Friday, August 25, 2006

The MB on Russia’s terror list

The Russian government has issued a new list of terrorist organizations. The list includes the Muslim Brotherhood, which has caused some consternation in Jordan, because of the prominent status of the movement in the country.

The list is different from the US issued list because it not only includes the MB, but because it does not include Hamas or Hezbollah. Published reports on the issue suggest that the Russians are only interested in movements that are involved the separatist movements in the Caucuses. The movement makes no secret about its support for Chechen separatists. The criteria used by the Russian authorities to compile the list include any organization that has ties to militant or extremist groups operating in Russia's North Caucasus. This is probably why the MB is on the list.

The parliament issued a statement asking the Russian government to take the Muslim Brotherhood off of the list, saying that “the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan is a respectable charitable organization that has nothing to do with terrorism, and is part of the national fabric of Jordan.” The head of the MB in Jordan, Salem Falahat, said the decision was “incomprehensible and illogical.” He also said that the MB is a peaceful organization. He suggested that the decision might be to curry favor with the US, despite the fact that the MB is not considered by the Americans to be a terrorist organization. Falahat reiterated the support of the MB for the separatist movements in Chechnia.

The Jordanian government went on to issue a statement pretty much reflecting the content of the parliament statement, with special emphasis on the “Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood”, to separate it from the international MB movement.

But the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood is a part of the international MB, and thus disassociating them from each other is not simply a matter of issuing a statement by the Jordanian government. The Jordanian MB has not disavowed itself from the international movement or its stands on the Chechen issue. This makes for an awkward diplomatic situation, and hopefully the Russians will let the issue slide and not push it. I am not aware of evidence that Jordanian MB members are active in the Chechen insurgency, although Jordanians have been reported to have been killed fighting the Russians. These have been individuals affiliated with Al Qaeda and other such organizations, and not with the MB (I might be wrong here).

The episode raises important issues, however. First, Jordanian foreign policy should be set by the Jordanian government, and not the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. While it is the right of any Jordanian to try to influence the policy of the government through legal and legitimate means, the government should not be put in a position where it is defending a position that it did not take. Second, the Jordanian government is expending political capital defending the Islamist movement. It would be courteous for the Islamists to at least say that they have no business in Russian affairs, rather than continuing their previous stance. Third, it should be noted that the position of the MB on this issue is not based on the national interests of Jordan. It is based on the Pan Islamist tendencies of the movement. Remember that the MB promised to place Jordan’s interests above all others? It was not that long ago.



At 5:50 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Khalaf, I hear what you are saying bro, however I think the governmetn statment was probably a nice gesture to the MB. Besides, and even if the Russian list does not match in importance its American or European counterpart, still might reflect a negative image to a counry where the MB makes one fourth of the Parlimant. So I think it was for the government to issue its statment.

At 8:32 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Issam: I agree that it probably good internal politics. I am not sure if it is good foreign policy. The only people who should set our policy towards Russia or anybody else is the government. This should be made clear to the MB.


At 9:12 PM, Blogger Abu Shreek said...

Despite the relative insignificance of the whole issue, it again raises the question of “What is a terrorist organization and from Whose point of view?!!” especially since we are currently working on one of our own.

At 10:45 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Abu Shreek: The issue is certainly significant enough for the Russian and Jordanian governments as well as the MB to get into an arguement about it. In the final analysis, internal Russian affairs are none of our business.


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