The military coup in Egypt has, of course, been headline news for more than a week now. Pundits and politicians may debate whether or not the United States should cut off aid to Egypt, but that issue is becoming largely moot: While the United States debates suspending $1.6 billion in annual aid, the oil-rich emirates of the Persian Gulf have stepped in to offer $12 billion. While Iran and Turkey condemn the coup, and the Obama administration remains ambivalent, most Arab states applauded it. Why?
It is ironic that while the Obama administration bent over backwards to embrace and recognize the Muslim Brotherhood as converts to democracy, Arab governments who spoke their language and understood their actions approached the Brotherhood with trepidation and complained behind-the-scenes about the potential backlash they might suffer because of U.S. naiveté.
Case in point is al-Eslah, the Muslim Brotherhood branch in the United Arab Emirates. On July 9, the United Arab Emirates sentenced 68 adherents to up to 15 years in prison on charges that they had plotted a coup (26 others were acquitted). The trial had been ongoing for several months. While many of the headlines in the West focused on alleged human rights abuses suffered by the suspects—and the UAE is probably not blameless here—the evidence also appears overwhelming that al-Eslah is guilty and that it has sought to sponsor terrorism in one of the Middle East’s most stable and pro-Western corners.
The U.S. government has tied al-Eslah’s charity, Human Appeal International, to terrorism. The defendants in the trial had been involved with groups led by Youssef Qaradawi–a Muslim Brotherhood preacher whose support for terror is well documented.
The lesson is clear: While the State Department and White House played footsies with the Brotherhood in Egypt, the group used its newfound legitimacy to expand its campaign of destabilization across the Middle East. Muslim Brotherhood front groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America often threaten to label any criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood and its agenda “Islamophobic,” and that’s enough to cow the White House and State Department. It’s hard to accuse any Arab state of “Islamophobia,” however. Perhaps, then, rather than vacillate about the group’s downfall in Egypt, the United States should take a hint from those who know the group best, cheer their downfall, and work to roll back the group further in places like Gaza, Turkey, and Tunisia.