The Times reports this morning that David Cameron has ordered an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood. The paper says he has asked British intelligence services to examine claims the Brotherhood was responsible for a bomb attack in Sinai in February.
The original article is paywalled but you get the gist of it here.
Number 10 claims that the investigation is part of an attempt to better “understand” the Brotherhood, since its political influence has far outstripped Britain’s comprehension of what it is up to. The UK has proved a popular location for many Brotherhood members, exiled from Egypt after a military coup last July that ushered in a wave of violence and arrest against Islamists unprecedented in the country’s modern history.
Not that it should be continually incumbent on an organisation that renounced political violence in 1949 to prove its non-involvement in terrorist activity, but the attack that MI5 and MI6 are investigating was anyway claimed by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a militant organisation that has gone on record labelling Mohammed Morsi an apostate. It’s not as if the two groups are similar (one campaigns and protests and gets elected; the other blows stuff up).
The evidence mentioned in the Times piece which has ostensibly prompted this investigation? MB members “held a meeting” in London to discuss strategy.
It’s not hard to see what is going on here.
Saudi and the UAE – two of Britain’s closest (and richest) regional allies – recently included the Brotherhood on its list of designated terrorist organisations. There is likely a large amount of Saudi lobbying at work, especially given its recent tiff with Qatar and the closeness of the relationship between London and Riyadh, bolstered through royal visits and the oil and arms trades. Saudi fears democracy arguably more than it does actual terrorists, and so London has been asked to look at those MB members on its doorstep. Those “claims” of MB involvement in the Taba bombing mentioned in the Times piece? Only the new dictators in Cairo and the very old ones in Saudi are claiming anything of the sort.
Not that the story ends there. Few things in the Middle East are what you could call reliable. The one major exception to this is that wherever there is bloodshed, persecution, autocracy and western-interference in the region, the gaping yaw of one man is usually not too far away. That’s right. Tony Blair.
It’s been nigh on impossible to keep the guy away from Egypt since the coup. He’s hailed Egypt’s president-in-waiting Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, is best mates with billionaire Naguib Sawiris (who funded the Tamarod campaign that went on to provide a modicum of civilian cover for the coup), and continues to pontificate generally on an intellectual par with Michelle Bachmann.
Blair was in Egypt yesterday. Today we read:
Sir Kim Darroch, the prime minister’s national security adviser, has already started work. A key role will be played by Sir John Sawers, the current chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), who served as UK ambassador to Egypt between 2001-03. Sawers, who had previously served as Tony Blair’s foreign affairs adviser in Downing Street, had strong contacts with the regime of the former president Hosni Mubarak.
Makes sense. The team that brought us the illegal invasion of Iraq and one half of the War on Terror is backing more secular autocracy and looking at ways to implicate Islamists.
This is an organisation that has been the target of persecution since its inception more than 80 years ago, that spent decades being rounded up and killed by successive western-backed military autocrats, that won multiple elections declared free and fair by the international community only to be forced underground by another military dictator. Its supporters have been massacred on the streets and its members rounded up and jailed without so much as a chance for the defence to step foot in court. After fleeing for their lives, MB partisans have fled Egypt.
Yet these are the people under investigation for terrorist activity. I’m often accused of being pro-Brotherhood (I’m not, although I’m proudly anti-coup), but I cannot fathom how this is a) proportionate to events in Egypt and b) in keeping with the UK’s tradition of hosting foreign political dissidents, as MB members now are.
Anyone would get the feeling that you can’t be a Muslim organisation in the UK without having your name mentioned in the same sentence as “extremist activity”…