Sunday, May 06, 2007

Iraq strategy: A skeleton in the Muslim Brotherhood's closet

AlJazeera's Amman bureau chief Yasir abu Hilala writes a regular column in the Jordanian paper Al-Ghad, and today he broaches a topic that has been lingering in the background since the start of the media campaigns and reorganizations among the armed groups in Iraq: Given the fact that there was a Muslim Brotherhood organization in Iraq during the Saddam era, what became of it from 2003 onward, and how is this history playing out today? First Hilala reviews in very general terms the writings of the MB founder, Hassan al-Banna, stressing that there are a variety of possible readings of his overall position on the question of recourse to violence, and this was reflected in the multiplicity of different strategies adopted in different countries, depending on local circumstances, for instance in Syria the MB participated in elections, while in Yemen they took up arms against the government, even though it was an Islamic government; and so on. His point is that the MB, if you look at its history, isn't really a global organization with any kind of central control. Turning to Iraq, he writes
This multiplicity of readings caused consternation and disputes when the Americans came. Leaders outside of Iraq had been yearning for a return to Iraq like that of the Daawa and the Supreme Council (SCIRI). And those who had been active in Iraq under Saddam, cut off from the outside world, were convinced that their leaders abroad were the more knowledgeable and better-equipped to direct matters. The tragedy began with a fatwa from outside (of Iraq) telling the Brothers to abandon Baghdad, and to do nothing to defend the Saddam regime.

This secret fatwa constituted the first actual split within the Iraqi MB, because some did leave Baghdad pursuant to the fatwa, but others rejected it, calling it contrary to religion, political opportunism, and even treason. Those who obeyed the fatwa got involved, catastrophically, in the political process, voting yes for the sectarian constitution and finally ending up participating in the sectarian Maliki administration and lending it legitimacy. Those who rejected the fatwa got involved in armed [resistance] operations, in fact its leaders were founders [of the resistance] as happened in the case of the Brigades of the 1920 Revolution, the Army of the Rashideen, and other groups, including Jaamia ("the group"; I am not sure what he's referring to there) and Hamas of Iraq.
This has to be read, at least in part, as a commentary on the earlier columns (also in Al-Ghad) by Mohamed abu Roman on the significance of Hamas--Iraq as an Ikhwan-related form of resistance-group, and followup commentaries in English, where the implicit idea had to do with the possibility of finding a "pragmatic" resistance group to negotiate with. Hilala's point is that first of all, there isn't a single Ikhwan position on "armed struggle--yes or no" but rather there has been a whole range of opinions and strategies, both in the wider Arab world earlier, and in Iraq since 2003. And more important, this question of how to respond to the American invasion has already been the cause of a split in the Iraqi Ikhwan, in fact those who rejected the outside fatwa in 2003 have been among the leaders and founders of more than one armed resistance group, while those who accepted it have been among those most seriously compromised by their participation in the "political process".

Hilala continues: The taped message yesterday by AlQaeda leader abu Hamza al-Muhajir, although he perhaps isn't that well-versed in the history of the MB in Iraq, still the message almost seemed targeted at them, including accusations about the participation of "that tribe" in the runup to the American invasion, and remarks about the "treachery" of their participation from the Bremer era onward, (although Al-Muhajir added his group is not inclined to get into non-essential fights with them, because this would only benefit the occupation).

Yasir abu Hilala concludes:
There is no "global organization" that holds the Iraqi leadership to account. Rather, it is up to the Brothers themselves in Iraq elsewhere to hold their leadership to account, because these are leaders without the capacity to compete with the Shiite or the Kurdish groups in politics, or to compete in armed operations either. True, they did come up with the idea Hamas--Iraq, but this was way too late.
Not only too late, Hilala implies, but insofar as the MB brand is concerned, considerably damaged goods.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Badger, please stop repeating the claim that the Americans lack a "pragmatic" partner to negotiate with. You must surely be aware that unless the Iraqi Resistance lays down its arms, joins the so-called political process, accepts the presence of US military bases and the control of Iraqi oil by US companies – which it never will –, the Americans will continue to escalate their ruthless and devious attempts to eradicate all genuine resistance to foreign occupation and colonial domination.

If the Americans were really interested in negotations, the conditions for such negotiations are clearly set out in the Programme for Liberation and Independence first published by the Ba’ath Party on behalf of the Iraqi National Resistance in September 2003. The latest version (October 2006) is available on the English edition of the website:

8:48 AM  
Blogger badger said...

I was not "repeating" any such "claim". I was describing the nature of the discussion that followed the abu Roman column. That's what quotation marks are for.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry about the misunderstanding, Badger. However, it was only possible because you have devoted a lot of space to this Abu Roman character recently, describing him at one point as a "well-connected observer" of the Iraqi Resistance, when it is pretty clear what is agenda is.

4:22 AM  

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