Opinion

Realpolitik is no excuse to pay off Muslim Brotherhood for hostages

Robert J. Guenther Editor, BiasBreakdown.com

With the revelation that the Obama administration has donated $1.5 billion to the Muslim Brotherhood, we now have a better idea of why the president is campaigning so hard for the “Buffett Rule” and its additional $4.7 billion in annual revenue. Other terrorist-friendly organizations with political aspirations may require “investments” from the United States as well.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s organizational credo professes: “Allah is our objective, the Prophet is our leader, the Koran is our law, jihad is our way and dying in the way of Allah is our highest objective.” The Brotherhood is described by the Hudson Institute as “the mother organization of Arab Islamism” and is considered by the Council on Foreign Relations to be a gateway drug to hardcore terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida and Jamaat al-Islamiyya. Its outreach extends to such upstanding international citizens as Hamas and Iran (despite Sunni/Shiite tensions).

Yet this dubious group is reaping the benefits of the administration’s “soft power” diplomacy. Soft? More like flaccid. Each of these organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood, has declared itself an enemy of the United States or its allies. In addition to the Brotherhood’s anti-American history, Egypt’s government itself held 19 U.S. citizens for two months as de facto hostages, including the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Hardly the actions of a reliable ally committed to a “strategic partnership.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s purported reasoning for releasing these funds is problematic on two fronts. Releasing $200 million of the $1.5 billion to Egypt for “meeting its obligations under its Peace Treaty with Israel,” when Palestinians are launching rockets from the Sinai border, is a farce. But the timing is a travesty, occurring shortly after U.S. citizens under house arrest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo were finally permitted to leave the country. (Four hundred other Egyptian NGOs, without a sugar daddy superpower to pay their ransom, are still under investigation, and the charges against the U.S. citizens still haven’t been lifted.)

These United States citizens, as well as countless others, were not detained for rape, theft, murder or unpaid parking tickets, but for nakedly political reasons. Instead of the United States leveraging real human rights gains for aid, the Obama administration has taught the Muslim Brotherhood that the Egyptian military can round up several hundred “dissidents” and extract funds for the “human rights progress” of releasing these political prisoners. North Korea uses a similar tactic to get aid through phony concessions on its nuclear program, which shows that setting this precedent hinders real diplomatic achievement and positively reinforces the behavior. In a Wahhabite terrorist playground like the Middle East, this is an especially dangerous association.

More frustrating is that the Obama administration seemed to understand the dangers of a Muslim Brotherhood ascendancy. The president stated in his 2011 interview with Bill O’Reilly: “[There] are a whole bunch of educators and civil society in Egypt that want to come to the fore as well. And it’s important for us not to say that our only two options are either the Muslim Brotherhood or a suppressed Egyptian people.” The president clearly recognized that the elevation of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group linked to both the 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, would be a net negative for Egypt and for the United States. And yet, the administration elevated the Muslim Brotherhood by releasing the $1.5 billion and meeting in an official capacity with Brotherhood officials. In doing so, it effectively endorsed the global Islamic theocratic political movement, or as naïve internationalists in the press call it, the “Arab Spring.”

The president continued: “I think that the Muslim Brotherhood is one faction in Egypt. They don’t have majority support in Egypt, but they are well organized and there are strains of their ideology that are anti-U.S., there is no doubt about it.” Which strain of the newly elected Muslim Brotherhood plurality in parliament will control the country?

Critics will correctly argue that the foreign aid package is an annual standard for the Egyptian government going back three decades and $60 billion, and that the Egyptian government is not solely the domain of the Muslim Brotherhood. But the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party is set to take control of parliament, and the Brotherhood’s “chief strategist and financier” presidential candidate, Khairat el-Shater, is a favorite in the race. Secretary Clinton may have been within her authority to waive “legislative conditions related to Egypt’s democratic transition, on the basis of America’s national security interests,” but what else will Secretary Clinton be forced to waive in the name of national security interests to pander to the Arab Spring’s blossoming caliphate?

The Obama administration is not the first to cozy up to distasteful international players in the name of a larger strategic interest, but it may be the first to overtly and directly engage in exchanging United States aid dollars for hostages. For believers in realpolitik, these decisions may seem rational, as the Muslim Brotherhood’s Egyptian branch is the head network of a larger organization that plays prominently in Middle Eastern hotspots such as Iraq, Jordan and Yemen, among others. But once the Muslim Brotherhood’s control over geopolitically strategic Egypt is complete, how long before it seeks international ascendance and reneges on its treaties? Will it sack its Non-Proliferation Treaty requirements in order to enter the nuclear fray? How much will the U.S. end up spending in dollars and drone strikes on propping up more failing regimes like Pakistan that have fingers on nuclear buttons?

Unfortunately, all signs indicate this recent White House “investment” in a terrorist-friendly organization will be as successful as the one made in Solyndra.

Robert J. Guenther is editor-in-chief of BiasBreakdown.com and can be reached at rguenther@biasbreakdown.com. He can be followed on Twitter @biasbreakdown.