In the concluding segment of my exclusive PJ Media interview with former top Egyptian counter-terrorism official Khaled Okasha, currently director of the National Center for Security Studies in Cairo, we get to the most important question:
Is the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization?
In the first segment of our interview, Col. Okasha discussed his experience as a counter-terrorism official personally working against the emerging terror networks in Egypt. He also covered the role of Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau member Mohamed Kamal in establishing the terrorist cells following Mohamed Morsi’s ouster:
— Patrick Poole (@pspoole) May 15, 2017
In the second part of the interview, we continued discussing the financing of Mohamed Kamal’s terror network, and the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas role in the development of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the Islamic State affiliate operating in Sinai:
— Patrick Poole (@pspoole) May 16, 2017
To conclude our interview, Col. Okasha and I focus on the following topics:
- The intentional failure of Mohamed Morsi to address the rise of terror networks in Sinai.
- The role of current Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mahmoud Ezzat in activating the Sinai terror networks after Morsi’s removal.
- The transition of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis to an Islamic State affiliate, and its continued relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
- The current political debate over designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.
While my interview with Khaled Okasha will undoubtedly fail to satisfy the critics of designating the Muslim Brotherhood, it provides a direct challenge to the media and U.S. think-tank narrative absolving the Brotherhood of any role in Egypt’s plague of terror.
So what were these terror networks doing under Mohamed Morsi? How did he handle the Sinai terror problem?
To close this chapter, under Mohamed Morsi there was total peace and calm in the area. But then the August 2012 Rafah massacre took place and that was conducted so Morsi could get rid of the SCAF old guard. It was basically a move against the army, and it was used to get rid of the SCAF leaders and the intelligence chief, Gen. Muwafi.
After the Rafah massacre there was an announcement of the Operation Eagle by the army to counter terrorism in Sinai, but within a couple of weeks we realized it was a stunt declaration because Mohamed Morsi gave explicit orders to the army, to the intelligence, and to state security to stop pursuing the terrorists, or anything terrorism-related. And after that there was no terrorist activity taking place in Sinai, those groups went to secluded areas in Sinai to regroup and train.
After this point I had to quit because I realized that things are bound to get out of hand, so that’s when I submitted my resignation.
What was the role of Mahmoud Ezzat, the current acting Supreme Guide, in activating Ansar Beit al-Maqdis after Mohamed Morsi’s removal?
Ezzat’s role with Ansar Beit al-Maqdis started before Morsi was removed. It started when Morsi made it to the president’s office. All the Brotherhood leaders were busy in their power grab over Cairo and the rest of Egypt, so Mahmoud Ezzat had very good connections with Hamas, and he trusted Hamas to organize and coordinate the communication between the twelve terrorist groups. They figured that most of them are small except two, that’s ABM and Tawhid and Jihad. They were left under the management of Hamas because the Brotherhood wanted to separate themselves publicly from dealing with any terrorist organizations.
But at the same time, Khaled al-Shater, the strongest man in the Brotherhood organization, sent his own ambassadors to deal, manage and arrange the terrorist groups so that they were basically under the Guidance Bureau.
Three very important names that we have to mention here. The most famous, or infamous, of these ambassadors was Mohamed Zawahiri, and he was used because he was the brother of Ayman Zawahiri, and most or all of these groups were al-Qaeda ideologues; Safwat Hegazy, and he was responsible for the financial operations and the moving of arms from Libya and Gaza to Sinai; and the last Ayman Abdel Raouf, an official adviser to Morsi and his office was in the presidential palace. These guys were seen visiting with the terrorists, and their meetings were monitored and all their back and forth communications between the Guidance Bureau and the terrorist organizations were all recorded.
Security did see that, and all of these guys are in prison at the moment facing trails. The problem was that all the information we had when Morsi was in office we couldn’t use. We were ordered to stand down. Abdel Raouf used to travel to Sinai to attend these meetings in presidential cars. He was stopped twice by traffic and security checks, and they would receive a phone call from the presidential office to ask them to let him pass because he was going on an official mission for the president.
This whole thing is proof enough on the relations between the Brotherhood and the terrorist organizations in Sinai. This comes as no surprise at all, because all these things have been going on since before Morsi took office. These things are proved officially and are being discussed in court right now.
What was the strategy with them pledging bayat to al-Baghdadi, because the narrative back in America is that ISIS is opposed to the Brotherhood?
After June 30th the Brotherhood issued orders through Hamas that the twelve organizations join the largest one of them, which is ABM, because they were all shocked by the June 30 protests. No one expected it. And they found that the army was expanding their work in Sinai against the terrorists. So they decided to merge under ABM.
In 2014, ISIS expanded to Mosul and announced the caliphate. At this point the groups in Sinai figured they made the wrong bet on the Brotherhood, that the Brotherhood might not restore their power against the June 30 regime. They decided to bet on the winning horse, so that when the Brotherhood loses they cannot gain what they were promised, which was the Islamic caliphate along the Gaza borders.
The Brotherhood found a major gain in ABM joining ISIS: It would debunk the theory that they are working in cooperation, since all this had been known to everyone. That would clear their names and Hamas’ names, especially at that time Egyptian security was publicly accusing Hamas of supporting the mujahedeen.
The second point is that they wanted to help ABM by pledging allegiance to ISIS, ISIS would support ABM. Because the Brotherhood at this point were not able to support them logistically or financially since the army had taken extreme measures to cut the financial networks and cut any possibility of smuggling weapons to and from Gaza through the security zone. All this would have weakened ABM. So rather than sacrificing ABM they saw an opportunity for ISIS to take over reinforcing them again.
Are they still connected with the Brotherhood?
The most blatant connection is the operations that ABM conduct in favor of the Brotherhood. To give you an example, first they accepted the training of some of the Hassm and Liwa al-Thawra cadres for the Brotherhood. Second, they assassinated four attorney generals in Al-Arish on the day that the Brotherhood Supreme Guide was sentenced to death. They feel the gratitude because the Brotherhood helped create and support them since 2011. So they do mutual services for each other, yes.
Also, they have not completely cut ties with Hamas. If we can put it in percentage, we can say they still have about 20 percent cooperation of what they used to have. That’s how they remain in service of the Brotherhood, because otherwise if Hamas turned against them there would be no breathing room for them in the area anymore, and they would be weakened again. So there is still a major connection between those terrorist organizations and the Brotherhood.
When the army stopped the flow of the non-Egyptian jihadis that used to join those groups, ABM and those terrorist groups started recruiting from the natives of Sinai. But those natives are basically related to the Brotherhood and the Salafists in Egypt, so that’s the only the source to make more militants to their groups. All of these reasons among others make it impossible to cut ties with the Brotherhood, otherwise they would just vanish.
Is the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization?
With all what we have witnessed since the establishment of the Brotherhood back in the 1920s up until today we are definitely up against a terrorist organization.
Even in the times when the Brotherhood claimed that they had renounced violence and introduced themselves as an active political faction of the community all over the Islamic world, the Arab world, and even the West, they had very strong alliances with active terrorist organizations. They had alliances with al-Qaeda. They had alliances with Gamaa Islamiya in Egypt. They had alliance with Islamic Jihad. They had alliances with Al-Shabaab in Somalia. They are the ones who established Boko Haram in Nigeria. They were basically a founding members of all the terrorist organizations operating in Libya after 2011. Before that they were the only terrorist organization operating in Libya before the Arab Spring.
What would you tell U.S. lawmakers as they are weighing their options in asking for the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization?
I would advise the lawmakers to look closely at what took place in the last five or six years. We are facing a major terror threat all over the world. And it’s time that the lawmakers declare or designate all the terrorist organizations as terrorist organizations, and on top of them all the Muslim Brotherhood, so that we prosecute them all over the world. Not just the Brotherhood, but anyone who is threatening our safety.
The Brotherhood was established basically to rule the Arab and the Muslim world. That’s in their manifesto. They use too many fake masks to introduce themselves to the Western world. They use, rather they abuse, major countries like the U.S., the U.K., and other major European countries in pressuring the Arab and Muslim countries to accept them within the political system. And we have witnessed that after the Arab Spring with how the jumped and grabbed power once there is any sort of instability.
I would also like them to know that the Muslim Brotherhood is the most dangerous of all the terrorist organizations because this is the oldest surviving organization from the 1920s until today. So we are facing a great threat.
What would you say to the think tanks and the so-called experts in America who say that the Muslim Brotherhood has nothing to do with terrorism?
I would say that they lack any real information. I would say that they get their information from the media, and the Muslim Brotherhood are very clever when they are promote fake news in the media. I would say you need to dig a little deeper to understand what you’re facing.
I would advise them to listen to those who faced and suffered from the Muslim Brotherhood, literally, not virtually. We have lived with them. We have tried them politically, and we have known that they are extremists, they are bigots, they are hateful, and they hate other religions. They’re sectarians and they are against freedom of speech, so we advise them to understand those who actually suffered and dealt with the Brotherhood on the ground, face to face, not through the media.
Thank you very much, Mr. Okasha.