The US State Department has recently placed Hasm (Decisiveness) and Lewaa Al-Thawra (Revolution Brigade) on its list of terrorist organisations.
The two groups, which Egypt has has said are affiliated to the banned Muslim Brotherhood, were branded as terrorists on the UK’s list in December 2016.
Cairo welcomed the US move, hoping the Muslim Brotherhood will soon join the US list of terrorist organisations.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid stated that the US move is “a positive development indicating that Egypt’s international partners, prime among which is the US, realise the danger the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood organisation and its affiliates pose to Egypt’s security, stability and its people.” Abu Zeid added, “The US decision translates as solidarity with Egypt in its war on terrorism and an understanding of the villainous attempts at obstructing its path to development and economic growth.
This is what US high-ranking officials expressed lately and it is an important step forward for the international community to adopt an effective, comprehensive strategy to uproot terrorism.”
Generally, when the US makes a similar decision, it is either due to security threats it has received on the national level or direct coercions to its interests overseas, or due to diplomatic efforts made on the part of the country at risk of losing its relationship with the US as a result of terrorism. Or in some cases, it could be both.
“It is obvious Cairo’s diplomatic efforts affected the US decision because these terrorist factions do not constitute a threat to US national security. They function inside Egypt’s borders, unlike Hizbullah, for example, which has taken its operations abroad and threatens US interests in Lebanon. Blowing up the US Embassy in Beirut in 1984 is a case in point,” Atef Saadawi, an expert on international relations, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Some political analysts point out that the US decision to designate Hasm and Lewaa Al-Thawra as terrorist groups draws a line between the Muslim Brotherhood and its sub-organisations working under its wings.
“Egypt and the Western countries which branded these groups as terrorists do not see eye-to-eye” when it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood, said Ahmed Al-Beheiri, an expert on terrorist groups at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. “According to data released by Egypt’s prosecution-general after investigating terrorist operations conducted by these groups, there is a link between these factions and the Muslim Brotherhood,” Al-Beheiri added.
Al-Beheiri explained that Hasm was created before Lewaa Al-Thawra and has executed more operations. While Lewaa Al-Thawra claimed its responsibility for three attacks, Hasm has adopted assassination operations against, for example, prosecutor-general Hisham Barakat, the failed attempt on the life of former mufti Ali Gomaa, in addition to claiming responsibility for assassinating police personnel and judicial figures such as assistant prosecutor-general Zakaria Abdel-Aziz and judge of Cairo Criminal Court Ahmed Abul-Fotouh.
Investigations conducted by State Security Prosecution revealed that these terrorist groups were created in Cairo by prominent Muslim Brotherhood figure Mohamed Kamal, after disbursing the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in in August 2013, with support from leaders who escaped to Turkey and the UK to fund quasi-military operation theatres and manufacture bombs.
After its creation in 2016, Lewaa Al-Thawra spokesman Salaheddin Youssef spoke of the ties — organisational and otherwise — between the Muslim Brotherhood, Hasm and his group, and said that violence adopted by the group is traced back to the ideology of Sayed Qotb, the figurehead of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Branding the organisation’s sub-affiliates as terrorist groups is a prelude to placing the mother organisation [on the international terrorist list], as was the case with Hamas which started by designating its affiliate Ezzeddin Al-Qassam Brigades as a terrorist group. But in the case of the Muslim Brotherhood, the matter is pending solid proof,” commented Saadawi.
“Better late than never,” Brigadier General Khaled Okasha, a security affairs expert and member of the Supreme Council for Combating Terrorism and Extremism, told the Weekly of the US decision.
It was clear, Okasha said, that US and British security and intelligence bodies played a major role to effect this change on the political level. “Branding the mother organisation as terrorist needs persistent effort on the side of Egypt’s state bodies. Providing proof has to be done in a language the West understands, such as exposing the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood members on social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook. Their activities could easily be analysed because they incite violence.”
Experts believe that in the next phase the US will monitor financial transactions related to the funding of the terrorist groups, to contribute to their demise.
* This story was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly