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U.S. reexamining its relationship with Muslim Brotherhood opposition group

WP reveals US gov’t connection to Muslim Brotherhood:

On Monday, in what analysts said was a clear reference to the Brotherhood, the White House said a new government in Egypt should “include a whole host of important non-secular actors.”

[…]

For years, however, U.S. officials have engaged in back-channel talks with Egyptian members of the movement in recognition of its substantial popular support.

The unofficial contacts have taken place sporadically since the 1990s but became more frequent after members of the Brotherhood were elected to the Egyptian Parliament in 2005. Afterward, U.S. diplomats and lawmakers held several meetings with Brotherhood leaders, including at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

U.S. officials justified the meetings by saying they were merely speaking with duly elected members of the Egyptian legislature.

"I do think that having contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood was not a bad idea," said Robert Malley, a Clinton administration official who directs the Middle East and North Africa program for the International Crisis Group. “They are an important constituency in Egypt. They’re very likely to play a role in any future arrangements there.”

[…]

Despite the White House’s decision Monday to extend a rhetorical olive branch to the Brotherhood, analysts said the Obama administration remains divided over whether and how to deal with the group, both in the near and long term.

J. Scott Carpenter, a State Department official in the George W. Bush administration, said the White House overture could backfire by alienating leaders in the Egyptian military, who could remain in control of the country even if Mubarak is forced out.

"It was completely unnecessary and counterproductive," he said of the White House statement. "It sends the wrong message to the military."

Hillel Fradkin, an analyst at the Hudson Institute, said the U.S. government should be spending more energy reaching out to secular factions that have been active in the anti-Mubarak protests.

"If we’re going to deal with people in the opposition, it makes the most sense for us to engage with groups that can be reasonably thought to support a liberal democratic outcome in Egypt," he said.

In contrast, he said deepening a dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood is unlikely to bear fruit, because the movement’s goals are at odds with U.S. interests. “How are we going to persuade them to like us?” he said. “They don’t, and they won’t.”

Filed under USA Egypt Muslim Brotherhood White House

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