US embassy cable - 99CAIRO2104

EGYPT'S MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD AT LOW EBB

Identifier: 99CAIRO2104
Wikileaks: View 99CAIRO2104 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Cairo
Created: 1999-03-16 16:22:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PINS PTER PGOV PREL KISL PHUM ECON EG
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 161622Z MAR 99
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2259
INFO ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
ISLAMIC CONFERENCE COLLECTIVE
SECDEF WASHDC
USIA WASHDC 3645
USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL
AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM 
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 CAIRO 002104 
 
LONDON FOR SUTPHIN, PARIS FOR LEAF 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/11/09 
TAGS: PINS, PTER, PGOV, PREL, KISL, PHUM, ECON, EG 
SUBJECT:  EGYPT'S MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD AT LOW EBB 
 
REF:  98 CAIRO 8147 
 
1. (U) CLASSIFIED BY ECONOMIC-POLITICAL MINISTER 
COUNSELOR RICHARD LEBARON FOR REASONS 1.5 (B) AND (D). 
 
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SUMMARY 
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2. (C) SINCE 1995, WHEN THE GOVERNMENT SHUT DOWN 
PROFESSIONAL SYNDICATES CONTROLLED BY THE MUSLIM 
BROTHERHOOD AND ARRESTED THEIR ACTIVISTS, THE 
BROTHERHOOD HAS REMAINED QUIET, ISSUING ONLY AN 
OCCASIONAL PUBLIC STATEMENT ON FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES. 
BUT THE GOVERNMENT IS NOT MOLLIFIED.  IT EMBARKS ON 
CAMPAIGNS OF ARRESTS OF MB MEMBERS, AND PUBLICIZES THE 
ARRESTS, IN ORDER TO PREVENT AND DETER MB ACTIVISM IN 
THE RUN-UP TO NATION-WIDE ELECTIONS.  AFTER RELEASING 
LAST YEAR A GROUP OF 31 MB ACTIVISTS FROM THE 1995 
ROUND-UPS, THE GOVERNMENT HAS ARRESTED ANOTHER 110 
SINCE LAST AUGUST.  THE ARRESTS WILL LIKELY CONTINUE AS 
THE COUNTRY PREPARES FOR THE OCTOBER 1999 PRESIDENTIAL 
REFERENDUM ON MUBARAK'S FOURTH TERM. 
 
3. (C) THE MB IS FURTHER PLAGUED BY INTERNAL DIVISIONS 
ALONG GENERATIONAL LINES, WITH THE YOUNGER ACTIVISTS 
(THE TARGETS OF THE GOE ARRESTS) WANTING A GREATER ROLE 
IN THE DECISION-MAKING, AND BY THE EGYPTIAN MB'S 
WEAKENING TIES WITH SISTER ORGANIZATIONS IN OTHER ARAB 
COUNTRIES.   DESPITE THESE WEAKNESSES, THE MB REMAINS 
EGYPT'S LARGEST AND BEST ORGANIZED OPPOSITION MOVEMENT. 
OUR MB CONTACTS COMPLAIN OF THE SECURITY CRACKDOWNS, 
DENY ANY LINKS WITH ISLAMIST TERROR GROUPS AND PROFESS 
THEIR COMMITMENT TO DEMOCRATIC POLICIES AND PRACTICES. 
WE SHOULD HAVE NO ILLUSIONS ON THE LAST POINT.  IN THE 
MB IDEOLOGY, GOD'S LAW TRUMPS DEMOCRACY, AND GOD'S LAW 
AS THEY INTERPRET IT DOES NOT FAVOR HERETICAL VIEWS, 
WOMEN'S PARTICIPATION IN GOVERNMENT, OR EQUAL RIGHTS 
FOR NON-MUSLIMS IN AN ISLAMIC SOCIETY.  END SUMMARY. 
 
---------------------- 
MB INTERNAL STRUCTURE 
---------------------- 
 
4. (C) ACCORDING TO EGYPTIAN EXPERTS ON THE MUSLIM 
BROTHERHOOD, THE MB HAS TWO GOVERNING BODIES IN EGYPT. 
THE "GUIDANCE BUREAU" OF 14 OFFICIALS RUNS DAY-TO-DAY 
AFFAIRS.  ITS CURRENT SUPREME GUIDE (MUSTAFA MASHOUR) 
HAS TWO DEPUTIES:  ONE (MA'MOUN AL-HODEIBY) SERVES AS 
SPOKESMAN AND IS RESPONSIBLE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS, 
WHILE THE OTHER (A SYRIAN NAMED HASAN HOWEIDY WHO HAS 
LIVED IN EGYPT SINCE THE EARLY 1980'S) LIASES WITH MB 
BRANCHES IN OTHER ARAB COUNTRIES.  THE GUIDANCE BUREAU 
INCLUDES THOSE IN CHARGE OF SYNDICATES, UNIVERSITIES, 
FAMILIES, AND OTHERS IN CONTACT WITH THE INTERNATIONAL 
COMMUNITY.  THE MB'S LEADERSHIP IN EGYPT, WHERE THE 
GROUP WAS FOUNDED IN 1927 AND FIRST BECAME POPULAR, 
REMAINS IN THEORY ALSO THE LEADERSHIP OF THE 
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION, ALTHOUGH IN PRACTICE THE 
BRANCHES ELSEWHERE HAVE BECOME DE FACTO INDEPENDENT. 
MB CONTACTS HERE SAY THE OTHER BRANCHES HAVE BY 
NECESSITY EVOLVED SEPARATELY GIVEN THE DIFFERING 
CIRCUMSTANCES IN EACH COUNTRY.  NEVERTHLESS, THE OTHERS 
"COORDINATE" WITH THE MOTHER ORGANIZATION IN CAIRO, AND 
AT THE TOP OF THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION THE 
SUPREME GUIDE IS ALWAYS AN EGYPTIAN.   MB SOURCES HERE 
NOTE THAT MANY OF THE OTHER MB GROUPS OPERATE IN A 
FREER ENVIRONEMENT, PARTICULARLY THE ONE IN JORDAN. 
THEY INCLUDE, IN ADDITION TO JORDANIAN AND SYRIAN MB, 
YEMEN'S ISLAH PARTY, PALESTINIAN HAMAS, AND ALGERIAN 
HAMAS AS MB AFFILIATES. 
 
5. (C) THE OTHER GOVERNING BODY IS A "SHURA COUNCIL" OF 
38 MEMBERS, WHICH MEETS PERIODICALLY TO REVIEW REPORTS 
FROM THE GUIDANCE BUREAU AND SETS OVERALL POLICY.  IT 
INCLUDES A MINORITY OF NON-EGYPTIAN MEMBERS.  IN THEORY 
IT ELECTS THE BUREAU OFFICIALS, INCLUDING THE SUPREME 
GUIDE WHO COMES UP FOR ELECTION EVERY SIX YEARS.  BUT 
IN PRACTICE, MUSTAFA MASHOUR WAS CHOSEN AS SUPREME 
GUIDE IN 1995 WITHOUT ELECTIONS.  THE GUIDANCE BUREAU 
SELECTED MASHOUR BECAUSE, AT 74 YEARS OF AGE, HE WAS 
THE SENIOR MEMBER OF THE MB'S FOUNDING GENERATION, 
ACCORDING TO OUR MB SOURCES.  THE MB IS SUPPOSED TO 
HOLD ELECTIONS FOR THE SHURA COUNCIL AT THE PROVINCIAL 
LEVEL (IN EGYPT) AND NATIONAL LEVEL (FOR THE OTHER ARAB 
BRANCHES), BUT MB MEMBERS HAVE TOLD US THAT IT HAS 
POSTPONED SHURA ELECTIONS IN EGYPT FOR SEVERAL YEARS 
BECAUSE OF GOVERNMENT SECURITY PRESSURE. 
 
------------------------------------- 
MB THEORY AND PRACTICE:  NO ILLUSIONS 
------------------------------------- 
 
6. (C) THE MB PRESENTS ITSELF TO BOTH WESTERNERS AND 
EGYPTIANS AS COMMITTED TO DEMOCRACY, INCLUDING 
INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS SUCH AS FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION.  OUR 
MB INTERLOCUTORS STRESS THAT THE ORGANIZATION WANTS TO 
REFORM EGYPT'S CURRENT SYSTEM (TERMED SOMEWHAT CORRUPT 
AND INCOMPLETELY ISLAMIC) GRADUALLY BY WORKING THROUGH 
GRASSROOTS DEMOCRACY.  THEY SAY AN MB GOVERNMENT WOULD 
WILLINGLY CEDE POWER IF, ONCE ELECTED TO OFFICE, IT 
WERE SUBSEQUENTLY TO LOSE AN ELECTION.   IN FACT, MB 
SHURA COUNCIL MEMBER (AND JOURNALIST SYNDICATE BOARD 
MEMBER) SALAH ABDEL MAQSUD TOLD US THAT THE MB PREFERS 
NOT TO BE IN POWER, BUT INSTEAD SEEKS TO INFLUENCE THE 
GOVERNMENT TO ADOPT COMPLETELY ISLAMIC POLICIES.  HE 
CITES MB FOUNDER HASAN AL-BANNA WHO REPORTEDLY SAID, 
WHEN ASKED, THAT HE DIDN'T WANT TO BE PRESIDENT OF 
EGYPT, HE JUST WANTED THE PRESIDENT TO IMPLEMENT AN 
ISLAMIC PROGRAM.  WE RECENTLY OBSERVED AN MB 
PRESENTATION TO A SECULAR EGYPTIAN AUDIENCE, DURING A 
REGULAR WEEKLY GATHERING HOSTED BY A LOCAL NGO.  THE 
SPEAKER CAREFULLY PITCHED A NATIONALISTIC RATHER THAN 
RELIGIOUS APPEAL, STRESSING THAT EGYPT'S ACHIEVEMENTS, 
WHETHER IN THE ECONOMY OR FOREIGN POLICY OR BUILDING 
INFRASTRUCTURE, ARE ACHIEVEMENTS FOR ISLAM, SINCE EGYPT 
IS AN ISLAMIC COUNTRY.   WE ARE FOR EVERYTHING THAT 
MAKES EGYPT STRONG, HE CONCLUDED. 
 
7. (C) ON THE OTHER HAND, EXAMINATION OF SPECIFIC MB 
PRACTICES AND POLICIES BELIES THIS STATED COMMITMENT TO 
DEMOCRATIC NORMS. AS THE FOLLOWING EXAMPLES ILLUSTRATE, 
DEMOCRACY IS FINE AS LONG AS IT IS CONSISTENT WITH 
GOD'S LAW, BUT GOD'S LAW AS INTERPRETED BY THE MB 
TRUMPS ALL. 
 
-- FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION:  MB SPOKESMAN HODEIBY AND 
OTHER MB FIGURES WERE IN THE FOREFRONT OF THE 1995 
CAMPAIGN TO DECLARE CAIRO UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR NASR ABU 
ZEID AN "APOSTATE" FOR HIS WRITINGS ON MODERN 
INTERPRETATIONS OF ISLAM.  IN ADDITION, MB MEMBERS IN 
THE PROFESSIONAL SYNDICATES FAVOR SYNDICATE 
DISCIPLINARY EFFORTS (E.G. STRIPPING OF PROFESSIONAL 
CREDENTIALS) FOR MEMBERS WHO ADVOCATE GREATER CONTACTS 
WITH ISRAELIS.  THE MB'S PROFESSED INTEREST IN FREEDOM 
OF EXPRESSION REMAINS LIMITED TO ITS ABILITY TO FURTHER 
ITS OWN IDEOLOGY. 
 
-- WOMEN'S RIGHTS:  WOMEN CAN IN THEORY VOTE IN THE MB 
SHURA ELECTIONS AND STAND FOR ELECTION.  IN PRACTICE, 
ACCORDING TO MB SOURCES, WOMEN HAVE NEVER PARTICIPATED 
IN EITHER THE SHURA OR GUIDANCE OFFICE (WE UNDERSTAND, 
HOWEVER, THAT IN THE YEMEN AND JORDAN MB, A FEW WOMEN 
HAVE JOINED THE NATIONAL-LEVEL SHURA COUNCILS.)   THE 
ONLY EVEN SEMI-PROMINENT MB WOMAN RECALLED BY OUR 
INTERLOCUTORS IN EGYPT IS ZEINAB AL-GHAZZALI (DAUGHTER 
OF THE LATE MB SHEIKH MUHAMMAD AL-GHAZZALI).   SHE 
HOLDS NO OFFICIAL POSITION IN THE MB. 
 
--ATTITUDE TOWARDS ISRAEL:  DESPITE ITS STATED 
ADHERENCE TO NON-VIOLENT SOLUTIONS, THE MB HAS NOT 
ACCEPTED THE EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT'S PEACE TREATY WITH 
ISRAEL.  IT CALLS FOR ARMED STRUGGLE TO LIBERATE 
JERUSALEM AND THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES. ITS PUBLIC 
STATEMENTS ON THIS ISSUE HAVE INCREASINGLY CRITICIZED 
THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY AND SUPPORTED HAMAS.  FOR 
INSTANCE, THE MB STATEMENT AFTER THE WYE RIVER 
AGREEMENT (AS PUBLISHED IN THE OPPOSITION AL-SHAAB 
NEWSPAPER OF OCTOBER 27) CONDEMNED THE PA'S ARRESTS OF 
ISLAMISTS IN GAZA AND CALLED THE PA "A TOOL FOR 
SUPPRESSING THE PALESTINIANS, WHICH MAY LEAD TO CIVIL 
WAR."  INSIDE EGYPT, THE MB STRONGLY REJECTS ANY 
NORMALIZATION WITH ISRAELIS AS NOTED ABOVE. LEADER OF 
THE MB SPLINTER WASAT GROUP ABUL ELA AL-MADI TOLD US 
"NORMALIZATION"  SHOULD MEAN NO ISRAEL SINCE 
ELIMINATION OF THAT "ARTIFICIAL ENTITY" WOULD BE FOR 
HIM THE "NORMAL" CONDITION. 
 
-- POSITION OF MINORITIES:  THE MOST FAMOUS LIVING MB 
SCHOLAR IS YUSUF AL-QARDAWI, AN EGYPTIAN NOW LIVING IN 
QATAR, CONSIDERED BY SOME WESTERN SCHOLARS TO BE A 
MODERATE IN THE FUNDAMENTALIST SPECTRUM.  NEVERTHELESS, 
THE QARDAWI WHOSE BOOKS AND TAPED LECTURES WE FIND IN 
CAIRO IS NO MODERATE.  FOR INSTANCE, HE SUPPORTS RE- 
IMPOSING THE TRADITIONAL ISLAMIC TAX ON NON-MUSLIMS 
LIVING IN AN ISLAMIC COUNTRY (CALLED THE "JIZYA" TAX). 
HIS BOOK "NON-MUSLIMS IN ISLAMIC COUNTRIES" COMMENTS 
CRITICALLY ON THE EMPHASIS PLACED BY SOME ARAB 
GOVERNMENTS (READ THE GOE) ON INTERFAITH TOLERANCE, 
MISPLACED IN QARDAWI'S EYES TO THE EXTENT THAT IT 
CONFLICTS WITH GOD'S LAW.  QARDAWI WRITES:  "IT IS NOT 
TOLERANCE TO FORCE MUSLIMS TO ABANDON GOD'S LAW FOR THE 
SAKE OF SPARING THE FEELINGS OF NON-MUSLIM MINORITIES. 
WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY A CHRISTIAN OR JEW SHOULD BE 
OFFENDED BY THE AMPUTATION OF A THIEF'S HAND, OR THE 
FLOGGING OF SLANDERERS, ADULTERERS OR DRUNKS... A 
MUSLIM OBEYS THESE RULES AS AN ACT OF WORSHIP, WHILE A 
NON-MUSLIM, WHO DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THEIR DIVINE NATURE, 
SHOULD TAKE THEM TO BE MERELY THE CRIMINAL LAW OF THE 
LAND ADOPTED BY THE MAJORITY."  SUPREME GUIDE MASHOUR, 
IN A 1997 AL-AHRAM INTERVIEW, LIKEWISE SUPPORTED 
IMPOSING THE JIZYA TAX ON EGYPT'S COPTIC MINORITY 
(THOUGH HE LATER DENIED MAKING THE REMARKS). 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
PROFESSIONAL SYNDICATES - THE LOST MB STRONGHOLDS STAY 
QUIET 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
8. (C) SOME EGYPTIAN OBSERVERS OF THE MB AGREE THAT 
WHILE ITS PRACTICES ARE NOT DEMOCRATIC, THE MB'S 
YOUNGER GENERATION MAY OVER TIME GAIN POLITICAL 
EXPERIENCE AND EVOLVE AWAY FROM THEOCRATIC THEORY 
TOWARDS A MORE PRACTICAL ACCEPTANCE OF POLITICS IN A 
SECULAR STATE (ALONG THE LINES, SAY THESE OBSERVERS, OF 
CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTIES IN WESTERN EUROPE).  IN 
SUPPORT OF THIS ARGUMENT, THESE OBSERVERS POINT 
PARTICULARLY TO THE MB'S EXPERIENCE OF RUNNING SEVERAL 
OF EGYPT'S PROFESSIONAL SYNDICATES FROM 1992-95.  THEY 
CITE THIS AS AN EXAMPLE OF THE MB'S POTENTIAL 
DEMOCRATIC TENDENCIES AND ACTUAL COALITION BUILDING 
ABILITIES.  PROFESSIONAL SYNDICATES HAVE BEEN AN 
IMPORTANT NON-GOVERNMENTAL INSTITUTION IN EGYPTIAN 
PUBLIC LIFE SINCE THE 1920'S.  WHILE THEIR TRADITIONAL 
FOCUS WAS ON REGULATING PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS AND 
PROVIDING MEMBER SERVICES, THE SYNDICATES HAVE ALWAYS 
BEEN A FORUM TO DISCUSS POLITICAL ISSUES.  IN NASSER'S 
ERA THEY WERE USED POLITICALLY TO RALLY "POPULAR" 
SUPPORT FOR GOVERNMENTAL PROGRAMS.  UNDER SADAT, THEY 
WERE A REFUGE FOR LEFTIST CRITICS OF THE REGIME.  IN 
ADDITION, THE SYNDICATES ARE OFTEN A STEPPING STONE TO 
A POLITICAL CAREER FOR GOVERNMENT-APPROVED CANDIDATES 
(E.G., FORMER PRIME MINISTER MUSTAFA KHALIL ROSE UP 
THROUGH THE ENGINEERS SYNDICATE). 
 
9. (C) IN THE LATE 1980'S AND EARLY 1990'S THE MB USED 
ITS ORGANIZATIONAL AND FINANCIAL ABILITIES TO GET OUT 
ITS VOTE IN SYNDICATE BOARD ELECTIONS.   SINCE 
SYNDICATE MEMBERS MUST CAST BALLOTS EITHER IN CAIRO 
SYNDICATE HEADQUARTERS, OR IN CAPITALS OF REGIONAL 
PROVINCES, THE MB BUSSED IN THEIR SYNDICATE MEMBERS AND 
OTHER SYMPATHIZERS FROM THE PROVINCES ON ELECTION DAY. 
SYNDICATE MEMBERS MUST PAY DUES, AND ANOTHER MB 
TECHNIQUE OF THE TIME WAS TO AGREE TO PAY A MEMBER'S 
DUES IN EXCHANGE FOR A PRO-MB VOTE IN THE SYNDICATE 
ELECTIONS.  THE RESULT:  THE MB CAPTURED PLURALITIES OF 
THE GOVERNING BOARDS OF THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS SYNDICATES 
- THE LAWYERS, ENGINEERS, DOCTORS, AND PHARMACISTS. THE 
MB CONTROLLED THE SYNDICATES BY SUPPORTING A NEUTRAL OR 
PRO-GOVERNMENT CANDIDATE FOR THE TOP POSITION, WHILE 
KEEPING THE DAY-TO-DAY MANAGEMENT POSITIONS AND RUNNING 
THE SYNDICATES THROUGH COALITIONS WITH OTHER OPPOSITION 
AND INDEPENDENT FIGURES. 
 
10. (C)  AFTER THE MB GAINED CONTROL OF THE SYNDICATES, 
THE GOE RESPONDED FIRST BY CHANGING THE SYNDICATE 
ELECTION LAWS IN 1992 TO REQUIRE SUPER MAJORITIES, AND 
THEN IN LATE 1995 BY ABOLISHING THE MB-RUN BOARDS OF 
SEVERAL SYNDICATES AND REPLACING THEM WITH GOE- 
APPOINTED GUARDIANS.  THE GUARDIANS ARE SUPPOSED TO 
TEMPORARILY LOOK AFTER SYNDICATE AFFAIRS AND PREPARE 
FOR NEW ELECTIONS.  IN JUSTIFYING THESE MOVES, THE GOE 
MADE TWO CLAIMS:  THE MB EMBEZZLED SYNDICATE FUNDS, AND 
THE MB WAS USING THE SYNDICATES TO PROMOTE THEIR OWN 
POLITICAL AGENDA.  AHMAD SEIF AL-ISLAM HASSAN AL-BANNA, 
SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE LAWYERS SYNDICATE DURING THE 
PERIOD OF MB CONTROL (AND SON OF THE MB FOUNDER), 
ADMITTED TO US THERE WERE SOME FINANCIAL ERRORS MADE 
DURING THE MB TENURE, BUT HE VEHEMENTLY DENIED THAT 
THIS JUSTIFIED THE GOE SHUTTING DOWN THE INDEDEPENDENT 
SYNDICATES.  THE ONLY FINANCIAL DETAILS CITED TO US IN 
MEETINGS WITH SYNDICATE MEMBERS ARE THAT SOME SYNDICATE 
CONTRACTS (PRINTING LEAFLETS OR ARRANGING SYNDICATE 
MEMBER TRAVEL) WERE GIVEN TO COMPANIES OWNED BY MB 
MEMBERS.  THE MORE SERIOUS CHARGE IS THAT THE 
SYNDICATES BECAME MB POLITICAL PLATFORMS.  AS NOTED 
ABOVE, SYNDICATES HAVE ALWAYS HAD A POLITICAL VOICE, 
BUT THIS VOICE APPARENTLY BECAME INTOLERABLY ANTI- 
REGIME DURING THE PERIOD OF MB CONTROL.  HAMDI SAYYID, 
CURRENT PRESIDENT OF THE DOCTORS SYNDICATE AND RULING 
PARTY MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, DETAILED FOR US HOW 
POLITICS (E.G., BOSNIA OR THE GOE COUNTER-TERROR 
CAMPAIGN) BECAME THE DOCTORS' OVERRIDING ISSUES DURING 
THE MB TENURE, TO THE NEGLECT OF PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS 
AND MEMBER SERVICES. 
 
11. (C) SINCE 1995, THE SYNDICATES HAVE GROWN QUIET, 
HOLDING ONLY THE OCCASIONAL SMALL-SCALE PROTESTS OF 
U.S. POLICY DURING IRAQ CRISES.  THE TWO MOST 
POLITICALLY VOCAL DURING THE MB TENURE - THE LAWYERS 
AND ENGINEERS - REMAIN UNDER GOE GUARDIANSHIP, WITH NO 
DATES YET FOR FOR NEW BOARD ELECTIONS.  SPECULATION ON 
IMMINENT LAWYERS SYNDICATE ELECTIONS HAS CIRCULATED IN 
THE PRESS AND AMONG LAWYERS FOR MONTHS.  THE 
GOVERNMENTAL FRONT-RUNNER, RAGA'I ATIYAH (MUBARAK 
FAMILY PERSONAL LAWYER), IS RUMORED TO HAVE FORMED A 
COALITION WITH THE MB LAWYERS WHEREBY THEY WILL SUPPORT 
HIM FOR PRESIDENT IN EXCHANGE FOR THE GOE'S ALLOWING 
THE MB A CERTAIN SPECIFIED NUMBER OF SEATS ON THE 
BOARD.  WAFD PARTY COMPETITORS TOLD US THIS RUMORED 
COALITION FELL APART WHEN, AT A RECENT JOINT MEETING OF 
THE ATIYAH BACKERS AND MB LAWYERS, IT BECAME CLEAR TO 
THE GOE SECURITY SERVICES THAT THE MB WOULD DOMINATE 
THIS COALITION.  THE LATEST WORD IS THAT LAWYERS 
SYNDICATE ELECTIONS MUST WAIT UNTIL AFTER THE OCTOBER 
1999 REFERENDUM ON MUBARAK'S FOURTH TERM. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
THE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE:  QUIET ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
12. (U) IN 1995, WHILE THE GOVERNMENT WAS SHUTTING DOWN 
THE MB-CONTROLLED SYNDICATES, IT ALSO ARRESTED SEVERAL 
HUNDRED MB MEMBERS FROM SYNDICATES AND UNIVERSITIES, 
BUNDLING 82 OF THEM THROUGH EXPEDITED TRIALS IN THE 
MILITARY COURT SYSTEM.  THE MAIN CHARGES WERE BELONGING 
TO A BANNED GROUP (THE MB IS NOT A LEGAL ENTITY IN 
EGYPT) AND WORKING AGAINST THE SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT. 
IN ADDITION, THE GOVERNMENT CHARGED MANY WITH CONTACTS 
WITH "JIHAD" AND "ISLAMIC GROUP" TERRORIST 
ORGANIZATIONS (THUS FURTHER JUSTIFYING THE RESORT TO 
THE MILITARY COURTS ON NATIONAL SECURITY GROUNDS).  IN 
THE FIRST OF TWO TRIALS IN NOVEMBER 1995, 31 MB MEMBERS 
WERE SENTENCED TO THREE YEARS IN PRISON, THREE OTHERS 
WERE SENTENCED TO FIVE YEARS AND 15 WERE ACQUITTED 
(CASE NO. 95/8).  IN THE OTHER CASE, 17 WERE SENTENCED 
TO THREE YEARS IN PRISON AND THREE MORE TO FIVE YEARS, 
WITH 13 ACQUITTALS (CASE NO. 95/11). 
 
13. (U) A NEW GOVERNMENT CAMPAIGN OF MB ARRESTS BEGAN 
SEVEN MONTHS AGO, WITH A TOTAL OF 110 SUSPECTED MB 
MEMBERS ARRESTED TO DATE, ACCORDING TO PRESS REPORTS. 
THOSE ARRESTED ARE BEING HELD IN DETENTION WITHOUT 
TRIAL, WHICH IS ALLOWED FOR PERIODS OF UP TO SIX MONTHS 
UNDER THE POST-1981 EMERGENCY LAWS (THOUGH IN PRACTICE 
SUCH DETENTION CAN OCCUR FOR YEARS).  THE CAMPAIGN IS 
NATION-WIDE THOUGH FOCUSED ON MB CENTERS IN THE DELTA, 
CAIRO AND ALEXANDRIA:  IN THE DELTA PROVINCE OF KAFR 
AL-SHEIKH, 16 PERSONS WERE ARRESTED BETWEEN AUGUST AND 
OCTOBER (ALL BUT ONE WERE RECENTLY RELEASED); IN 
ALEXANDRIA, 11 WERE ARRESTED IN OCTOBER AND ANOTHER 
NINE IN FEBRUARY; IN GIZA, FIVE WERE ARRESTED IN 
FEBRUARY.  THE EGYPTIAN ORGANIZATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
(EOHR) HAS COMPILED DATA ON THESE RECENT ARRESTEES, 
GATHERING TESTIMONY AND ALLEGING INCIDENTS OF TORTURE 
AND MALTREATMENT BY THE STATE SECURITY FORCES DURING 
THE INTERROGATIONS.  AT THE SAME TIME, THE GOE HAS 
RELEASED ALL OF THE 48 MB MEMBERS SENTENCED IN NOVEMBER 
1995 TO THREE-YEAR PRISON TERMS. 
 
14. (U) THE EOHR REPORT PROVIDES NAMES, AGES, AND 
OCCUPATIONS OF THE RECENT ARRESTEES.  THE CONSISTENT 
PATTERN IS MIDDLE-INCOME MEN BETWEEN 30 TO 45 YEARS OF 
AGE (PROFESSIONALS, HIGHER SALARIED LOCAL GOVERNMENT 
EMPLOYEES, MERCHANTS).  THUS FAR, WE HAVE SPOTTED AMONG 
THE NEW ARRESTEES ONLY TWO FROM THE GROUP CONVICTED IN 
1995 AND RELEASED IN 1998.  THEY ARE PROMINENT MB 
ACTIVISTS IBRAHIM AL-ZAAFARANI (SECRETARY GENERAL OF 
THE ALEXANDRIA CHAPTER OF THE DOCTORS SYNDICATE) AND 
MUHAMMAD TAHA WAHDAN (PROFESSOR OF COMMERCE AT 
ISMAILIYYA UNIVERSITY).  ZAAFARANI HAS BEEN RE-ARRESTED 
AND RELEASED FROM DETENTION SEVERAL TIMES SINCE HIS 
THREE-YEAR PRISON TERM ENDED IN JANUARY 1998. 
 
15. (C) OBSERVERS HERE INTERPRET THESE ARRESTS AS THE 
GOE'S ONGOING EFFORTS TO DETER MB ACTIVISM PRIOR TO 
UPCOMING ELECTIONS. THE LAST MAJOR ROUND-UP IN 1995 
PRECEDED THE NOVEMBER 1995 PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS; A 
MUCH SMALLER NUMBER OF MB ARRESTS PRECEDED EACH OF THE 
1997 LOCAL COUNCIL AND 1998 SHURA COUNCIL ELECTIONS. 
WE MAY NOW BE WITNESSING GOE PREVENTIVE EFFORTS PRIOR 
TO THE OCTOBER 1999 PRESIDENTIAL REFERENDUM AND 
PROSPECTIVE  SYNDICATE ELECTIONS.  SOME OBSERVERS 
EXPECT THE GOE TO KEEP UP THIS PRESSURE THROUGH THE 
NOVEMBER 2000 PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS.  THE MESSAGE 
FROM THE GOE TO THE MB IS:  WE WILL NOT LET YOU RE- 
BUILD, EVEN IF YOU ARE KEEPING QUIET.  THE GOVERNMENT 
ENSURES THAT ITS MESSAGE IS WELL DISSEMINATED BY 
INFORMING THE PRESS OF THESE ARRESTS. 
 
---------------------------------------- 
INTERNAL DIVISIONS ADD TO THEIR PROBLEMS 
---------------------------------------- 
 
16.(C) THE GOE ARREST CAMPAIGNS UNIFORMLY TARGET THE 
MID-RANGE CADRE OF THE MB, LEAVING THE SEPTUAGENARIANS 
IN THE LEADERSHIP UNTOUCHED.  DIFFERENCES HAVE EMERGED 
BETWEEN THESE NOW-LATE 30 SOMETHING ACTIVISTS (WHO LED 
THE SYNDICATE TAKEOVERS IN THE EARLY 1990'S) AND THE 
OLD GUARD LEADERSHIP OVER ISSUES OF INTERNAL MANAGEMENT 
AND POLICY.  WE HEARD FROM EGYPTIAN OBSERVERS THAT 
SPOKESMAN HODEIBY FILLED SEVERAL VACANT POSITIONS IN 
THE GUIDANCE BUREAU WITHOUT CONVENING A SHURA COUNCIL 
MEETING, AS THE MB RULES STIPULATE.  ACCORDING TO THESE 
OBSERVERS, THE YOUNGER GENERATION ALSO HOLDS MASHOUR 
AND HODEIBY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WASAT GROUP'S 
DEFECTION.   IN 1996, ABOUT 70 YOUNGER MB ACTIVISTS 
LEFT TO FORM THEIR OWN POLITICAL PARTY, CALLED THE 
WASAT OR CENTER PARTY, AFTER MASHOUR REFUSED TO APPROVE 
THEIR PARTY (REFTEL).  MANY OF THE ORIGINAL WASAT GROUP 
HAS RETURNED TO THE MB BUT, ACCORDING TO MB OBSERVERS, 
THEY CONTINUE TO FEEL LEFT OUT OF POLICY DECISION- 
MAKING.  FINALLY, AT LEAST ONE OBSERVER (DIA RASHWAN OF 
THE AL-AHRAM CENTER) SEES A GROWING RIFT BETWEEN THE 
EGYPTIAN MB AND THE BRANCH ORGANIZATIONS IN OTHER ARAB 
COUNTRIES, ACCENTUATED BY THE SECURITY PRESSURES FELT 
BY THE EGYPTIAN MB.  THE ORGANIZATIONS IN JORDAN, YEMEN 
AND ALGERIA ARE RELATIVELY VIBRANT COMPARED TO THE 
EGYPTIAN GROUP, AND SEEM LESS INCLINED TO FOLLOW 
EGYPTIAN HOME OFFICE GUIDANCE.  FINALLY, OUR MB SOURCES 
SOMEWHAT PARADOXICALLY DO NOT SPEAK WELL OF THE ONLY 
ISLAMIST GOVERNMENT IN THE ARAB WORLD - SUDAN - SINCE 
TURABI'S NATIONAL ISLAMIC FRONT SEES ITSELF AS A 
COMPETITOR TO THE MB, SEEKING TO ABSORB SUDAN'S MB INTO 
ITS OWN "FRONT." 
 
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COMMENT 
------- 
 
17. (C) CONDITIONS ARE DIFFICULT FOR THE MB AT PRESENT. 
THE GOE'S DETERMINED OPPOSITION AND USE OF SECURITY 
SERVICES AND EMERGENCY LAWS KEEPS THE PRESSURE ON.  THE 
EGYPTIAN PUBLIC, AS AN EXHAUSTING BOUT OF ISLAMIST 
TERRORISM WINDS DOWN, SEEMS LESS INTERESTED NOW THAN IT 
WAS A DECADE AGO IN AN ISLAMIST MESSAGE, EVEN THE MB'S 
SOFT-SELL APPROACH.  NEVERTHELESS, THE MB RETAINS A 
NATION-WIDE ORGANIZATION WITH ROOTS IN THE GROWING 
RANKS OF URBAN PROFESSIONALS, AND IN THE SUEZ CANAL 
CITIES (WHERE IT STARTED), ALEXANDRIA AND PARTS OF THE 
DELTA.   THE MB TAKES A FAMOUSLY LONG VIEW OF ITS 
PROSPECTS, AND IT WILL REMAIN THE LARGEST AND BEST 
ORGANIZED OPPOSITION MOVEMENT IN EGYPT. 
 
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NOTE ON SOURCES 
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18. (C) THE MB IS A BANNED GROUP IN EGYPT.   WHILE THE 
GOVERNMENT USED TO TOLERATE A MORE OPEN MB PRESENCE 
(E.G., THE MB IN 1987 OPENLY JOINED AN OPPOSITION 
COALITION FOR PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS), SINCE 1995 IT 
HAS STRICTLY ENFORCED THE BAN.  GIVEN THESE HEIGHTENED 
SENSITIVITIES, EMBASSY CONTACT WITH THE MB FOCUSES ON 
INFLUENTIAL MB MEMBERS WHO ARE ALSO ACTIVE IN THE 
PROFESSIONAL SYNDICATES.  WE CALL ON THEM IN THEIR 
CAPACITIES AS SYNDICATE LEADERS, NOT AS MEMBERS OF A 
BANNED GROUP.  OUR CURRENT MB CONTACTS ARE MUHAMMAD 
ABDEL QUDUS AND SALAH ABDEL MAQSUD (BOTH ON THE BOARD 
OF THE JOURNALISTS SYNDICATE), AHMAD SEIF AL-ISLAM 
HASAN AL-BANNA (FORMERLY SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE 
LAWYERS SYNDICATE, AN ACTIVE LAWYER), AND ABUL ELA AL- 
MADI (FOUNDER OF THE MB SPLINTER WASAT PARTY, FORMER 
SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE ENGINEERS SYNDICATE).   WE 
ALSO CONTACT OTHER EGYPTIAN OBSERVERS OF THE MB SCENE. 
THEY ARE DIA RASHWAN AND HALA MUSTAFA OF THE AL-AHRAM 
CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, 
MUHAMMAD SALAH OF AL-HAYAT NEWSPAPER, KHALED DAWOUD OF 
AL-AHRAM NEWSPAPER, RIFAAT SAID, SECRETARY GENERAL OF 
THE TAGAMMU' PARTY, MAHMOUD ABAZA AND MUHAMMAD KAMIL OF 
THE OPPOSITION WAFD PARTY, AND KAMAL ABUL MAGD, FORMER 
MB MEMBER AND INTERNATIONAL LAWYER. 
 
 
KURTZER 

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