Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt / AP
The legislation outlines the Brotherhood’s long history of sponsoring terrorism and outlines congressional support for it to be designated a global terrorist outfit. The bill also would force Secretary of State John Kerry to explain why the Obama administration has been hesitant to label the Brotherhood a terrorist group.
The Brotherhood’s political wing has been banned in Egypt, where affiliates of the organization overthrew the government and then violently cracked down on its opposition, the United States has avoided labeling the organization a sponsor of terrorism.
Should the State Department refuse to move forward with the designation, the bill would require it to provide a justification for this policy, according to the bill.
Multiple House lawmakers spearheaded a similar effort last year, but the bill failed to become law.
This time around, Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) is heading the legislation in the Senate, while Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.) is handling the House version of the bill, sources said.
“We have to stop pretending that the Brotherhood are not responsible for the terrorism they advocate and finance,” Cruz told the Free Beacon. “We have to see it for what it is: a key international organization dedicated to waging violent jihad. Since the Obama administration refuses to utter the words’”radical Islamic terrorism,’ and Congress owes it to the American people to tell them the truth about this threat.”
The bill also helps combat the notion that Brotherhood is a peaceful political group, Cruz said.
“This bill puts the lie to the notion that the Muslim Brotherhood is a peaceful political organization that can be a legitimate partner for America,” the lawmaker said. “In 2008 the Justice Department successfully prosecuted the largest terrorism-financing trial in American history arguing that the Muslim Brotherhood directed U.S. affiliates such as the Holy Land Foundation to provide ‘media, money and men’ to Hamas. That support was used for terrorist attacks against Americans and our allies in the Middle East. When they are capable they will try to do the same thing here.”
The bill, which includes a lengthy history of the Brotherhood’s links to radical terrorist leaders and violent incidents, concludes that “the Muslim Brotherhood meets the criteria for designation as a foreign terrorist organization.”
It would require the State Department and other agencies to determine whether the Brotherhood officially meets the requirements to be designated under U.S. law as a terrorist organization.
However, “if the Secretary of State determines that the Muslim Brotherhood does not meet the criteria,” it must submit to Congress “a detailed justification as to which criteria have not been met,” according to the bill.
Muslim Brotherhood affiliates as well as the group’s members have been listed as sponsors of terrorism in the past by the U.S. government. The terrorist group Hamas, a longtime Brotherhood affiliate, has been sanctioned for some time.
The organization garnered international headlines after its rise to power following a coup in Egypt that took down its longtime former leader. While in power, the Brotherhood cracked down on opponents and waged violent campaigns against Christians and others who opposed the group’s radical ideology.
Five countries—Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Russia—already consider the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Israel, Canada, and the United Kingdom are examining the possibility of designating it a terrorist organization as well.
Lawmakers such as Cruz maintain that the Brotherhood poses a direct threat to U.S. national security, though the Obama administration has held meetings with the organization’s representatives.
A senior member of the Brotherhood was hosted at the White House last year, while other representatives of the group have been granted entrance to the United States. Senior U.S. officials have warned in the past that the Brotherhood both in the United States and overseas have backed terrorist acts. “I can say at the outset that elements of the Muslim Brotherhood both here and overseas have supported terrorism,” said Robert Mueller, the former director of the FBI, during testimony in 2011.
Intelligence officials have established that elements of the Brotherhood run terrorist financing operations in the United States. Much of this information, however, remains classified.
Other officials have explained that terror groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and al Qaeda can all trace their roots back to the Muslim Brotherhood and its leaders.
Cruz has also led congressional efforts to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps an official state sponsor of terrorism.
That bill, submitted at the end of September, would likely mitigate the impact of sanctions relief provided to Iran under the recently inked nuclear deal.
“Branches of the [Revolutionary Guard Corps] have murdered hundreds of Americans,” Cruz said in a statement at the time. “They have attacked our allies, notably Israel. They have provided material support for other designated terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Yet for years the United States has sanctioned [Revolutionary Guard Corps] entities while leaving the organization itself untouched.”