Trump mulls terror designation for Muslim Brotherhood

US President Donald Trump met Egypt's Abdel Fattah el Sisi on April 9 at the White House

US President Donald Trump met Egypt's Abdel Fattah el Sisi on April 9 at the White House

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that the Trump administration is working to formally designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi asked Trump to make the designation, which Egypt has already done, in a private meeting during a visit to Washington on April 9, a senior USA official said, confirming a report in the New York Times on Tuesday.

Others believe the measure would allow el-Sisi to crack down on his Muslim Brotherhood opponents in Egypt. El-Sisi led a coup in 2013 that challenged and removed former president Mohamed Morsi from power.

The move comes three weeks after Trump hosted Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whose government has been criticized for cracking down on secular and left-wing activists, as well as Islamists close to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which generally backs hawkish policies in the Middle East, doubted that the whole Muslim Brotherhood could be declared a terrorist group under normal processes.

The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, has influenced Islamist movements around the world with its model of political activism combined with Islamic charity work.

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Those in opposition say the Muslim Brotherhood does not fit the U.S. criteria for terrorist groups, and have been working to draft other measures the United States could take without making the formal designation. That makes any designation hard to enforce.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House national security adviser John Bolton reportedly support the move, according to the Times.

President Donald Trump speaks as he welcomes members of the Baylor women's basketball team, who are the 2019 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball National Champions, to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 29, 2019.

The United States now considers 96 groups as designated terrorist organizations. The Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt's oldest Islamist movement, and the impetus to designate it a terror group actually came from Egypt. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist group, was once a member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

Formally designating the Brotherhood could also worsen the USA relationship with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey. The move would increase USA tensions with Turkey, whose president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a vocal supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. The courts had then sentencing to death 75 people, including Muslim Brotherhood leaders, over the uprising.

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