Cablegate: Update On Reports of Divisions Within the Muslim

DE RUEHEG #2011/01 2941510
P 211510Z OCT 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 002011



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/21/2019
BROTHERHOOD REF: CAIRO 1893 Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Economic and Political Affairs Donald A. Blome for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1.(C) Key Issues: -- The media continues to report on "clashes" among Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leaders about "moderate" MB member Dr. Essam El Eryan's possible appointment to the MB's Guidance Bureau. -- MB Supreme Guide Mehdi Akef has denied reports he resigned because of internal resistance to Eryan. Guidance Bureau member and Independent MP Saad Katatni confirmed deliberations on Eryan continue. -- Contacts inside and outside the MB tell us that the divide within the MB is being played out in procedural terms but that the underlying conflict centers on the MB's approach to external engagement such as participation in elections.

2.(C) Comment: The ongoing internal discussion about Eryan signals conservative worries about the direction of MB leadership and the possibility of future compromises on core issues. They are also an indicator of Supreme Guide Akef's preference for a politically active MB. GoE pressure on the MB will likely deepen the rift between those who see the MB's future tied to pragmatic engagement and those who prefer principled isolation. End Comment.

3.(C) The Egyptian media, both independent and government-owned, have reported extensively over the last week on continued clashes within the MB's Guidance Bureau over the naming of Essam El Eryan to the Bureau following the death of one of its members (reftel). On October 18, several papers reported that MB Supreme Guide Mehdi Akef had resigned in protest after an internal decision to block Eryan's membership and suggested that he had "lost control" of the group. In a statement to Ikhwanweb that same day, Akef denied the reports of his resignation and criticized the recent increase in arrests of MB members. (Note: Ikhwanweb is an English-language MB-affiliated website founded by MB leader Khariat El Shatter who is currently serving a 7-year prison sentence. End Note.)

4. (S/NF) On October 20, Dr. Saad Katatni, MB Guidance Bureau Member and MB parliamentary bloc leader told PolOff that Akef had not tendered his resignation and that he remains in charge of MB internal affairs. Katatni also confirmed that internal discussions about changes to the Guidance Bureau, including the candidacy of Essam El Eryan, continue. He underscored that reports of internal disputes are exaggerated, but said there are differences of opinion on "administrative issues."

5. (S/NF) Christian intellectual Rafik Habib, who maintains close contact with the MB and Supreme Guide Akef, (Note: Habib works with the organization his father helped to found, the Coptic Christian Organization for Social Services (CEOSS). CEOSS is a community development organization that also works to promote inter-faith dialogue. Habib also participated in the founding of the Islamist-leaning Al Wasat party along with former MB Abu El Ela Madi (although he is now no longer a member). Al Wasat remains unlicensed. End Note.) told PolOff Akef supports Eryan's inclusion in the Guidance Bureau. Habib said failing to add Eryan will widen the gap between MB leadership and a large portion of its young supporters. Within the Bureau, Akef is being confronted by what Habib calls the MB "right wing" which believes that the kind of flexibility and political engagement advocated by Eryan and Aboul Meneim Al Fotouh will lead to "unacceptable compromises" of the MB's core principles. Habib calls the "left wing" of the MB (Eryan, Fotouh, and to some extent the Deputy Guide Mohammed Habib) pragmatic but cautioned that they should not be viewed as "moderates." Their goals are the same as "conservative" MB's; a religious state where Sharia is applied to all aspects of life. Pressure from the GoE, including the recent spate of arrests, has intensified that internal debate. Conservative members like Mohammed Ezzat are advocating for a period of isolation, including limited participation in the elections. More politically engaged members like MP Katatni, in contrast, have said the MB will participate in these elections (reftel).

7.(C) In an October 21 interview with the private daily El Shorouk, MB Deputy Mohammed Habib confirmed his and Akef's support for El Eryan. (Note: Mohammed Habib is the MB's CAIRO 00002011 002 OF 002 First Deputy Supreme Guide. He received the second-highest vote count in the 2004 Supreme Guide elections. Habib is known for his political savvy and is credited with developing the MB's 2005 election strategy. Habib was an MP from 1987 to 1990. In 1995 he was sentenced by a military tribunal for membership in an illegal group. End Note.) Habib said Akef left the October 19 Guidance Bureau meeting in frustration when the group rejected his recommendation, but said Akef continued as Supreme Guide. Habib said those opposed argued on procedural grounds. Eryan was next in line after coming fifth in the interim Guidance Bureau elections of June 2008. (Note: According to Rafik Habib these elections were intended to expand the Bureau to compensate for the likely arrest of its members during the coming election cycle. End Note). Those opposed to Eryan argued that substitutes may only be named in the event of full elections not interim ones. Since 1994, pressure from the GoE has prevented the MB from conducting internal elections for either the governing Shura Council or Guidance Bureau. The next full elections are scheduled for 2011. Scobey

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