The U.S. Adopts a Tougher Stance toward the Muslim Brotherhood

Nathan Sales, the American ambassador for counterterrorism, recently announced that the State Department is designating several groups and individuals affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists. First among them is Ismail Haniyeh, the chairman of the Hamas politburo—a decision that suggests a move away from the long-held distinction between the group’s political and military “wings.” To Eli Lake, these designations show the beginnings of a new approach to the Brotherhood as a whole:

[T]he Trump administration [seeks] to designate violent chapters of the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists, but [is] not going after the entire organization. . . . In some ways this approach is not new. The Obama administration managed to reach out to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after the Arab Spring in 2011 but nonetheless treat its Palestinian wing, Hamas, as terrorists. There are no plans, [however], for the Trump administration to attempt to find common ground with the Muslim Brotherhood. . . .

Another reason the Haniyeh designation is important is because it signals the U.S. will not support efforts at a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, the party of the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas. Trump has already threatened to cut off aid to the statelet Abbas runs, and Abbas responded in January with a deranged speech declaring the peace process a dead letter. Now Sales is making clear the U.S. will not encourage a Palestinian unity government, either.

Sales also announced the designations of two relatively new organizations, Liwa al-Thawra and Harakat Sawa’d Misr. The groups, formed in 2016 and 2015, are led by former members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Both groups have taken responsibility for acts of terror. . . .

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.

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More about: Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics & Current Affairs, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy

 

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East