beneficial to some U.S. interest. An awakening in Western governments and culture might begin, or a Presidency here or there be shortened. We may develop our own massive stores of oil and gas, whilst the Saudis run out, altering our calculus about the region notably. There are many more possible outcomes. There is too much room for the accidents and miscalculations that can easily lead to wars. There is not much resiliency in the system, here or there.
One has to do what one can with any new hand, however dealt. But it is always harder to play catch-up as MacArthur neatly postulated in his famous remark about the history of failure in war being a result of ‘too late comprehending the deadly purpose of a potential enemy; too late in realizing the mortal danger; too late in preparedness; too late in uniting all possible forces for resistance, too late standing with one’s friends.’ A cliche for IR [international relations] students perhaps, but all too apt in the current circumstance, as we approach the end of what, in the larger context, might be adjudged a wasted decade regarding this enemy and our exertions afield, post-9/11. If Mubarak’s Egypt goes, many allies, potential allies and enemies alike will have cause to more deeply question the reliability and credibility of the U.S., beyond the personality of this Presidency, and to consider alternatives.
All for now. Back to the wires, Al Jazeera, and the rest. Comments welcomed. For various reasons, including the growing list size and members, (sensitive/institutional positions and equities), it is best that any responses come bcc’d and with an indicator as to whether they may be shared, attributed or not.
ps. As some of you have pointed out, meanwhile the tanks, troop carriers, gas canisters and related paraphernalia and electronics deployed against the crowds are in the main U.S. origin or license (M1A1 tanks are made their under license, for instance). Those in Iran are Chinese, and those in China are ours and Israel’s. Makes it all quite complex.
Attempts to view global Islam and its main motive force in the tired, routine and largely irrelevant lenses of the Cold War abound. EuroIslam/a third way? MB as Social Democrats equivalent? Catholic and western formalist religious critiques recast as points of departure to analyze a wholly different religion which in its fundamentals rejects western rationality? Memes of Civil rights, decolonialization, poverty remediation, cross cultural exchange and interfaith dialogue?
These, and the other self-mirroring and studied tropes of the IR, aid and talkshop world have been generally reflections more of American obsessions and social science fashions than of the subject target of effort and its culture. They will continue to be both 1) ineffective for us and 2) useful for the Islamists. Useful for them because they are thus better funded, credentialed, and validated to be further introduced into our analytic, informational and decision loops whilst they gain intelligence on us and reinforce our misguided beliefs; and, because it buys them time and tactical room to exploit here and abroad, which for them are one line, Dar al Harb, the zone of war. Ineffective for us because our approach insulates the MB from normal Law Enforcement and IC/Counterintelligence attention, reduces them in our conception as any level of threat in favor of viewing them as a client and lever whose confidence and favor we may gain by empowering them further. The trade off is the cut off of most all critical thinking or review — not to mention limiting useful collection/tasking, purposeful and effective infiltration and turning, etc.
So, this wilful distortion perpetrated by the MB and by ourselves, precisely blocks effective “connecting of the dots”. It is its own virtual Wall, to unpleasantly recall the Reno/Holder device. This is the case whether for a deplaning panty bomber who thus cannot be interrogated effectively and timeously, an influence agent in place, an MB appointee or judge, a psychotic military officer or sociopathic federal agent gone ‘native’, or an insider threat target (or an MB investment) in a vital government or private sector critical infrastructure — virtually none of whom have been, or can at present expect to be, subject to the normal scrutiny, review, procedures or questioning for fear of an unfavorable federal case, a private tort, a slap down from an interested agency, or simply an overwhelming MB-orchestrated public reaction which results in any of the above.
This new mau-mau has been fine-tuned with guidance from the old New Left, the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the remnant Socialist Worker Parties, et al — and a clutch of their alumni, fresh from Gitmo representation and now in senior appointive slots at DOJ — all practiced at “widening the legal space for the revolution” as their godfather Wm. Kunstler put it. The MB’s experience in Egypt and elsewhere of having to play a behind the scenes, underground and two-faced role, often while banned or exiled — biding time and gathering strength — provides an organic understanding of such subversive approaches, which in turn has firm roots, nomenclature, and positive reinforcement in the religion, from the Koran and foundational authorities, and over time. Such is the MB’s alliance structure in America, its conception of engaging democracy, making alliances with secular elements, waging lawfare and propaganda, and more generally, how best to subvert the U.S. constitutional order.