The New York Times reported that the White House is renewing efforts (with the assistance of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz) to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization following Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s recent trip to Washington, D.C. But Egyptian media is outraged, as Akbar al-Hawadeth reports, that a group of Muslim Brotherhood leaders and supporters were received at the State Department ahead of El-Sisi’s White House visit.
The Egyptian newspaper cited this incident as yet another example of elements within the State Department undermining U.S. President Trump’s pro-Egypt policies.
I previously interviewed Egyptian terrorism expert Khaled Okasha, who explained that both terror groups were founded and directed by Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau leader Mohamed Kamal.
Akhbar al-Hawadeth specifically noted the presence of Ahmed Shehata, a senior leader of both Islamic Relief USA and the Muslim American Society (MAS), as part of the delegation received by the State Department.
The newspaper identified both of Shehata’s organizations as Muslim Brotherhood fronts. Documents obtained through FOIA by the Middle East Forum from the Office of Personnel Management revealed that Islamic Relief has been a target of an ongoing criminal investigation. Egyptian authorities have claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood covertly uses Islamic Relief affiliates internationally to fund the group.
FBI documents obtained by Judicial Watch also identify MAS as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood, saying that it is controlled by Hamas sympathizers known to conduct firearms and military-style training for its American members. The Justice Department identified the group as “the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America” in a December 2007 federal court filing.
Pictures taken by the delegation show Shehata as part of the group entering the State Department on March 25.
Their State Department visit was part of a larger “Egypt Advocacy Day” sponsored by Human Rights Watch and the Project on Middle East Democracy. One of the keynote speakers for the event was senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Amr Darrag, former Minister of Planning for deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, and a co-founder of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.
According to Akhbar al-Hawadeth, the Istanbul-based Darrag is part of the group’s network based in Turkey and Qatar that directs terrorist attacks inside Egypt. It cited documents and electronic communications implicating Darrag captured by security officials in raids of terror-cells members
Darrag has publicly called for “continuous resistance” targeting the Egyptian government and promoted a number of conspiracy theories, including claims that the government have been behind recent church bombings targeting Egypt’s Coptic Christians.
It is unknown who at that State Department authorized Darrag’s visa to enter the United States.
As reported by The New York Post, Muslim Brotherhood leaders were previously given VIP treatment and afforded special “port courtesy” by the Clinton State Department.
Akhbar al-Hawadeth expressed concern that the delegation’s reception by the State Department appeared to continue the pro-Muslim Brotherhood policy of the Obama administration.
In January 2015, a delegation of Muslim Brotherhood leaders was received at the State Department, including Gamal Heshmat and Waleed Sharaby, based in Turkey. Both have been pictured with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, a U.S. designated global terrorist.
Two days after that 2015 visit to the State Department, the Muslim Brotherhood published on their official website a call for a “long, uncompromising jihad” against Egypt.
That notwithstanding, many in Washington, D.C., still promote the Muslim Brotherhood as a positive force in the region while many U.S. allies in the Middle East, including Israel, take action against the group for terrorist activities.
With the State Department recognizing the organization’s role in international terrorism, acknowledged by last year’s Hasm and Liwa al-Thawra designations, it remains unclear why it would still be welcoming the Muslim Brotherhood.
This lack of clarity is one of the reasons why some in Congress, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), have called for designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, observing that the group’s affiliates around the Middle East don’t hide their support for terrorism, and that the U.S. government over several administrations has recognized that fact.
But Muslim Brotherhood leaders have openly bragged about spending millions to obstruct those efforts by Congress and the Trump administration. And continuing to be received at the State Department is likely to embolden their supporters here and abroad, frustrating our Arab allies.
Patrick Poole is a terrorism and national-security analyst and a writer for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.