On Wednesday, John Brennan, US President Barack Obama’s assistant for homeland
security and counterterrorism, made a quick trip to Israel to discuss
Hezbollah’s massacre of Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria last
Hopefully it was an instructive meeting for the senior US official,
although his Israeli interlocutors were undoubtedly dumbstruck by how difficult
it was to communicate with him. Unlike previous US counterterror officials,
Brennan does not share Israel’s understanding of Middle Eastern
Brennan’s outlook on this subject was revealed in a speech he
gave two years ago in Washington. In that talk, Brennan spoke dreamily
about Hezbollah. As he put it, “Hezbollah is a very interesting
He claimed it had evolved from a “purely terrorist
organization” to a militia and then into an organization with members in
Lebanon’s parliament and serving in Lebanon’s cabinet.
“There are certainly elements of Hezbollah that are truly a concern for us what
they’re doing. And what we need to do is find ways to diminish their influence
within the organization and to try to build up the more moderate
Perhaps in a bid to build up those “moderate elements,” in the
same address, Brennan referred to Israel’s capital city Jerusalem as “al Quds,”
the name preferred by Hezbollah and its Iranian overlords.
amazing characterization of Hezbollah’s hostile takeover of the Lebanese
government as proof that the terrorist group was moderating was of a piece with
the Obama administration’s view of Islamic jihadists generally.
are “moderate elements,” in Hezbollah, from the perspective of the Obama
administration, Hezbollah’s Sunni jihadist counterpart – the Muslim Brotherhood
– is downright friendly.
On February 10, 2011, Obama’s Director of
National Intelligence James Clapper made this position clear in testimony before
the House Select Committee on Intelligence. Clapper’s testimony was given the
day before then Egyptian president and longtime US ally Hosni Mubarak was forced
to resign from office. Mubarak’s coerced resignation was owed largely to the
Obama administration’s decision to end US support for his regime and openly
demand his immediate abdication of power. As Israel warned, Mubarak’s ouster
paved the way for the Muslim Brotherhood’s ascendance to power in
In his testimony Clapper said, “The term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ is
an umbrella term for a variety of movements. In the case of Egypt, a very
heterogeneous group, largely secular which has eschewed violence and has decried
al-Qaida as a perversion of Islam. They have pursued social ends, betterment of
the political order in Egypt, etc.”
Watching Clapper’s testimony in
Israel, the sense across the political spectrum, shared by experts and casual
observers alike was that the US had taken leave of its senses.
of the Muslim Brotherhood is “Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader;
the Koran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the path of Allah is our
highest hope.” How could such a high-level US official claim that such an
organization is “largely secular”? Every day Muslim Brotherhood leaders call for
the violent annihilation of Israel. And those calls are often combined with
calls for jihad against the US. For instance, in a sermon from October 2010,
Muslim Brotherhood head Mohammed Badie called for jihad against the US. As he
put it “Resistance [i.e. terrorism] is the only solution against the
Zio-American arrogance and tyranny, and all we need is for the Arab and Muslim
peoples to stand behind it and support it.”
Badie then promised his
congregants that the death of America was nigh. As he put it, “A nation that
does not champion moral and human values cannot lead humanity, and its wealth
will not avail it once Allah has had His say, as happened with [powerful]
nations in the past. The US is now experiencing the beginning of its end,
and is heading towards its demise.”
The obliviousness of Brennan and
Clapper to the essential nature of Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood are
symptoms of the overarching ignorance informing the Obama administration’s
approach to Middle Eastern realities.
Take, for instance, the Obama
administration’s policy confusion over Syria. This week The Washington Post
reported that the Obama administration lacks any real knowledge of the nature of
the opposition forces fighting to overthrow the Syrian regime. Whereas one
senior official told the paper, “We’re identifying the key leaders, and there
are a lot of them. We are in touch with them and we stay in touch,” another
official said that is not the case.
As the latter official put it, “The
folks that have been identified have been identified through Turkey and Jordan.
It is not because of who we know. It’s all through liaison.”
that the US government is flying blind as Syria spins out of control is rendered
all the more egregious when you recognize that this was not inevitable.
America’s ignorance is self-inflicted.
In the 16 months that have passed
since the Syrian civil war broke out, the administration passed up several
opportunities to develop its own ties to the opposition and even to shape its
agenda. Two examples suffice to make this clear.
First, in October 2011,
according to the Beirut-based Arabic news portal al Nashra, Dalia Mogahed,
Obama’s adviser on Muslim affairs, blocked a delegation of Middle Eastern
Christians led by Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai from meeting with
Obama and members of his national security team at the White House. According to
al Nashra, Mogahed canceled the meeting at the request of the Muslim Brotherhood
in her native Egypt.
The White House canceled the meeting days after Rai
visited with then French president Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris. During that meeting
Rai angered the French Foreign Ministry when he warned that it would be a
disaster for Syria’s Christian minority, and for Christians throughout the
region, if the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is overthrown. Rai
based this claim on his assessment that Assad would be replaced by a Muslim
Brotherhood- dominated Islamist regime.
And nine months later it is
obvious that he was right. With Syria’s civil war still raging throughout the
country, the world media is rife with reports about Syria’s Christians fleeing
their towns and villages en masse as Islamists from the Syrian opposition target
them with death, extortion and kidnapping.
Then there are the US’s
peculiar choices regarding the opposition figures it favors. Last August, in a
bid to gain familiarity with the Syrian opposition, Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton met with opposition representatives at the State Department. Herb London
from the Hudson Institute reported at the time that the group Clinton met with
was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Members of the non-Islamist,
pro-Western Syrian Democracy Council compose of Syrian Kurds, Alawites,
Christians, Druse, Assyrians and non-Islamist Sunnis were not invited to the
Clinton did reportedly agree to meet with representatives of the
council separately. But unlike the press carnival at her meeting with the Muslim
Brotherhood members, Clinton refused to publicize her meeting with the
non-Islamist opposition leaders. In so acting, she denied these would-be US
allies the ability to claim that they enjoyed the support of the US
The question is why? Why is the Obama administration shunning
potential allies and empowering enemies? Why has the administration gotten it
wrong everywhere? In an attempt to get to the bottom of this, and perhaps to
cause the administration to rethink its policies, a group of US lawmakers,
members of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees led by Rep. Michele
Bachmann sent letters to the inspectors-general of the State, Homeland Security,
Defense, and Justice departments as well as to the inspector-general of the
office of the director of National Intelligence. In those letters, Bachmann and
her colleagues asked the Inspectors General to investigate possible penetration
of the US government by Muslim Brotherhood operatives.
In their letters,
and in a subsequent explanatory letter to US Rep. Keith Ellison from Rep.
Bachmann, the lawmakers made clear that when they spoke of governmental
penetration, they were referring to the central role that Muslim groups,
identified by the US government in Federal Court as Muslim Brotherhood front
organizations, play in shaping the Obama administration’s perception of and
policies towards the Muslim Brotherhood and its allied movements in the US and
throughout the world.
That these front groups, including the unindicted
terror funding co-conspirators, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), play a key role in shaping the
Obama administration’s agenda is beyond dispute. Senior administration officials
including Mogahed have close ties to these groups. There is an ample body of
evidence that suggests that the administration’s decision to side with the
hostile Muslim Brotherhood against its allies owes to a significant degree to
the influence these Muslim Brotherhood front groups and their operatives wield
in the Obama administration.
To take just one example, last October the
Obama administration agreed to purge training materials used by US intelligence
and law enforcement agencies and eliminate all materials that contained
references to Islam that US Muslim groups associated with the Muslim Brotherhood
had claimed were offensive. The administration has also fired counterterrorism
trainers and lecturers employed by US security agencies and defense academies
that taught their pupils about the doctrines of jihadist Islam. The
administration also appointed representatives of Muslim Brotherhoodaligned US
Muslim groups to oversee the approval of training materials about Islam for US
For their efforts to warn about – and perhaps cause the
administration to abandon its reliance on – Muslim Brotherhood front groups,
Bachmann and her colleagues have been denounced as racists and McCarthyites.
These attacks have not been carried out only by administration
Republican Senator John McCain denounced Bachmann from the
floor of the Senate. Republican Senator Marco Rubio later piled on attacking her
for her attempt to convince the administration to reconsider its policies. Those
policies again place the most radical members of the US Muslim community in
charge of the US government’s policies toward the Muslim Brotherhood and other
It is clear that the insidious notion that the Muslim
Brotherhood is a moderate and friendly force has taken hold in US policy
circles. And it is apparent that US policymaking in the Middle East is
increasingly rooted in this false and dangerous assessment.
spearheading an initiative to investigate and change this state of affairs,
Bachmann and her colleagues should be congratulated, not condemned. And
their courageous efforts to ask the relevant questions about the nature of
Muslim Brotherhood influence over US policymakers should be joined, not spurned
by their colleagues in Washington, by the media and by all concerned citizens in
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