Still more significant, though, is the fact that “permissive environments” where al-Qaeda is coming back to roost—“Arab Spring” countries like Egypt, Libya, and Syria—are also places where the Muslim Brotherhood has been gaining strength.
And Obama, while readily identifying al-Qaeda as evil and an enemy of America and the free world, notoriously looks at the Brotherhood differently. Indeed, his administration has made a point of repeatedly lauding the election of Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi as Egypt’s new president.
For those free of a sentimental affinity for the Brotherhood, it of course makes perfect sense that it would be cultivating environments where al-Qaeda feels welcome. The Brotherhood is, after all, the organization from which Al-Qaeda sprang. Bin Laden had Brotherhood teachers in his youth, and current al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri was a member of the Brotherhood in his native country of Egypt.
Indeed, the Brotherhood condemned Bin Laden’s assassination, proclaiming that “legitimate resistance against foreign occupation in any country is a legitimate right” and “request[ing] that the US stop…intelligence operations against dissenters, and halt its interference in the internal affairs of any Arab or Muslim country.” In other words, a direct rebuff to what the U.S. president flaunts as a heroic moment.
A rational U.S., and Western, approach to the rapidly changing—and deteriorating—Arab Middle East requires not only recognizing that al-Qaeda is returning there, as MI5 chief Evans underscores. It also requires realizing that, while they have tactical differences and sometimes frictions, al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood are two closely related facets of the same global-jihadist, anti-Semitic, anti-American, anti-Western phenomenon.
Specific policy implications would include ceasing to back the wrong side—the Brotherhood—in Egypt instead of the right side—the more moderate and much more pragmatic Supreme Military Council; ceasing to back the Syrian rebels now that the Brotherhood-al-Qaeda front is spearheading them; and trying to prevent (which, according to one report from Middle East News Line, the U.S. is now starting to do) al-Qaeda-aligned militias from taking over Libya while there is still time.
Forestalling the region’s descent into an even worse, world-threatening maelstrom depends on finally starting to see it clearly.
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