In a January 8 letter sent to Congressman Inhofe, the State Department explained its decision to allow the transfer of F-16 jets to Egypt to proceed. Egypt, it explained, “continues to play an important role in regional peace and stability.” But just what kind of role? A journalist in the region sketches a disturbing possibility.
Hassan Hassan, writing in the United Arab Emirates, traces the long-standing ties between the current Iranian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood (hat tip to the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report). According to him, people in both camps are interested in closer ties:
Iran has been upbeat about the popular revolts, dubbing them an ‘Islamic Awakening’ and confident it can build strong ties with the people of the region after the demise of dictatorial rule in the Arab republics.
Meanwhile, senior leaders in the Egyptian Brotherhood are interested but remain cautious, given internal opposition to such a move:
Indeed, there is a growing current within the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt that is pushing for stronger ties with Iran. This current is represented by Kamal Al Halbawi, a former Brotherhood spokesman, who said in July the status of Shiites in the region would be ‘better’ with the rise of the Brotherhood and moderate Islam. Others, like Doha-based Youssef Al Qardawi, approve of stronger relations with Iran but oppose any Shia influence within Sunni communities.
It is important to distinguish between the Brotherhood as an organisation and as an ideology. The former is coherent but the latter is loose. The Brotherhood includes Sunni adherents from a wider religious spectrum, from extreme Salafis to moderate clerics, with conflicting views on sectarian issues. According to people I’ve spoken to, the Brotherhood leadership therefore treads carefully in terms of rapprochement with Iran to avoid alienating sectarian forces inside and outside the organisation, but at the same time quietly promotes it.