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comment by steve
steve  ·  1152 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: A brief history and perspective on the Muslim Brotherhood

I know almost nothing about middle eastern history - and I know even less about the Muslim Brotherhood... but for some reason this sentence seems a little.... lazy to me. (Maybe lazy is too strong of a word)

    The last time the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed and driven underground by a Soviet-backed Egyptian strongman, a faction broke off and produced the raw material that eventually became al-Qaida

It feels like “this happened, and then yada yada yada the worst thing ever happened”. It’s not that I disagree that it happened, I just don’t understand what happened... and it seems like that’s the part the author is warning me about, so I’d like to understand it a little more.

kleinbl00  ·  1152 days ago  ·  link  ·  

It's actually a pretty straight line.

In 1948, Sayyid Qutb moved to Greeley, Colorado where he determined that while there were problems with the way Egyptian society was interpreting the Koran, it was nothing compared to the decadence of the West. He came back to Egypt in 1950, joined the Muslim Brotherhood and helped them throw their weight behind Gamal Nasser to overthrow the pro-western Government. Things went worse than expected:

    Nasser had secretly set up an organisation that would sufficiently oppose the Muslim Brotherhood once he came to power. This organisation was called "Tahreer" ("freedom" in Arabic). It was well known that the Brotherhood were made popular by their extensive social programs in Egypt, and Nasser wanted to be ready once he had taken over. At this time, Qutb did not realize Nasser's alternate plans, and would continue to meet with him, sometimes for 12 hours a day, to discuss a post monarchical Egypt. Once Qutb realized that Nasser had taken advantage of the secrecy between the Free Officers and the Brotherhood, he promptly quit. Nasser then tried to persuade Qutb by offering him any position he wanted in Egypt except its Kingship, saying: "We will give you whatever position you want in the government, whether it's the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Arts, etc."

    Qutb refused every offer, having understood the reality of Nasser's plans. Upset that Nasser would not enforce a government based on Islamic ideology, Qutb and other Brotherhood members plotted to assassinate him in 1954. The attempt was foiled and Qutb was jailed soon afterwards; the Egyptian government used the incident to justify a crackdown on various members of the Muslim Brotherhood for their vocal opposition towards the Nasser administration.

Qutb, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, was in jail from 1952 to 1964. In 1964 he published Milestones, which is basically "how to overthrow the Decadent West to return the world to a muslim paradise. Also in 1964, an impressionable young Egyptian named Ayman al-Zawahiri decided that overthrowing the Decadent West was the way to go because then he'd never have to learn to talk to girls (really). Unfortunately for the future of world peace, Qutb was executed by Nasser in a show trial and the formerly pretty-mainstream Muslim Brotherhood started splintering into hard-core factions, one of which included Ayman Al Zawahiri.

Zawahiri, a surgeon, traveled a bunch. One of the places he went was Jeddah. One of the people he met there was Osama bin Laden. They became bros. It took about a year for Zawahiri to become bin Laden's guru. By 2001 Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda had merged.

This is basically the first half of Lawrence O'Donnell's The Looming Tower but he really adds flavor and detail, not nuance. It really is that simple: Nasser betrays the Muslim Brotherhood, Zawahiri radicalizes, it spreads to bin Laden, towers come down.

steve  ·  1152 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Thanks for the cliff notes, and for the book recommendation.

kleinbl00  ·  1152 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Book's pretty good. It's a Hulu series now with Jeff Daniels as John O'Neill which I have not seen. And, as with most things, there's a Frontline for that.


johan  ·  1147 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Just finished it, thanks for the recommendation! The hardcore jihadi circles seemed like a really small world back then before 9/11 where everyone knew everyone.

kleinbl00  ·  1147 days ago  ·  link  ·  

South Asian history of the past 40 years has been shaped by two key events: The Iranian Revolution and the Invasion of Afghanistan.

In the former, Iran went from being an American puppet state (the largest benefactor of American military aid, in fact) to a successful Islamic regional power with a knack for proxy warfare. In the latter, the regions hard-scrabble fundamentalists wore down and defeated the full might of the Soviet Union. In both cases, American missteps figured prominently: in 1977, Stansfield Turner fired nearly everyone involved in human intelligence gathering. In 1979, the United States was taken completely unawares by the Iranian Revolution. In 1983, Iranian proxies killed 300 marines in their barracks in Beirut. In 1985, the CIA station chief for South Asia was kidnapped and murdered. We were losing the middle east and we were losing it badly.

Our response was to throw money at anything and everything that opposed Iran (who were Shia and hated throughout the Sunni world) or the Soviet Union (who were godless heathens). The direct result was that everyone who wasn't on Iran's payroll was on the US payroll. It was a small world because there were only two real sources of financing - those scrappy freedom fighters managed to push out the Soviets because we gave them $600m a year in frontline military hardware.

9/11 has always smelled like a conspiracy to everyone. It took me a lot of reading to really come to terms with the fact that there's so much whiff of coverup because nobody ever mentions bin Laden being on the CIA payroll. But if he wasn't on the CIA payroll it was the biggest oversight in the history of the agency; he was a textbook perfect guy for our ham-handed "throw money at it" approach to foreign manipulation.

Ayman al-Zawahiri came to the US in 1993 to raise money for Afghan children. He addressed a bunch of mosques in California. The official party line is that the US didn't know. It's far more likely that the US didn't care... because in 1993, we were all about the Afghan children.

In islamic terrorist politics, all roads lead to Uncle Sam.