Security, Middle East
Designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization could elicit a strong anti-American backlash and prompt those who rely on the Brotherhood’s social services to view America as an enemy.
The Danger of Labeling the Muslim Brotherhood as a Terrorist Organization
President Donald Trump announced in April that he supported designating the Muslim Brotherhood, a prominent international Islamist movement, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). This decision has proven to be highly controversial due to the lack of legal justification for the designation, the repercussions for U.S. regional interests, and the absence of any strategic gains from adopting such a policy. Steven Brooke, an assistant professor at the University of Louisville, and Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, spoke at length about the impact of this decision at a luncheon hosted by the Center for the National Interest on June 6.
During the event, two central themes were discussed: the integral role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the countries that they operate in, and the consequences of the designation on U.S. foreign policy. The FTO designation would, in effect, impose wide-ranging economic and travel sanctions on companies and individuals who interact with the Brotherhood. There are fears among policymakers that governments which oppose the Brotherhood, such as in Egypt, would use the decision to justify their repressive policies against the group by confiscating their assets and driving them underground. With this in mind, there was a consensus by the panelists that the Trump administration’s efforts to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as an FTO were misguided and counterproductive. This also revealed a lack of understanding by the current administration about how the FTO designation would significantly affect U.S. regional policy.