mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Egyptian Islamists Turning Radical: Trouble for Obama?


In the eyes of many members of the Muslim Brotherhood, as Reuters reports in an special investigation, the usra, the foundation of the Brotherhood’s organization, is failing. Usras are small groups of Muslim Brothers, usually about seven, with a leader. The group meets frequently and the leader can become very important and influential among the other members. But these days the usras aren’t meeting; the pressure from the government has forced the Brotherhood deep into the shadows of Egyptian society. And that extreme pressure is breaking down the Brotherhood’s organizational structure, leading to speculation that extremism will be the natural result.

“This month,” Reuters reports, “suspected militants killed six Egyptian soldiers near the Suez Canal, fired rocket propelled grenades at a state satellite station in Cairo and exploded a car bomb near an Egyptian army intelligence building in the city of Ismailia. More than 50 people have been killed and more than 270 wounded in recent clashes between the police and protesters supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.” This is in addition to the hundreds of deaths of Brotherhood members and supporters in the early days after the military’s coup.

“Not all people in the opposition can go on resisting peacefully if this unbelievable pressure continues,” one Brotherhood member told reporters, “especially the detentions of leaders who pushed the movement to remain peaceful. All these military actions against us, including killing and torture and arrests, push us to respond with force. One prays that God ends the crisis before we reach the situation in Syria.”

According to government sources quoted in the New York Times last week, the Obama administration is working on a new strategy for the Middle East. Gone is support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and gone are the calls for a democratic transition there. Instead, the focus is on Iran, Israel and the Palestinians, and on mitigating the fallout from Syria.

But life in Egypt, still the beating heart of the Middle East, is not improving much, and if pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood remains this intense there could be a return to the dark days of insurgency in the 1950s and ’60s when the state cracked down hard on Islamist leaders, prompting disaffected youth to take up arms. It would be a mistake for the US to abandon Egypt now, in this time of need.

[Student supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim brotherhood demonstrate outside al-Azhar university in Cairo on October 28, 2013. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.]

Features Icon
show comments
  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    I don’t see how America can influence, not to mention change, anything in Egypt. The Egyptians are on their own, just like the Americans are on their own, to sink or swim through their own efforts.

    • Corlyss

      Jack, the usual way: with money. Only Val and ‘Chelle decided to cut off the money. The success or failure of a new American policy depends on how fast this clubfooted bunch can reverse field and start pouring money into the Egyptian military.

  • Corlyss

    “the Obama administration is working on a new strategy for the Middle East”
    The past is prologue.
    This crew of ignoramuses will produce a “new” policy as adept and successful as the old one.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service