Beheaded journalist Steve Sotloff had a somewhat interesting bio. Before heading to Libya and Syria, he was a visiting fellow at FDD, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
While much of his reporting from Syria trended toward advocacy, his coverage of Benghazi for Time was mainstream, he did have a worthwhile piece on the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Writing in 2011, Sotloff said that “One group that policymakers should be worried about is the Muslim Brotherhood. The movement has long taken an anti-Western line, supported attacks against Israel and even reached out to Iranian-backed groups.”
Today it is the most organized political movement in Egypt and is well placed to profit from the prevailing instability here as well as the proposed transition to democracy. The other opposition parties have no base and are completely disorganized, leaving the field open for the Brotherhood.
And this should worry Washington. The group has a long history of involvement in violent causes and many radical groups have sprung from its loins. Foremost among them is al Qaeda.
Both Osama Bin Ladin and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri were long-time members of the organization. The Egyptian Zawahiri knows many of the old guard in the party and participated in debates with them. The Brotherhood’s ideologue Sayyid Qutb laid the legal and spiritual foundations for the violent jihad that al Qaeda and others have waged against Arab regimes and their Western backers. Another member, Abdallah Azzam, was the architect of the jihad in Afghanistan.
Today the Brotherhood claims it has disavowed violence. But it still has links to Islamist groups that have attacked the West and its allies. Among them are the Palestinian group Hamas, which is bent on the destruction of Israel. Hamas was born as the Palestinian wing of the Brotherhood. Many Hamas leaders formed bonds with Egyptian members when they studied in the country’s universities. They were influenced by Qutb’s ideology and applied it to their fight against the Jewish state.
The Brotherhood has also reached out to the Iranian-funded Lebanese movement Hizballah. Its leader met with Hizballah officials seven years ago and supported their struggle against Israel. Such meetings may hint at deeper ties with Iran, which may be prepared to finance the Brotherhood’s political attempts to take power.
These bonds should alarm Washington. A Brotherhood controlling government coffers could be much more than a nuisance. It could offer financial support to movements such as Hamas and Hizballah which seek to destabilize the region. It can also be expected to fund religious institutions which espouse anti-Western ideology, creating a generation of Egyptians hostile to the West.
At the time when Sotloff was writing, the idea of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover was outside mainstream media consensus and its ties to terrorism were widely dismissed.
After Morsi’s overthrow, Sotloff’s later reporting in Egypt would be somewhat too friendly to the Muslim Brotherhood, but at the time he was one of the few voices in the mainstream media offering an important warning.