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Cablegate: Egypt's Muslim Brothers - Part I: History And

P 310904Z MAY 01
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1478
INFO ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 003303

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/12/2005
TAGS: KISL PGOV PTER EG
SUBJECT: EGYPT'S MUSLIM BROTHERS - PART I: HISTORY AND
STRUCTURE

REF: A. 2000 CAIRO 2785
B. 2000 CAIRO 3178

CLASSIFIED BY A/DCM RICHARD LEBARON FOR REASONS 1.5 (B) AND
(D).

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SUMMARY
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1. (C) THIS IS THE FIRST IN A TWO PART MESSAGE DISCUSSING
EGYPT'S MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD. PART 1 OUTLINES ITS HISTORY AND
STRUCTURE, PART 2 OF THE MESSAGE WILL DISCUSS THE BASES FOR
THE MB'S POPULARITY AS A POLITICAL FORCE IN EGYPT TODAY.
EGYPT'S (ILLEGAL) MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, FOUNDED IN 1928, IS A
PART OF THE COUNTRY'S HISTORY AND ITS PRESENT POLITICAL LIFE.
THE ORGANIZATION'S HISTORY IS CHECKERED WITH ATTEMPTS TO
PARTICIPATE IN THE GOVERNMENT AS WELL AS VIOLENT ATTEMPTS TO
OVERTHROW THE GOVERNMENT. THE MB IS THE ORGANIZATION FROM
WHICH THE VIOLENT ELEMENTS, THE GAMA'A ISLAMIYYA, THE
EGYPTIAN ISLAMIC JIHAD AND THE VANGUARDS OF CONQUEST
SPLINTERED.

2. (C) DESPITE GOVERNMENT ATTEMPTS TO STIFLE THEIR POLITICAL
ASPIRATIONS, 17 MUSLIM BROTHERS WERE ELECTED IN FALL 2000 AS
INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES TO THE NATIONAL PEOPLE'S ASSEMBLY AND
IN FEBRUARY THEY CAPTURED ONE-THIRD OF THE SEATS ON THE BOARD
OF EGYPT'S LAWYERS SYNDICATE. TODAY, THE AGING MB LEADERSHIP
IS HESITANT TO TURN OVER THE REINS TO YOUNGER MEMBERS,
CAUSING WHAT SOME VIEW AS AN INTERNAL RIFT. YOUNGER LEADERS
ARE THOUGHT TO REPRESENT A MORE CONTEMPORARY AND LIBERAL
TREND, REFERRED TO AS "DOVES" WHILE THE OLDER LEADERS ARE
THOUGHT TO BE SOMEWHAT SCLEROTIC "HAWKS." DUE TO THE SECRET
NATURE OF THE DELIBERATIONS OF THE MB SHURA (CONSULTATIVE)
COUNCIL, WE CANNOT PREDICT WHO WILL SUCCEED THE CURRENT AGED
SUPREME GUIDE MUSTAFA MESHHOUR. END SUMMARY.

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AN HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE
-----------------------

3. (U) THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD (MB) IS PART OF EGYPT'S
HISTORIC AND CURRENT POLITICAL LANDSCAPE. DESPITE ITS
ILLEGAL STATUS THE MB IS A SIGNIFICANT FORCE IN CURRENT
EGYPTIAN POLITICAL LIFE. FOUNDED BY SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHER
SHIEKH HASSAN AL BANNA IN ISMAILIA IN 1928, THE ASSOCIATION
OF MUSLIM BROTHERS WAS THE FIRST WIDE-SCALE, ORGANIZED,
INTERNATIONAL ISLAMIST MOVEMENT. SINCE ITS FOUNDING IT HAS
REMAINED A SEMISECRET ORGANIZATION, WITH A CELLULAR
ORGANIZATION AND A FOCUS ON ATTRACTING YOUTH. SOME YOUTH
GROUPS WERE KNOWN TO BE PARAMILITARY. THE MB HAS A NETWORK
OF SOCIAL, EDUCATIONAL AND ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES AND
ENTERPRISES. TITHING ("ZAKAT") OF MEMBERS ALSO HELPS TO
FINANCE THE ORGANIZATION.

4. (U) IN ADDITION TO PLAYING A PART IN RESISTING AND
FINALLY ENDING THE BRITISH OCCUPATION OF EGYPT, IN 1948 THE
MB DEFINED TWO ORGANIZATIONAL OBJECTIVES: IMPLEMENTING AN
ISLAMIC SOCIAL SYSTEM AND CONTRIBUTING TO SOCIAL SERVICE IN
EGYPT. FOR A PERIOD IN BETWEEN WWII AND CONSOLIDATION OF THE
MILITARY REGIME IN 1952, KING FAROUQ PERMITTED THE MB TO
FUNCTION AS A POLITICAL PARTY TO COUNTER THE POWER OF THE
WAFD PARTY. IN 1948, MB VOLUNTEERS PARTICIPATED IN THE WAR
FOR PALESTINE. UPON THEIR RETURN TO CAIRO, THEY WERE ACCUSED
OF PLOTTING AGAINST THE MONARCHY WITH THE INTENT OF
ESTABLISHING A THEOCRATIC REPUBLIC. PRIME MINISTER MAHMOUD
EL NOQRASHI STRUCK FIRST, ISSUING A DECREE DISSOLVING THE MB,
IMPOUNDING ITS ASSETS AND ARRESTING ITS MEMBERS. TWENTY DAYS
LATER, A YOUNG MB MEMBER ASSASSINATED NOQRASHI. IN EARLY
1949, THE MB SUPREME GUIDE EL BANNA WAS MURDERED, IT WAS
RUMORED, BY GOVERNMENT AGENTS.

5. (U) AN INTENSE PERIOD OF UNDERGROUND ACTIVITY FOLLOWED.
A NEW SUPREME GUIDE, HASAN EL HODEIBY TOOK OVER AS HEAD OF
THE ORGANIZATION. IN 1951, THE COURT LIFTED THE BAN AND THE
MB WAS PERMITTED TO RECOVER SOME OF ITS ASSETS AND RESUME
OVERT ACTIVITIES AFTER THE WAFD PARTY WON THE ELECTIONS AND
FORMED A NEW GOVERNMENT. SHORTLY AFTER THE REVOLUTION, A
1953 DECREE BANNING POLITICAL PARTIES WAS DEEMED NOT TO APPLY
TO THE MB ON THE GROUNDS THAT IT WAS NOT A POLITICAL PARTY.
NONETHELESS, IN 1954, NASSER INVOKED THE DECREE, DISSOLVING
THE MB, WHICH WAS PLOTTING HIS OVERTHROW AND ROUNDED UP
THOUSANDS OF MBS. SIX MB LEADERS WERE TRIED, CONVICTED AND
EXECUTED; 7 WERE SENTENCED TO LIFE IN PRISON.

6. (C) IN 1960, MB DISSENTERS, LEAD BY SAYYED QUTUB, OPENLY
ADVOCATED THE USE OF VIOLENCE TO OVERTHROW NASSER'S "APOSTATE
REGIME." ONCE AGAIN, MASSIVE ARRESTS OF MB LEADERS AND
MEMBERS TOOK PLACE. AFTER NASSER'S DEATH IN 1970, SADAT
RELEASED A NUMBER OF JAILED MBS AND THE MAINSTREAM
ORGANIZATION RENOUNCED VIOLENCE AS A TACTIC. BOLSTERED BY
ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH SADAT, THE MB IN 1977 ASKED THE
ADMINISTRATIVE COURT TO LIFT THE 1954 MILITARY DECREE BANNING
IT. THE COURT REFUSED TO OVERTURN THE BAN AND IN 1992 AN
APPEAL (STILL UNRESOLVED) WAS FILED WITH A HIGHER COURT.

7. (C) THE MB CARRIED WITH IT TRADITIONS OF IDEALISM AND
VIOLENCE, PIETY AND TERROR, WHICH HAVE BEEN DIFFICULT TO
DISENTANGLE AND SEVER. AS THE ORGANIZATION TRIED TO MODERATE
ITS POSTURE IN THE 1970'S, MILITANT ISLAMIC FACTIONS
INCLUDING THE GAMA'A ISLAMIYYA, EGYPTIAN ISLAMIC JIHAD AND
VANGUARDS OF CONQUEST SPRANG FROM ITS RANKS. SINCE THE
ATTACKS UPON TOURISTS IN CAIRO AND LUXOR IN 1997, EXTREMIST
ISLAMIST GROUPS HAVE BEEN SEVERELY CRIPPLED BY THE SECURITY
SERVICES AND POPULARLY DISCREDITED. LUXOR SEEMED TO DEEPEN
THE DIVIDE BETWEEN THE MB AND ITS EXTREMIST OFFSPRING. AL
HAYAT REPORTED THAT FOLLOWING THE ATTACK IN LUXOR, THE MB
LEADERSHIP WARNED ITS MEMBERS TO HAVE NO CONTACT WITH THE
ATTACKERS WHO HAVE "NO RELIGION AND NO CONSCIENCE."

------------
THE MB TODAY
------------

8. (C) FOR FIFTY YEARS, SUCCESSIVE EGYPTIAN REGIMES HAVE
ATTEMPTED TO SUPPRESS OR ELIMINATE THE MB, YET THE MOVEMENT
SURVIVES. AN ILLEGAL ORGANIZATION SINCE 1954, MB LEADERS ARE
PERPETUALLY IN AND OUT OF JAIL AS THE GOVERNMENT ATTEMPTS TO
CONTROL OR SHUT DOWN MB ACTIVITIES, THE MOST OBVIOUS OF WHICH
CONTINUE TO BE APPLYING AN ISLAMIC SOCIAL SYSTEM AND
DELIVERING SOCIAL SERVICES. THEY PARTICIPATED IN THE
PEOPLE'S ASSEMBLY AS SOCIALIST LABOR PARTY MEMBERS IN THE
1980S. IN COORDINATION WITH THE SLP, THE MB WON 37 SEATS IN
THE 1987 LEGISLATURE. THEIR PROMINENCE CALLED INTO DOUBT
THEIR COMPETENCE, WITH ONLY DR. ESSAM EL ARIAN RECOGNIZED AS
A SERIOUS PARLIAMENTARIAN. THE MB BOYCOTTED THE FOLLOWING
ELECTIONS UNTIL THE FALL 2000 ELECTIONS. IN SEPTEMBER 2000,
DURING A RARE SHOW OF STRENGTH AT THE FUNERAL OF MB SECRETARY
GENERAL IBRAHIM SHARAF, SUPREME GUIDE MUSTAFA MESHHOUR
PREDICTED THAT THE MB WOULD ESTABLISH AN ISLAMIC STATE IN
EGYPT BY THE YEAR 2030.

9. (C) THE ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM BROTHERS IS HEADED BY A
SUPREME GUIDE, ASSISTED BY A GENERAL GUIDANCE COUNCIL,
RESPONSIBLE FOR FORMULATING POLICIES AND RUNNING THE GROUP'S
ACTIVITIES, AND BY A SHURA OR CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL. WE KNOW
LITTLE ABOUT THE DECISION-MAKING BY THE MB LEADERSHIP WHOSE
MEETINGS ARE CLANDESTINE. LIKE A NUMBER OF EGYPTIAN
POLITICAL PARTIES, THE MB IS TODAY HEADED BY ELDERLY
LEADERSHIP. THE ORGANIZATION FACES THE CHALLENGE OF MAKING
WAY FOR THE YOUNGER GENERATION, REPRESENTED BY LEADERS IN
THEIR 40'S AND EARLY 50'S LIKE DR. ESSAM EL ARIAN AND DR.
IBRAHIM ZAAFARANI OF THE DOCTORS' SYNDICATE, AND JOURNALIST
SYNDICATE LEADER SALAH ABDEL MAQSOUD.

10. (C) THE MB SUPPORTED ABOUT 40 CANDIDATES WHO RAN AS
INDEPENDENTS IN THE 2000 ELECTIONS FOR THE PEOPLE'S ASSEMBLY
(LOWER HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT). OF THE 444 ELECTED SEATS, 17
WENT TO MUSLIM BROTHER INDEPENDENTS. EIGHTY PERCENT OF THE
MBS ELECTED ARE UNDER THE AGE OF 45. THE VAST DIVIDE BETWEEN
AGED AND YOUTH MEMBERS WAS PERHAPS MOST PRONOUNCED IN 1996
WHEN YOUNG MB LEADERS JOINED WITH OTHER NON-MB POLITICAL
CENTRISTS TO SEEK APPROVAL FOR A WASSAT (CENTER) PARTY.
WASSAT WAS NOT APPROVED BY THE GOVERNMENT'S POLITICAL PARTIES
COMMITTEE, BUT THE YOUNG MB'S REBELLIOUS ACTIONS LED TO A
RIFT WITHIN THE MB STRUCTURE. ACCORDING TO ONE ISLAMIST
EXPERT, "FOR THE FIRST TIME IN RECOLLECTION, MB LEADERSHIP
AND ITS CENTRALIZED ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE CAME UNDER FIRE
FROM RANK AND FILE MEMBERS." THE PRAGMATIC, DYNAMIC YOUNG
MBS INCLUDING EL ARIAN, MAQSOUD AND ZAAFARANI, IMPRISONED
FROM 1995-2000 WERE INCAPABLE OF PULLING THE ORGANIZATION
BACK FROM THE BRINK OF DISCORD AND DEMORALIZATION. WASAT
SYMPATHIZERS REMAIN OUTSIDE THE MB MAINSTREAM TODAY. THE
GOVERNMENT'S METHOD OF COPING WITH THE POPULARITY OF YOUNGER
MB LEADERSHIP CONTINUES TO BE DETENTION, TRIAL, AND
IMPRISONMENT. IN NOVEMBER 2000, 15 MBS, MOST OF THEM
PROFESSIONALS ACTIVE IN THE SYNDICATES AND POTENTIAL
CANDIDATES FOR THE PEOPLE'S ASSEMBLY, WERE SENTENCED TO 3-5
YEARS IN PRISON FOR MEMBERSHIP IN AN ILLEGAL ORGANIZATION AND
RELATED CHARGES.

-----------------------------------
HAWKS AND DOVES -- A GENERATION GAP
-----------------------------------

11. (C) MOST LEADERS OF THE MB TODAY APPEAR TO FALL INTO
EITHER "HAWK" OR "DOVE" CAMPS. SUPREME GUIDE MESHHOUR
REPRESENTS THE OLD GUARD, THE MORE "HAWKISH" LEADERSHIP,
REVOLUTIONARIES REARED DURING THE COLONIAL PERIOD, SOME
ACCUSED OF VIOLENT ACTS. TODAY, HE CLAIMS, THE GOVERNMENT
FEARS THE FACT THAT THE MB IS A "WELL-ORGANIZED ENTITY"
RATHER THAN AN ADVOCATE OF VIOLENCE. SOME OBSERVERS BELIEVE
BOTH THE GENERATION GAP AND THE DIFFERENCE IN VIEWS AND
TACTICS HAVE BEEN SOURCES OF CONTENTION BETWEEN THE HAWKS AND
THE DOVES WITHIN THE ORGANIZATION. ACCORDING TO AL AHRAM
WRITER OMAYMA ABDEL-LATIF, THE HAWKS INCLUDE MESHHOUR, MB
SPOKESMAN MAHMOUN EL HODEIBI, ABBAS EL SISSI AND MAHMOUD
EZZAT IBRAHIM, SOMETIMES MENTIONED AS A POSSIBLE SUCCESSOR TO
MESHHOUR. OTHER HARD LINERS INCLUDE ABDEL MONEIM ABDUL
FUTUH, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE PHYSICIANS' SYNDICATE;
MOHAMED EL SAYED HABIB, FORMER MP AND PROFESSOR AT ASSIYUT
UNIVERSITY; AND MOHAMED MAHDI AKEF, FORMER HEAD OF THE
ISLAMIC CENTER IN MUNICH.

12. (C) DR. ESSAM EL ARIAN, ASSISTANT SECRETARY GENERAL OF
THE PHYSICIANS' SYNDICATE REPRESENTS THE YOUNGER, DOVE
GENERATION OF LEADERS. ALSO INCLUDED IN THIS GROUP ARE SEIF
EL ISLAM EL BANNA, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE LAWYERS'
SYNDICATE AND SON OF THE MB FOUNDER; IBRAHIM EL ZAAFARANI
SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE PHYSICIANS' SYNDICATE IN ALEXANDRIA
AND SALAH ABDEL MAQSOUD OF THE JOURNALISTS SYNDICATE.
POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR IMED SHAHEEN BELIEVES THE YOUNGER
GENERATION HAS A "NEW VISION." BRED ON THE CAMPUSES, THEY
ARE "POLITICIANS" RATHER THAN "REVOLUTIONARIES." ZAAFARANI
TOLD POLOFF LAST FALL THAT THE MB DOES NOT CONDONE VIOLENCE
AND HE INDICATED HE WANTED TO OPEN A DIALOGUE WITH THE U.S.
ESSAM EL ARIAN EXPLAINED TO AL AHRAM IN OCTOBER 2000, "...
THE BROTHERHOOD WAS NEVER INVOLVED IN ANY ACT OF VIOLENCE
(NOTE: PRESUMABLY, IN HIS EXPERIENCE)... WHEN (THEY) WERE PUT
ON TRIAL, THEY WERE NEVER ACCUSED OF USING VIOLENCE... WE ARE
AGAINST ALL FORMS OF VIOLENCE..."

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SECRECY AND SUCCESSION
----------------------

13. (C) ASKED ABOUT CONCRETE PLANS FOR SUCCESSION TO AVOID A
POWER VACUUM, EL ARIAN TOLD AL AHRAM NEWSPAPER, "ALL MATTERS
ARE UNDER CONSIDERATION BY THE (MB) SHURA COUNCIL."
ACCORDING TO STATUTES SET BY ITS FOUNDER IN 1928 AND
REPORTEDLY AMENDED IN 1992, A CANDIDATE FOR THE POST OF
SUPREME GUIDE MUST BE FROM THE 120-MEMBER SHURA COUNCIL. MB
CHAPTERS OUTSIDE EGYPT WILL ALSO HAVE A SAY IN SELECTING THE
NEW LEADER, ACCORDING TO ARIAN. SPECIFICS AND CRITERIA FOR
CHOOSING A NEW LEADER ARE NOT CLEAR. MB SPOKESMAN EL HODEIBI
ADMITTED TO AL AHRAM IN MARCH THAT, "CONVENING THE (SHURA)
COUNCIL WOULD IN ITSELF LEAD TO ARREST." THE GOVERNMENT
CONSIDERS MEMBERSHIP IN THE MB SHURA COUNCIL A CRIMINAL
MATTER, ACCORDING TO MB SOURCES.

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COMMENT
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14. (C) DUE TO THE MB CODE OF SECRECY CONCERNING ITS
DELIBERATIONS AND PLANS AS WELL AS EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT ANGST
WITH MB ELECTORAL ACTIVITIES AND RECENT GAINS BOTH IN THE
PARLIAMENT AND THE LAWYERS' SYNDICATE, MB MEMBERS HAVE BEEN
HESITANT TO SPEAK WITH EMBASSY OFFICERS ABOUT THE MB. WE
HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO ASCERTAIN THE LIKELY SUCCESSOR TO MUSTAFA
MESHHOUR, NOW 80 YEARS OLD. GIVEN THE ORGANIZATIONAL
STRUCTURE AND SPLIT WITHIN THE POLITICAL CAMPS, SELECTION OF
THE NEXT SUPREME GUIDE WILL LIKELY REPRESENT A STRUGGLE
BETWEEN THE HAWKS AND THE DOVES. GIVEN THE UNCERTAINTY ABOUT
WHO IS ACTUALLY ON THE SHURA COUNCIL, WE CANNOT PREDICT WHICH
SIDE IS LIKELY TO WIN, ALTHOUGH ACADEMICS FAMILIAR WITH THE
MB INDICATE MESHHOUR'S SUCCESSOR WILL LIKELY COME FROM THE
"DOVE" GENERATION.

15. (C) DESPITE ITS INTERNAL CHALLENGES, THE SPECTER OF
GOVERNMENT SURVEILLANCE, AND ARREST OF ITS MEMBERS, THE MB
ENJOYS A DEGREE OF POLITICAL POPULARITY AMONG EGYPTIANS,
WHICH WE WILL EXAMINE IN THE SECOND CABLE IN THIS SERIES.

KURTZER

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