The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Syria needs to restructure the group by bringing younger generations to top positions NOW, even as it is in the midst of a historic battle to overthrow the Syrian regime. The Brotherhood in Egypt needs to implement a new policy regarding the Syrian crisis, which should be consistent with Egyptian regional importance, clearing neighboring countries’ suspicions, and preventing future tension with their comrades in Syria. In short, they should line up with the winners.
Shabiha beat a man to death on the street
The Brotherhood in Jordan needs to break away from the idea of an American conspiracy and develop their own approach regarding the Syrian conflict from supporting relief work, to directing political support, some of which must be directed toward the Jordanian government they oppose. What is happening in Syria is a real popular revolution that the Brotherhood had not planned for or expected; this is why the clumsiness of the Brotherhood all over the world is now understandable.
What’s ahead for the MB?
The moment of truth in Syria has now approached and the Brotherhood should be ready for it. Many important things have happened and will happen in coming days for the Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia has finally embraced the MB; it does not matter how and why that happened, but what is important is that it will strongly help both the kingdom and the Brotherhood to reach their goal to overthrow the regime and stop the massacres that the Syrian people are suffering from, then – and this is very important – to be committed to a steady alliance through re-drawing a new Eastern Arab world without Iran. The Muslim Brotherhood vowed this, in the meetings that recently took place in Jeddah.
The moment of truth in Syria has now approached and the Muslim Brotherhood should be ready for it.
The Brotherhood in Syria has taken a very clever step when it participated with Syrians in establishing the “national council,” the “coalition,” and then the transitional government. Nevertheless, they were repeatedly accused that they are seeking to control all these bodies and institutions; it was a clever step from them to step away from the transitional government and its president Ghassan Hitto, when they knew that this would be a cause of division and mistrust.
They need to maintain their achievements now, and prevent engendering political crises and clashes in Syria, especially when restructuring their organization that was in exile for more than 30 years, with the division between Damascus’ Brotherhood and Aleppo’s Brotherhood. The organization has also witnessed a division between the leadership and young fighters who instigated the first confrontation with the regime without the consent of the organization. The MB leaders have also witnessed divisions among their ranks in Iraq – under the influence of Saddam Hussein’s regime and his intelligence services – Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf and Europe.
MB’s new generation
A more effective, liberal and independent young generation of the Brotherhood emerged from the Syrian diaspora all around the world; they established associations concerned about their nation away from the MB’s leadership but at the same time, maintained the friendship and respect towards the leaders. Some of them got rich abroad, while others have built special relationships with Arab and Western governments, but they were not young when the Syrian revolution surprised them two years ago; most of them were over 40 years old, with some approaching 60.
When they were actively involved in the Syrian revolution at the Syrian National Council and activist committees, some thought they were still linked to the Brotherhood and this is why there were talks about MB domination, when in fact they had left the organization a long time ago.
It is best for the Brotherhood leaders to reintroduce these young men to the group, and even to leadership positions, so as not to repeat the same mistake as the Egyptian Brotherhood, where some of the brightest young men like Abu al-ala Madi or Abdul Moneim Fotouh have dissented; the Brotherhood’s supreme guide had wished they hadn’t left the group.
As for their situation in Egypt, it is no secret that even the Brotherhood in Syria does not agree with their comrades in Egypt who stated that they have enough problems and challenges. Saudi Arabia and many other countries have raised concerns about the Brotherhood’s pragmatism.
Mursi’s government stance is no longer convincing; they only want to support the Syrian revolution through speeches and promises, without having to translate it on the ground through a full partnership with an active alliance seeking to overthrow the regime. The Egyptian government wants to leave the door open to Iran because the conflict in Syria is not long-term.
It will end when the final decisions are taken; therefore there is no room for pragmatism and half-baked solutions. The Brotherhood must choose the Syrian revolution’s side in the war that is now taking place in the region, if not for ethical motives, then for the aim of reserving a seat among the winners for themselves and for Egypt. This war will inevitably generate a victorious alliance; it will be a huge mistake for Egypt to be out of this alliance, especially in the Brotherhood era.
Confused in Jordan
In Jordan, the Brotherhood is also confused; they are against the regime and with the revolution; they are working hard for the relief of the citizens in need but they kick up dust around the only possible solution: international intervention.
They openly criticized training and arming operations led by the Americans who had sent –without prior notice– members of the U.S. military to cooperate with their Jordanian counterparts and intelligence services there.
The Brotherhood believes that there is always an “American conspiracy,” following the opinion of the Palestinians who do not like Americans for obvious reasons, rather than accept the U.S. aid for the sake of the Syrian conflict. They are committing the same mistake they did earlier in the war to liberate Kuwait when they criticized the occupation but refused international interference to eradicate it; back then, they caused a division – along various factions of the Brotherhood – with their allies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, including the Brotherhood in Kuwait that declared its withdrawal from the Brotherhood’s international organization (I was the first to publish this story in al-Hayat newspaper during the crisis).
The Arab and Islamic public wants to topple the Syrian regime at any cost, and leave the decision in the hands of Islamic movements who grew up being fed confrontational speeches against the West and colonialism, without ever taking into consideration the political transformations that happened in the West.
This will push Islamic movements to miss this valuable opportunity in the region, turning it into a mere protest movement like the Turkish Saadet (Happiness) Party, inheriting the glory of late Necmettin Erbakan, who is today sitting in the “lap” of the Syrian regime due to his anti-Western rhetoric.
History is in the making, a new Middle East is being formed, so dear older generation Brotherhood’s leaders in Syria, Egypt and Jordan, let the youth lead. They are more aware of the changing world.
This article was first published in al-Hayat on May 25, 2013.
Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels. Twitter: @JKhashoggi
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