US embassy cable - 86CAIRO21221

MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD: EAGER FOR U.S. CONTACTS, FEARFUL OF GOE

Identifier: 86CAIRO21221
Wikileaks: View 86CAIRO21221 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Cairo
Created: 1986-09-16 10:43:00
Classification: SECRET
Tags: PINS PINR EG
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 161043Z SEP 86
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7648
INFO AMCONSUL ALEXANDRIA
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 21221 
 
 
E.O. 12356:  DECL: OADR 
TAGS:  PINS, PINR, EG 
SUBJECT:  MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD:  EAGER FOR U.S. CONTACTS, 
FEARFUL OF GOE 
 
1.  S-ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
 
2.  SUMMARY.  THREE STRONG IMPRESSIONS EMERGED FROM 
EMBOFF'S INTRODUCTORY CALL ON THE NEW MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD 
LEADERSHIP SEPTEMBER 10:  (1) CURRENT LEADERSHIP IS KEEN 
TO ESTABLISH A DIALOGUE WITH THE U.S. EMBASSY; (2) 
AT THE SAME TIME, IT IS VERY WORRIED ABOUT AVOIDING 
PROBLEMS WITH THE MINISTRY OF THE INTERIOR; AND (3) 
NEW SUPREME GUIDE ABUL  NASR APPEARS MORE A FIGUREHEAD 
THAN THE REAL POWER WITHIN THE LEADERSHIP, WHO MAY BE 
DEPUTY MUSTAFA MASHHUR.  END SUMMARY. 
 
 
3.  POLOFF AND POL FSN MADE FIRST OFFICIAL CONTACT 
WITH MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD LEADERSHIP SINCE DEATH LAST MAY 
OF PREVIOUS SUPREME GUIDE OMAR TALMASSANI, MEETING AT 
OFFICES PREVIOUSLY USED BY BANNED MB MAGAZINE AL-DA'WA 
SEPTEMBER 10.  CORDIAL BUT SHORT MEETING WAS DEVOTED 
ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY TO WHY THE MEETING COULD NOT TAKE 
PLACE AT GREATER LENGTH AS PLANNED.  DEPUTY SUPREME 
GUIDE MUSTAFA MASHHUR HAD POSITIVELY AND PROMPTLY 
RESPONDED TO EMBASSY REQUEST SEPTEMBER 9 FOR THE CALL 
ON NEW SUPREME GUIDE MUHAMMED HAMAD ABUL NASR, BUT HAD 
ASKED EMBASSY TO SECURE MINISTRY  OF INTERIOR CLEARANCE. 
WISHING TO AVOID THE PRECEDENT OF REQUESTING SUCH 
ADVANCE CLEARANCE  FOR DIPLOMATIC WORK, EMBOFF 
APPEARED AT THE APPOINTED TIME AND PLACE WITHOUT 
MININT CLEARANCE.  HE EXPLAINED THAT THE CALL WAS 
ROUTINE COURTESY CALL. 
 
 
4.  MASHHUR AND ABUL NASR CORDIALLY WELCOMED POLOFF AND 
FSN, OFFERED THE CUSTOMARY SWEETS, AND MET WITH THEM FOR 
ABOUT TWENTY MINUTES.  HOWEVER, IN THE PRESENCE OF 
A MALE SECRETARY TAKING APPARENTLY VERBATIM NOTES, 
MASHHUR AND ABUL NASR REPEATEDLY INSISTED ON THE NEED 
FOR THE EMBASSY TO SECURE WRITTEN PERMISSION FOR THE 
MB TO MEET WITH EMBOFFS -- INSISTING EQUALLY STRONGLY 
UPON THEIR WELCOME OF CONTINUED CONTACTS WITH THE 
EMBASSY.  THEY STATED THEIR WILLINGNESS TO MEET EMBOFF 
AT LENGTH ASAP -- EVEN LATER THE SAME DAY, OR IN THE 
NEXT FEW DAYS -- PROVIDED THE WRITTEN PERMISSION WAS 
FORTHCOMING FROM THE MININT.  THEY EXPLAINED THAT IN 
THE PAST THE GOE HAD PROVIDED VERBAL APPROVAL FOR MB 
CONTACTS WITH THE BRITISH EMBASSY, AND YET HAD CITED 
THESE CONTACTS AS ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES WHEN IT FOUND THIS 
USEFUL AGAINST THE MB.  POLOFF NOTED, TO NO AVAIL, 
THAT EMBASSY OFFICERS HAD HAD PERIODIC TALKS WITH 
TALMASSANI IN THE TWO YEARS PRECEDING HIS DEATH. 
MB INTERLOCUTORS CONCEDED THIS POINT, ACKNOWLEDGED THAT 
EMBASSY MAINTAINS CONTACTS EVEN WITH POLITICAL OPPOSITION 
FIGURES IN THE NORMAL COURSE OF ITS WORK, AND NOTED 
THAT THE MB IS ALSO FREE TO MEET WITH JOURNALISTS . 
NONETHELESS, THEY INSISTED THAT EGYPTIAN LAW REQUIRES 
THE MB TO SECURE PERMISSION TO MEET REPRESENTATIVES 
OF ANY FOREIGN GOVERNMENT.  THEY WERE CAREFUL TO 
ASK THAT EMBASSY SECURE A GENERAL MININT CLEARANCE 
THAT WOULD PERMIT REPEATED CONTACTS WITH  MORE THAN 
ONE EMBASSY OFFICER, SO THAT WRITTEN PERMISSION WOULD 
NOT HAVE TO BE OBTAINED FOR EACH MEETING. 
 
 
5.  POLOFF EXPRESSED FULL RESPECT FOR EGYPTIAN LAW AND 
UNDERSTANDING FOR THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD'S CONCERNS. 
HE STATED HIS HOPE THAT THE ISSUE COULD BE RESOLVED 
QUICKLY TO PERMIT AN EARLY RETURN MEETING FOR THE 
PURPOSE OF PROMOTING MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING.  BEFORE TAKING 
LEAVE, HE ALSO CONVEYED EMBASSY'S RESPECT FOR THOSE 
PRESENT AND FOR THE ROLE OF ISLAM IN EGYPTIAN SOCIETY. 
MASHHUR AND ABUL NASR RESPONDED WARMLY AND AGAIN 
STATED THEIR WELCOME FOR CONTACTS WITH THE EMBASSY, 
"BOTH AS MUSLIMS AND AS ARABS." 
 
 
6.  IMPRESSIONS FROM THIS EXCHANGE: 
 
(1) THE MB IS EAGER TO STEP UP CONTACTS WITH THE U.S. 
EMBASSY.  WE CAN ONLY SURMISE THAT, APART FROM WHATEVER 
IDEOLOGICAL THINKING THIS DESIRE MAY REFLECT, ONE 
MOTIVE MAY BE TO ADD TO THE MB'S LEGITIMACY AS A 
POLITICAL ENTITY. 
 
(2) THE SUCCESSOR LEADERSHIP IS MORE CONCERNED TO 
STAY CLEAR OF PROBLEMS WITH THE GOE.  TALMASSANI HAD 
NOT REQUESTED PRIOR CLEARANCE, AT LEAST NOT VIA 
THIS EMBASSY, FOR HIS SEVERAL CONTACTS WITH EMBOFFS. 
A SEPARATE CONVERSATION BETWEEN POLOFF AND A JOURNALIST 
CONNECTED TO THE MB INDICATED THAT THE MB IS VERY 
CONCERNED OVER THE RECENT WELL-PUBLICIZED ARRESTS 
OF NON-MB FUNDAMENTALISTS.  THIS APPARENT GOE CRACKDOWN 
ON NON-MB FUNDAMENTALISTS MAY BE ONE FACTOR BEHIND 
THE MB'S UNPRECEDENTED INSISTENCE UPON MININT 
CLEARANCE TO MEET WITH US. 
 
(3) MB LEADERSHIP APPEARED TO LACK SELF CONFIDENCE 
AND COHESION.  THIS MAY BE ANOTHER FACTOR BEHIND 
ITS CAUTION.  ABUL NASR APPEARED PHYSICALLY FRAIL 
AND MORE A FIGUREHEAD THAN THE DOMINANT PRESENCE 
IN THE MEETING.  HIS COMPLEXION WAS SALLOW AND HIS 
WESTERN BUSINESS SUIT HUNG ON HIM LOOSELY.  HIS VOICE 
WAS RASPY AND UNSTEADY, AND HIS VERY THICK EYEGLASSES 
MAY INDICATE FAILING VISION.  ALTHOUGH ABUL NASR 
SAT IN THE POSITION OF HONOR BEHIND A DESK,  MASHHUR, 
ACROSS THE ROOM ON A COUCH, WAS THE MORE IMPOSING 
FIGURE.  MASHHUR, APPARENTLY IN HIS MID-SIXTIES, 
WAS RESPECTFUL -- HE DID NOT INTERRUPT ABUL NASR -- 
BUT NOT DEFERENTIAL.  HE CLEARLY DOMINATED THE 
CONVERSATION WITH STEADY VOICE AND EYECONTACT, AND 
THE MB NOTETAKER LOOKED REPEATEDLY TOWARD MASHHUR AS 
HE TRANSCRIBED THE CONVERSATION.   MOREOVER, 
OUTER OFFICE MB STAFF COMMENTS TO POLOFF OF PROFOUND 
REGRET OVER LOSS OF TALMASSANI SEEMED INTENDED TO 
CONVEY PERCEPTIONS OF ABUL NASR'S INADEQUACY AS A 
SUCCESSOR. 
 
 
7.  WE DO NOT INTEND TO GET IN THE MIDDLE BETWEEN THE 
SHAKY MB LEADERSHIP AND GOE.  BEYOND ITS OWN CONCERNS, 
TALMASSANI'S SUCCESSORS MAY BE ATTEMPTING TO USE US TO 
TEST WHETHER THE MININT IS READY TO BESTOW LEGITIMACY 
UPON THE MB.  THROUGH CASUAL LOW KEY CONTACTS IN THE 
FOREIGN MINISTRY, WE INTEND TO MAKE CLEAR THAT OUR 
NORMAL DIPLOMATIC WORK HERE INCLUDES CONTACTS ACROSS THE 
WIDE SPECTRUM OF EGYPTIAN SOCIETY.  WE SHALL CONTINUE TO 
PURSUE CONTACTS WITH THE MB, MAKING CLEAR TO THEM ALSO 
THAT WE HAVE REMINDED THE MFA OF OUR GENERAL APPROACH. 
 
 
WISNER 

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