America and Europe have served as safe havens for a generation of Islamists looking to take over their own countries. Iranian Islamists like Khomeini hung out in Paris. Arab Islamists hung out in the United States.
If you loved Morsi, meet Ghassan Hitto, the choice of the rebels to be the Prime Minister of an imaginary government. Hitto was no doubt chosen for his American background and his ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Just last year Ghassan Hitto was an IT executive in Dallas whose focus was probably lines of code or how to deliver a project on time. But today he was giving a speech in Istanbul in which he insisted his new priority was to utilise “all conceivable means” to topple President Bashar al-Assad and provide desperately-needed aid to the beleaguered people of Syria.
He was voted in by 35 of the 49 coalition members who cast ballots, but another 15 members were not present – with several walking out in protest at Mr Hitto’s perceived links to the Muslim Brotherhood and its backers in Qatar.
Alongside the legitimacy issues caused by the expatriate nature of the opposition, the coalition has also been beset by divisions between Islamists and liberal members, and Mr Hitto’s election was no different. And despite being touted as a “consensus candidate” that could unite both sides, former Syrian National Council head Burhan Ghalioun and prominent dissidents Walid al Bunni and Kamal al-Labwani were among those who abstained from the vote.
Mr al-Labwani told The Independent that outnumbered liberals could do little to get their voices heard and said he planned to resign from the coalition.
“The government is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Qatar government,” Mr al-Labwani said. “We will be against this government and will not give it legality. Democracy is from the land and from the people not from a council that is composed by the government of Qatar.”
Known for being religiously pious, Mr Hitto had been an active member of the Muslim community in the US. He headed the board of the largest Islamic school in the country and was also a board member of the local chapter of the Muslim American Society, according to friends. The society was set up by the Muslim Brotherhood but now downplays its links to the organisation.
Dallas-based security adviser Mohamed Elibiary, who has known Mr Hitto for the past 10-years described him as “more of an intellectual Islamic activist than a rank and file Islamist type”. “He is broadly respected amongst various segments of the Muslim community including by Muslim Brotherhood members,” he said, adding that he was a “consummate hard negotiating diplomat.”
Mohamed Elibiary is not exactly the guy you want to be defending your credibility, but at least some of the Brotherhood’s stooges are coming out of the closet now that it’s time for them to take power.