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CAIRO – 1 February 2018: The United States announced on Wednesday that they are listing Egypt’s so-called Hasm group and Lewaa al-Thawra on the Specially Designated Global Terrorists blacklist.
The State Department’s statement highlighted that Hasm is a terrorist group active in Egypt and some of the leaders of the violent groups were previously associated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Hasm and Lewaa al-Thawra claimed responsibility for many terrorist attacks committed through Egypt’s governorates.
Head of Political and Strategic Unit at the National Center for Middle East Studies Tarek Fahmy considers the US decision of designating Hasm group and Lewaa al-Thawra as terrorists a positive and effective step. “It marks the beginning of opening the case of [designating Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as a terrorist organization] and review[ing] whether these latest procedures are enough,” he told Egypt Today.
“This decision is a response of many trials of a number of U.S. congressmen who pushed strongly for the U.S. to designate Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization,” he added.
In January 2017, some congressional Republicans reintroduced legislation calling on the State Department to designate the Brotherhood a terrorist organization or explain why it would not. “It’s time to call the enemy by its name,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who sponsored the measure with Representative Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, wrote on Twitter.
Fahmy, a Professor of Political Science at the American University of Cairo and Cairo University, remarked that U.S. currently witnesses a debate between the U.S. administration, who refused to take stance against the Muslim Brotherhood, and the congressmen who demanded to dry sources of support to the Muslim Brotherhood.
“On the level of presidential and decision making institutions, the U.S doesn’t want to take a stance against the Muslim Brotherhood as it is observed that Group members exist all over the region; in Jordan, Tunisia, Sudan, Algeria and Morocco and they have a representative in ministries and governmental institutions. Thus, it’s difficult to bar Muslim brotherhood activists as it will harm U.S. interests”.
In a piece inked for Bloomberg, Eli Lake states that the Trump administration has settled on a more refined approach, seeking to designate violent chapters of the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists, but not going after the entire organization. As the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, told reporters in December: "We will be evaluating each organization on its own terms. The organization is not monolithic or homogenous."
“America must draw a distinction between nonviolent Islamists and those who turn to terror. The designations announced Wednesday are important in this respect. But it's no substitute for a coherent policy on the Muslim Brotherhood. For that, the Trump administration must devise a strategy for countering, engaging or ignoring groups that seek to impose Islamic rule through the ballot and not the bullet,” Lake wrote.
Earlier, in response to a question posed by FOX News anchor Sean Hannity on whether the U.S. should designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said that the U.S. is a country with its own respected agenda, and it may take some time for the country to recognize terrorist groups and their global impact.
In January 2018, Sisi held intensive talks with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the presidential palace in Cairo, over a number of urgent issues, including ways to eliminate the threat of terrorism. Pence pointed to President Donald Trump’s efforts to forge stronger ties with Sisi in his first year in office, at a time when both countries seemed to be drifting apart.
Pence tweeted, “we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Egypt in the fight against terrorism,” and that “our hearts grieve” for the loss of life in recent terrorist attacks against Egyptians.
Calls and demands to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization have echoed in the U.S. since the beginning of 2017. In a report released on March 24, 2017, National Public Radio (NPR) argued that the presence of the MB among Americans became “controversial,” citing an investigation launched recently into an MB-linked Muslim charity called the Holy Land Foundation, which led to the sacking of its five employees over charges of having funneled money to Hamas’ military wing.
The report cites such move as feared by a number of civil rights organizations, further leading to a brazen crackdown on Muslim in America.
In June, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that blacklisting the MB as a “totality” would complicate U.S. relations in the Middle East. He added, “but at the top of the quality chain, if I can call it that, there are elements of [MB] that have now become parts of governments,” Tillerson said, referring to MB elements in the Turkish Parliament.
Since December 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood has been declared a terrorist group in Egypt.