Small Wars Journal

At a Crossroads

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 9:01pm

At a Crossroads: Flashpoints and Opportunities in U.S. Relations with the Muslim Brotherhood

M. David Yaman


This paper has identified four key Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood interests that could generate flashpoints in the U.S. relationship with the Brotherhood.  These flashpoints could result in conditions that would impact U.S. interests in Egypt, and the region.  Muslim Brotherhood interests were determined by reviewing the organization’s ideology and history to form a baseline understanding of causes and motivations that influence the Brotherhood’s modern interests.  Then common themes were identified and formed into a set of interests.  Through the use of structured analytical techniques, interests of the Muslim Brotherhood are compared against U.S. interests to identify areas of conflict, neutrality, and alignment.  Those interests that are identified as in conflict are examined further to determine triggers and conditions that could cause the Muslim Brotherhood to behave adversely toward U.S. interests.  Knowledge of those triggers and conditions will provide the United States indications and warnings, and the ability to better monitor the Muslim Brotherhood and the situation in Egypt.  This paper has also identified U.S. positions of leverage and areas of opportunity with regard to the Muslim Brotherhood.  Despite conflicting Muslim Brotherhood interests, this paper will demonstrate that the United States can mitigate conflicting interests, navigate towards common ground, and despite the United States’ apprehension towards Islamist groups, work effectively with the Muslim Brotherhood.


I would like to thank six individuals who helped in the development of this paper.  First is Mr. John Wigle, adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University and subject matter expert on structured analytical techniques.  Mr. Wigle assisted in the development of two hybrid analytical models that provide the framework for analyzing and interpreting the findings of my research.

Second, third, and fourth are Mr. William Ewald, PhD, Mrs. Diana Raschke, and Mr. Michael Glenzer.  They are also adjunct professors at Johns Hopkins University and provided technical and content reviews of this paper.

The fifth individual is Commander Youssef Aboul-Enein, United States Navy.  Commander Aboul-Enein is an adjunct military professor and chair of Islamic studies at the National Defense University.  He is also a subject matter expert on Middle Eastern issues and has several publications on Egypt, militant Islamist ideology, and Arab affairs.  His expertise ensured that my findings accurately reflected the ideology and how the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood views its interests.    

Finally I would like to thank my wife, Jessica, for her patience, her support, as well as her assistance in proofreading this paper and providing technical edits. 


The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is a large Islamist organization that holds a tenuous position in Egyptian political life.  Previously, despite a popular following, the Muslim Brotherhood was largely an underground movement, banned from Egyptian politics, and its leadership had served time in prison.  This changed during the 2011 Arab Spring when the Muslim Brotherhood took part in Egypt’s revolution.  By majority vote the Muslim Brotherhood, through its political arm the Freedom and Justice Party, acquired seats in Egypt’s Parliament and won a 2012 presidential election. 

Having become a viable political force in post-Arab Spring Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood sought to pursue its interests and shape Egypt in its image.  Its future, however, is uncertain.  Growing unrest during the presidency of Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi culminated in a second revolution called by some a coup d’état in July of 2013, in which Morsi was removed by Egypt’s military and many Muslim Brotherhood members were arrested.  As of August 2013, Egypt is largely split into two camps—those people who support the democratically elected President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, and those people who support the military’s removal of him and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s role in Egyptian politics is uncertain and it is unknown if it will gain supremacy in Egypt’s government again.  Presently, the Muslim Brotherhood still remains both a strong political and social movement, one that the United States, despite being suspicious toward Islamist organizations, cannot ignore.  With the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood during the Arab Spring, the United States has had concerns over Egypt because the country is of strategic importance.  Additionally, the United States is concerned with how to contend with an organization that is traditionally opposed to U.S. influence and policy in the region and how that might negatively impact U.S. interests.  Even though the Brotherhood was recently removed from power, there is the potential that the United States will have to continue to deal with it in the future.  The Muslim Brotherhood remains the most organized political entity in the Egyptian political landscape (Y. Aboul-Enein, personal communication, August 26, 2013).

In order for the United States to work with the Muslim Brotherhood, the United States must better understand the historical and ideological drivers behind Muslim Brotherhood interests and identify where those present possible conflicts with U.S. objectives in the region.  Then the United States must improve its ability to monitor indications and warnings that would cause the Muslim Brotherhood to impact U.S. interests.  This paper attempts to address these areas in understanding the Muslim Brotherhood, and provide U.S. policy makers with a decision advantage by identifying conditions to monitor in Egypt and options to consider when dealing with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

Through analysis, this paper has identified four key Muslim Brotherhood interests that conflict with U.S. interests.  Those interests are: consolidating power, establishing a government based on Islamic principles, pursuing an anti-West and anti-Israel agenda, and pursuing what it deems are Egyptian and Arab causes.  Further analysis revealed that these four key interests could create seven common conditions that would cause the Muslim Brotherhood to negatively impact U.S. interests.  Those seven common conditions include diplomatic, infrastructure, military, economic, political, social, and ideological triggers.  As a result of identifying the aforementioned conditions, those conditions can be used to provide indications and warnings for the United States to anticipate Muslim Brotherhood actions and predict how changes in the landscape would affect U.S. interests in Egypt.  The analysis also revealed that, despite adversarial interests between the Muslim Brotherhood and the United States, the Brotherhood does have a moderate and pragmatic side.  Nine positions of leverage and opportunity are described that the United States can consider based on the alignment of U.S. and Muslim Brotherhood interests.  These nine positions of leverage and opportunity involve ways to:

  • Counteract the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempts to consolidate power.
  • Counteract the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempts to Islamize Egypt’s government.
  • Appeal to the Muslim Brotherhood’s goal of legitimacy.
  • Counteract the Muslim Brotherhood’s anti-Western/anti-Israel sentiment.
  • Counteract the Muslim Brotherhood’s goal of what it deems as Egyptian and Arab interests.
  • Appeal to the Muslim Brotherhood’s moderate side.
  • Assist Egypt in resolving its domestic issues.
  • Leverage the Egypt-Israeli Peace Treaty.
  • Assist Egypt with its economic issues.

Should the United States take advantage of areas of opportunity, the United States can improve its relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood by appealing to its more moderate and pragmatic side, and, in this way, resolve differences by navigating away from flashpoints, mitigating issues, and establish common ground for cooperation.  Alternatively, the United States can take positions of leverage to counteract more conservative Muslim Brotherhood interests that run contrary to its own. 

On a final note, this paper offers a modified analytical framework by taking existing models and expanding upon them.  Additionally, the framework in this paper can be applied beyond the United States and the Muslim Brotherhood, such as other Islamist groups, or any state or non-state actor.   The method provided in this paper can provide insight in to better predicting how an organization would behave given its interests and conditions that would affect those interests.  After interests have been determined, areas of conflict, leverage, and opportunity can be used to promote cooperation between two state or non-state actors.

Scope, Caveats, and Limitations

The Muslim Brotherhood is a large Islamist organization that spans the Middle East.  Although the Muslim Brotherhood originated in Egypt, it has evolved into branches throughout the Arab world, each with its own set of issues, culture, and agenda.  Its size presents challenges in identifying interests because each faction of the Muslim Brotherhood has nuances dependent on location, leadership, and demographics. 

In order to understand the framework of this paper and analysis involved, the following must be taken into account:

1)  To adequately address U.S. concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt, this paper focuses strictly on the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood—hereafter referred to as the Muslim Brotherhood or just the Brotherhood. 

2)  In order to identify each interest, the Muslim Brotherhood’s history and ideological origins will be taken into account.  Therefore, this paper examines and identifies Muslim Brotherhood interests that have remained consistent since the organization’s creation in 1928 to the present, as well as interests that have emerged during and after the Arab Spring—from January 2011 to July 2013.  Information in the ideology and history section about the Brotherhood from 1928 to pre-Arab Spring is primarily derived from the work of authors Christina Harris and David Phillips. Information about the Brotherhood from the onset of the Arab Spring to present is compiled from David Sanger, Jeffrey Martini, Dalia Kaye, and Erin York.  Although these authors were referenced extensively in the ideology and history section, they were not the only sources used to determine U.S. and Muslim Brotherhood interests and conditions (refer to Appendix A for a list of sources).  The aforementioned authors were chosen for the ideology and history section because their work provided a detailed and all-inclusive account of the Brotherhood for the time periods previously mentioned—more so than other sources selected for this paper. 

3)  This paper will not take into account historical and ideological origins of U.S. interests.

4)  The research conducted was only through open source and publicly available materials.  Any information that has not been disseminated to the public was not taken into account.  Therefore, findings may be limited due to the absence of material that could provide additional insights.

5)  Due to the open source and publicly available material used in this research, there is the risk of bias imbedded in each source.   This is mitigated in two ways:  first by vetting the interests and findings through a subject matter expert in Middle Eastern affairs; second by the diverse selection of sources utilized, ranging from media, academia, think tanks, and the varying time periods of when each source was published.  Source diversity will be covered in the methodology section of this paper.  

6)  The findings of this paper depend on the sources collected.  Although not an exhaustive collection due to time and resource constraints, the selected sources provide a sufficient number of interests that are consistent with Muslim Brotherhood principles and ideology.  More information on sources used is available in the methodology section of this paper.    

7)  As of August 2013, the situation in Egypt is evolving.  The findings of this paper are derived from data collected between May and July of 2013, with an information cutoff date of July 31, 2013.  It is unlikely, however, that key Muslim Brotherhood interests such as wanting to garner support or establish an Islamic state in its image will change drastically given that these interests have persisted over the past several decades.  In the event that the situation should change and the Muslim Brotherhood is impacted, the findings of this paper will have to be reevaluated.  The analytical model in this paper can still be used, new data and sources can be incorporated and analyzed, and any changes can be identified.  

8)  This paper views the Muslim Brotherhood as a unitary actor.  A unitary actor is defined as a single entity that tries to maximize its interests (Allison & Zelikow, 1999).  In the same way, this paper views the United States as a unitary actor as well in the context of its interests.  Therefore, the interests described in this paper represent the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood (and the United States) as a whole, ranging from its Islamic ideology and conservative leanings, to its more moderate and pragmatic side.  Even though the Muslim Brotherhood faces challenges internal to its organization – namely a generational divide and opposition to its strict hierarchal leadership structure (Kaye, Martini, & York, 2012) – the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood described in this paper represent interests across the spectrum of conservatives and moderates within it.  It should be noted, however, that the Muslim Brotherhood’s senior leadership tends to be more conservative and the organization’s core interests reflect this.  Should there be a change in leadership, where moderate members or the younger generation assume control of the organization, the Muslim Brotherhood’s interests will have to be reevaluated.

9)  This paper only provides key interests for the Muslim Brotherhood and the United States.  These interests are sufficient to address major areas of concern that the United States can address, areas of opportunity, and conditions that the United States can monitor when observing and interacting with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

10)  Finally, this paper is not an empirical study.  This paper, however, uses a quantitative approach to inform and underpin a qualitative analysis.

Ideology and History

To understand each Muslim Brotherhood interest, the organization’s history and ideology must be taken into account.  This section will provide an overview of influential Brotherhood leaders as well as the ideological and historical origins of the organization from 1928 to present.  Additionally, it should be noted that not every ideological or historical aspect, nuance, or detail will be covered herein.  The purpose of this section is to provide a general understanding to help explain the major themes and reasoning behind the ideology and motivations of the Muslim Brotherhood.  This, in turn, will help explain the cause behind each of the organization’s interests.  For readers who only want to examine Muslim Brotherhood and U.S. interests, they may proceed to the analysis portion of this paper, starting first with the paper’s methodology in Section Five.

Ideological Origins

There are three influential members of the Muslim Brotherhood that have had a long lasting impact on shaping the ideology of the organization.  They are Hassan al Banna, Sayyid Qutb, and Hasan Ismail al Hudaybi.  All three of these men played an integral part in instilling the conservative, extreme, and moderate ideology of the Brotherhood. 

Hassan al Banna (1906-1949), the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, was raised in the tradition of Hanbalite Islamic practice.  During his childhood, he joined the highly regimented Hassafi Sufi order (Y. Aboul-Enein, personal communication, August 26, 2013).  Al Banna believed in strict religious belief and practice, a literal interpretation of the Koran, and that the Koran is the sole sources of doctrine and law.  He also believed in Jihad, or holy war, in the defense of Islam.  Al Banna, however, did not condone violence, at least not publicly (Harris, 1964). 

With the significant number of non-Muslims in Egypt, their ownership of the industrial and commercial businesses, their higher standard of living, and what al Banna perceived as the secularization of Egypt and modernization of Islam, al Banna feared a change in Muslim life (Harris, 1964).  He worried that conditions in Egypt had gone too far and that the fundamentals of Islam were threatened.  Al Banna perceived that Egypt had become morally decadent and was upset to the extent in which Egyptians were subservient to foreign ideas.  He also criticized the community of clerics for being too influenced by the British (Phillips, 2009).  

Al Banna therefore rejected imperialism, and what he perceived as domestic imperialism by the upper class that had become “tools of Western ideology by helping foreign powers to exploit the country” (Phillips, 2009, p. 10).  As a result, al Banna deemed it necessary to institute reform and placed an emphasis on the “universalism” of Islam (Harris, 1964, p. 161).  He believed that Muslims should unite to reestablish the principles and practices of Islam.  Al Banna also mandated a return to Islamic government where Egypt was to be administered by Muslims for Muslims, would adhere to Islamic (Sharia) law, and in accordance with the unitary nature of Islam, abolish all political parties (Harris, 1964).  With the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood, al Banna was determined to protect Islam against foreign influence and the Westernization of Egypt.  Together, the unitary nature of Islam, the establishment of an Islamic state, and the limits to Western influences (anti-imperialism) are views that exist with the Muslim Brotherhood today—specifically among the more conservative members that occupy leadership positions within the organization.

Another area of reform that al Banna espoused was the need for the Islamization of the civil service and the military.  Al Banna proposed that an Islamist state is dependent on both a strong military and government that can supervise and effectively administer the principles of Islam (Harris, 1964).  He was also against secularism which he and the Muslim Brotherhood viewed as weakness (Phillips, 2009).  However, al Banna’s views on secularism, specifically democracy, evolved over the years, and over time he accepted that Islamic institutions could operate under a democratic framework so long as they were governed by Islamic legislation.  Furthermore, he warmed to the idea of democratic debate, but only in the context of a Shura council (Phillips, 2009). 

Al Banna also believed in social and educational reform and the establishment of a unified Islamist education system to provide basic religious education in all schools and universities.  Al Banna sought to create both cultural unity and uniformity in an attempt to purge foreign influences from Arab life (Harris, 1964).  Social reform was also necessary to advance al Banna’s belief in raising the standard of living for Muslims. He recognized the importance of a strong economy and believed that increasing the productivity of farmers and workers was essential.  He believed in advocating to help workers develop skills that could encourage new economic projects and create new job opportunities.  Furthermore, he believed that the government, run by Islamists, should control unemployment and regulate wages (Harris, 1964). 

In summary, al Banna emphasized reform and was eventually able to “transform a popular social movement into a political one” (Aboul-Enein, 2010, p 116).  He stressed the need for the religious, social, educational, and economic rehabilitation of Muslims.  In accordance with the unitary nature of Islam, he envisioned a state run by Islamists who were present in all branches of government.  He stressed Islamist power, adequately supported by military strength, and the need for committed Islamic leadership to supervise and administer the principles of Islam.  Despite periods of violence and extremism with the Muslim Brotherhood, it was al Banna’s initial intent to avoid confrontation by emphasizing incremental rather than radical change and, at least before he became politically oriented, to dedicate the organization to providing social services (Phillips, 2009). 

Another important ideological figure of the Muslim Brotherhood was Sayyid Qutb who played a role in the radicalization of the organization.  Qutb was arrested in 1954 after the Brotherhood’s attempt to assassinate Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser.  When in prison he wrote Signposts on the Road which is considered by Islamic experts as the “founding manifesto of Jihadism” (Phillips, 2009, p. 11).  Qutb, like al Banna, believed that Egypt had been overtaken by those unworthy to rule.  He rejected any idea of secularism, specifically constitutional democracy, and declared that God alone, rather than a human form of governing body that makes laws, is the absolute authority (Phillips, 2009).  Qutb also stated that unjust Arab rulers were infidels who should be eliminated for betraying their people and their faith.  In 1966 Qutb was hanged in a public execution.  His death, coupled with the shock of the 1967 Six Day War, only “broadened the appeal of his ideas” and his writings became popular among disenfranchised and impoverished Egyptians, including members of the Brotherhood (Phillips, 2009, p. 12).

Last, Hasan Ismail al Hudaybi played an important role in shaping the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood when he was appointed Supreme Guide in 1951.  Al Hudabybi refuted Qutb’s radical views in his book Du’aa Wala Quda (Preachers and Not Judges) and believed that the goals of the organization – establishing an Islamic state – could be achieved through peaceful means.  Al Hudabyi also believed that democracy and Islam could co-exist so long as Western values did not impose and that the democratic process was functioning under the guidance of an Islamic legislature (Phillips, 2009).  His ideological contributions allowed elements of the Muslim Brotherhood to become more moderate and, at the same time, caused a split between moderates, conservatives, and the more extreme factions (Phillips, 2009).

With al Hudaybi’s rejection of violence (by refuting Qutb) and more mainstream members’ rejection of both violence and terrorism, the Muslim Brotherhood set itself apart from other Islamist groups—especially the more militant Islamist groups.  This was demonstrated by the Brotherhood’s 2005 rally in Cairo where members renounced violence, extremism, and terrorism (Phillips, 2009).  Further, several prominent al Qaida members, including Ayman al Zawahiri, were former Muslim Brotherhood members who broke away from the group because of this position.  Zawahiri claimed that there was no room within the organization for his militant views and he condemned the Muslim Brotherhood for “foregoing violence and instead emphasizing social programs and political activities” (Phillips, 2009, p. 25).  Zawahiri had been an avid critic of the Brotherhood and has a visceral animosity for the group as demonstrated by his 1994 book Bitter Harvest (Y. Aboul-Enein, personal communication, August 26, 2013).   

From the 1980s to the present day, the Muslim Brotherhood has taken on a more moderate character.  This is not to say, however, that there are no conservatives or extremists within the group.  During Mubarak’s reign, the Brotherhood was pressured by devout Egyptians to sympathize with groups that resorted to violence (Phillip, 2009).  Conditions under Mubarak and government restrictions made it impossible for political participation by Islamist groups and, in response, some turned to violence.  Despite the internal dichotomy, the Muslim Brotherhood still sought to improve its image and demonstrate that it is not a fanatical or violence prone Islamist group.  Its members want to be seen as a national movement and both a viable and credible alternative to Mubarak (Phillips, 2009).  As mentioned previously, this paper will view the Brotherhood as a unitary actor.  Thoroughly understanding the organization's ideology does, however, require an appreciation for the variety of its members' views, which range from conservative to moderate to extreme.

History of the Organization

Hassan al Banna

Hassan al Banna grew up in Egypt during the time of British rule.  In 1919 an anti-British rebellion started in Egypt and al Banna, motivated by a sense of duty and nationalism, took part in protests and strikes against British occupation of Egypt (Harris, 1964). The rebellion exposed al Banna to an anti-Western sentiment in Egypt and subsequently led him to oppose Western influences and imperialism later in his life.   

During and after the British rebellion, al Banna continued his studies in school and was a member of three different Islamic associations in which he held various leadership positions, ranging from secretary to president.  Activities and duties included adhering to a strict Islamic life and regular prayer.  Al Banna’s membership in these organizations is of significance because they allowed him to network with like-minded Muslims and establish himself as a leader (Harris, 1964).  Al Banna’s experience in these organizations would influence and enable him to organize the Muslim Brotherhood.

In 1923 al Banna went to study at the Dar al Ulum college in Cairo where he was exposed to a city that, in his view, was corrupted by Westernization.  He perceived that Western influences posed a threat to Islam since there had been a breakdown in morals and behavior, which led to spiritual and ideological disintegration—all in the name of intellectual and individual freedom (Harris, 1964).  As a result, al Banna decided to take “positive action” and began a campaign to counteract the “wave of apostasy” that he viewed as overtaking Egypt (Harris, 1964, p. 146).  As he did after the 1919 British rebellion, al Banna joined several Islamic associations as part of his “positive action”.  Additionally, in his final paper before he graduated from college, he emphasized the importance to fight a holy war for truth and general reform, and to self-sacrifice in the cause of reform.  He also stated that he would live a life according to Islamic principles, deliver lectures, and write and travel to promote Islam (Harris, 1964).

After graduating from college in 1927, al Banna became a teacher in Ismailia in the Suez Canal Zone—a place populated predominately by British and French citizens.  He observed that the British and French had taken over area, and was irritated by the daily sight of British troops in the streets and the large presence of non-Muslim foreign residents.  He also noticed that Westerners had better jobs and a higher standard of living when compared to local Egyptians (Harris, 1964).  During al Banna’s time in Ismailia, he was disgusted by the way Egyptian laborers were treated by the British and the French in the construction of the Suez Canal (Aboul-Enein, 2010). 

Influenced by his Islamic upbringing and education, angered by a Westernization of Egypt and the perceived diminishing of Islamic faith, loss of morals and values, and spurred on by his ambition to revitalize Islam through reform, in 1928 al Banna created the Muslim Brotherhood.

Early Years

From its inception in 1928 to approximately 1936, the Muslim Brotherhood was a religious revivalist movement.  As its leader, al Banna was popular among Egyptians due to his intellectual prowess, experience, and leadership abilities.  His advocacy for the creation of a Muslim order that focused on ensuring the welfare of society made him and the Muslim Brotherhood popular amongst the lower echelons of Egyptian society (Phillips, 2009).  He personally directed all aspects of the organization, ranging from various social programs to organizational policies, and the organization’s propaganda campaign.  With the help of his subordinates, al Banna began a campaign across Egypt to gain support for the principles and objectives of the Muslim Brotherhood, and to increase membership (Harris, 1964).  He made those people whom he visited, the villagers and the impoverished, feel their social issues were his (Aboul-Enein, 2010).   

To manage the increasing size of the organization, al Banna developed a hierarchical structure to run the organization more effectively.  He created a central office, or headquarters.  Branches were established that were responsible for various social programs and all Brotherhood activities and business from each of its branches was cleared through headquarters (Harris, 1964).  Additionally, al Banna received, and likely expected, unquestioned loyalty, devotion, and obedience from Brotherhood members and to the cause (Harris, 1964).  This obedience and hierarchical system has carried throughout the years and is still present today (Kaye, Martini, & York, 2012).

As the organization grew, so did its ability to perform social services.  These services included programs to improve literacy, social welfare and charities, and athletics to promote fitness amongst members.  Al Banna’s intent was to raise the standard of living in villages across Egypt, especially amongst the poor, which, in turn, increased the organization’s popularity (Harris, 1964).  The Muslim Brotherhood and al Banna provided strong leadership and a sense of salvation to those in need, the common workers, peasants, and the poor.  This was possible because of al Banna and subordinate members’ strict observance to religious principles (Harris, 1964). 

As time passed, the Muslim Brotherhood continued to increase its membership by attracting Egyptians from all walks of life, including students, civil servants, white-collar workers, urban laborers, and officers and soldiers of the Egyptian military (Harris, 1964).  Additionally, the Muslim Brotherhood was able to win over Egyptians belonging to rival Islamist organizations.  With their growing size, Brotherhood  members became secretive about their affiliation, and all Brotherhood records were closely guarded, including the organization’s size.  It is estimated that between 1934 and 1939, Muslim Brotherhood branch offices grew from 50 to 500.  By 1946, al Banna claimed half a million members and by 1953, a Muslim Brotherhood official reported an estimated two million members (Harris, 1964).  Simultaneously, the Muslim Brotherhood began to expand beyond the borders of Egypt into Syria, Lebanon, and other Middle Eastern countries (Oweis, 2012).

As the Muslim Brotherhood grew in popularity, it gained political influence and distinguished itself from other Egyptian Islamist groups by combining religious missionary objectives with a program of social and economic reform (Harris, 1964).  Thus it became a strong “politico-religious” movement that “operated on the edge of, or beneath the surface of, Egyptian political life” (Harris, 1964, p. 158).  In 1936 the Muslim Brotherhood began involving itself in Arab affairs and joined the revolt of Arabs against the British mandate rule in Palestine and the influx of Jewish emigration.  Al Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood, sympathetic to the Arab cause in Palestine, gave their full moral support and started fund raising campaigns (Harris, 1964). 

Al Banna’s perception that the British were interfering in Arab affairs in Egypt and in Palestine amplified his anti-Western views.  In 1939 al Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood set out on an anti-British campaign to remove the British from the region (Harris, 1964).  Al Banna’s involvement in Palestine opened new opportunities for him and the Brotherhood.  It also created divisions within the organization (Harris, 1964).  Al Banna and his organization developed new contacts with influential Egyptian government leaders and fostered relationships with other Arab leaders outside of Egypt.  At the same time, al Banna’s development of political connections sparked dissent in the organization among members who thought the Muslim Brotherhood should stay out of politics and focus exclusively on religious and social objectives (Harris, 1964).  Al Banna attempted to avoid divisions within the organization by squashing dissent and overriding objections by members who were opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood becoming political (Harris, 1964).  As a result, al Banna and the Brotherhood became a more tightly knit organization and grew in size.  They were also given support by Egyptian politicians and continued winning over members from other rival Islamist organizations (Harris, 1964).

During World War II, al Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood’s continued insistence on the British departure from Egypt landed al Banna a short stint in prison (Harris, 1964).  This only furthered his and the Brotherhood’s popularity.  In 1942, general elections were held and al Banna saw an opportunity to take a key leadership position in government.  He agreed, however, not to run, instead arranging a deal with his prospective opponent, Nahhas Pasha, who belonged to the Wafd party—a rival organization that was backed by Egypt’s monarch, King Farouk.  In exchange for his opponent promising to introduce anti-vice legislation – banning the sale of alcohol, gambling, and prostitution – al Banna agreed not to run (Harris, 1964).  Al Banna also realized that should he run, he would likely be imprisoned again (Harris, 1964).  By giving up his bid for office, al Banna furthered his popularity by making himself appear as a martyr.  In 1944, al Banna and the Brotherhood joined in protests against the Wafd party in response to corruption exposed by a former Wafd member (Harris, 1964).  Feeding off the popular public sentiment and outrage against the Wafd party, al Banna took advantage of the situation by attacking the Wafd party policies and politicians through the use of the media.  As a result, many members of the Wafd party left their organization to join the Brotherhood (Harris, 1964).

This was a turning point for al Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood.  Instead of seeking political office, al Banna stayed out of government from 1944 and onward.  He and the Brotherhood caused trouble for every political leader and political party after the Wafd party scandal in 1944 and, as a result, became a subversive organization (Harris, 1964).  In doing so, he and the Muslim Brotherhood created cells within the Egyptian army and police, gathered weapons, and attempted to put forth candidates  in the teachers, doctors, and engineering unions.  His goal was to create a “vanguard to usher in an Islamic state while simultaneously working with Egyptian nationalists to rid Egypt of British domination” (Aboul-Enein, 2010, p. 117).

Driven Underground

In 1948 al Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood once again took part in Palestinian affairs,  only this time they were involved in the Arab-Israeli war where the Brotherhood gained valuable experience in military, guerilla, and terrorist tactics (Harris, 1964). 

Humiliated and angry by their defeat to the Israelis, Brotherhood members returned to Egypt only to become further incensed by observing more scandals in the Egyptian government, particularly among the ruling members of Egypt and the palace elite.  This caused the Muslim Brotherhood  to become fanatical, and al Banna felt that he and the Muslim Brotherhood must “purify” Egypt.  He also felt that they needed to “restore” an Islamic government and to “destroy the forces of secularism” (Harris, 1964, p. 184).  He created the al Jihaz al Khass or “Special Apparatus” as the paramilitary wing of the organization to conduct attacks against British rule and British occupation of the Suez Canal zone (Phillips, 2009, p. 7).  Al Banna declared the Brotherhood “would use all necessary means – including violence – to establish Islamic rule” (Phillips, 2009, p. 7).  Additionally, he and the Muslim Brotherhood deemed that any politician, Egyptian, or foreigner who was opposed to the Brotherhood’s principles and showed any pro-British sentiment would become the targets of terrorist attacks.  Bombings occurred in Cairo and Alexandria, and included the assassination of public officials.  Thus began a violent period of the Muslim Brotherhood (Aboul-Enein, 2010).  Further, the fanaticism of the Brotherhood during this period created a security threat to Egypt (Harris, 1964).    

Egyptian Prime Minister Nuqrashi Pasha recognized the danger posed by the Muslim Brotherhood and took action against the organization.  In 1948 Pasha issued a proclamation that the Muslim Brotherhood was to be dissolved.  Its headquarters and branch offices were shuttered, documents seized, and accounts frozen which caused the Brotherhood, estimated at two million members at the time, to be driven underground (Harris, 1964).  For his actions against the Brotherhood, the Egyptian Prime Minister was assassinated.  Several weeks later al Banna was assassinated in retaliation (Aboul-Enein, 2010).  The loss of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader, followed by the arrests of thousands of its members, including several leaders, did serious damage to the organization.  The death of al Banna fueled even more “fervor, zealotry, and widespread support” for the organization (Phillips, 2009, p. 8).  The Brotherhood quickly fell out of favor with Egypt’s government and the organization was banned (Phillips, 2009).  As a result, the Muslim Brotherhood was driven underground and remained dormant until 1950 (Harris, 1964).

Revival and New Management      

In 1950, Muslim Brotherhood members that had been arrested were released.  They resumed their usual activities, albeit cautiously since, technically, the Brotherhood was still banned by law.  In 1951 the Egyptian Parliament enacted the Associations Law and, under this legal framework, the Muslim Brotherhood was allowed to operate as an organization (Harris, 1964).  The law, however, outlawed military or paramilitary groups, prohibited all groups from admitting minors, required intensive record keeping, and gave Egyptian authorities the right to inspect all documents and accounts of any group.  As a result, this law was seen as an “instrument of control over the Brotherhood” (Harris, 1964, p. 186).  The law caused the Muslim Brotherhood to continue to resent the Egyptian government, to the point of maintaining the “Special Apparatus”, a paramilitary group, furthering its religious and cultural aims, and continuing to keep secret records that were inaccessible to Egyptian authorities (Harris, 1964).

In 1951 the Egyptian government, still run by the Wafd party, renounced a treaty with the British that had been established in 1936.  Egypt plunged into a “state of semi-anarchy” and the government was unable to maintain internal security (Harris, 1964, p. 187).  Guerrilla fighting broke out in the Suez Canal zone which was heavily occupied by the British.  The Muslim Brotherhood, along with other Islamist and nationalist groups, took part in fighting against the British and thus they entered into a second period of violence (Harris, 1964).

Simultaneously, the Brotherhood changed its leadership structure.  Previously the organization was run by a single leader, Hassan al Banna.  His death left a small group of men who were al Banna’s principal deputies.  They formed a policy-making committee called the Guidance Office (Harris, 1964).  The death of al Banna also caused factionalism within the leadership of the organization with conservative, militants, and moderates jockeying for control.  The more moderate members, however, convinced the others that in order to gain confidence and lift the suspicion of the Egyptian government, a moderate and politically acceptable leader needed to be in control.  In 1951 Hasan Ismail al Hudaybi – a respected judge of the Egyptian Court of Appeal and loyal friend to al Banna – became the leader of the Brotherhood (Harris, 1964).

Under al Hudaybi, the Muslim Brotherhood developed its hierarchical leadership structure that has carried forward to the present day.  The Guidance Office became an eleven-member panel that made all policy decisions in the name of the leader and sat atop of a pyramid-like organizational structure (Harris, 1964).  Under the Guidance Office was the Founder’s Committee that was akin to a constituent assembly.  Under the Founder’s Committee were the regional committees which represented the branches that ran the various functions of the Muslim Brotherhood as they had under al Banna (Harris, 1964).   

Coup d’état

In 1952 a secretive group of Egyptian military officers led by Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser called the “Free Officers” forced the Egyptian monarch, King Farouk, out of power.  Though the Egyptian military contained some Muslim Brotherhood members, members of the Free Officers excluded them from their secretive cell and the coup against King Farouk came as a surprise to the Brotherhood.  The Free Officers shared many of the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood, including social and economic reform, to stopping corruption, and freeing Egypt from British and foreign control (Harris, 1964).  After ousting King Farouk, the Free Officer’s established what was called the new Revolutionary Government commanded by the Revolution Command Council (RCC). 

Initially, the Muslim Brotherhood supported the RCC and members of the RCC hoped for the cooperation of the Brotherhood.  Many members of the RCC had friends among the Muslim Brotherhood, were devout Muslims themselves, and admired the Brotherhood’s exploits against Israel and resistance to King Farouk (Harris, 1964).  To show goodwill towards the Muslim Brotherhood, the RCC reopened the investigation of the death of al Banna and arrested the suspected perpetrator.  Additionally, the RCC released from prison those Muslim Brotherhood members serving life sentences for terrorism and members involved in the assassination of the former Egyptian prime minister Nuqrashi Pasha (Harris, 1964).

This cooperation began to deteriorate, however, when the RCC refused to establish a theocratic government.  The Muslim Brotherhood also became wary when Colonel Nasser and the RCC took steps to consolidate power (Phillips, 2009).  This was exacerbated when the RCC, inviting the Muslim Brotherhood to become members of government – namely in education and religious affairs – deemed the Muslim Brotherhood candidates as unacceptable (Aboul-Enein, 2010).  As a last ditch effort, al Hudaybi tried to persuade the RCC to promise that Egypt would have a new constitution based exclusively on Islamic principles but his proposal was rejected.  Al Hudaybi then issued an ultimatum that if the RCC wanted cooperation from the Muslim Brotherhood, all new laws would have to be vetted through him for consideration and approval.  The RCC refused and the Muslim Brotherhood, as it did with the previous government, began to work against the RCC (Harris, 1964).  The Brotherhood’s insistence on establishing an Egyptian government based on Islamic principles has carried forward to present day. 

Renewed Opposition

The Muslim Brotherhood supported the RCC and the new Revolutionary Government in public, but in secret began to conduct activities designed to subvert the RCC and build up its own power base.  This included organizing a subversive movement within the ranks of the Egyptian army and police forces (Harris, 1964).  The organization also, for the first time, made public a list of its principles and interests which were as follows:

1. Strict devotion to all religious duties and consistent dedication to the teachings of Islam.

2.  Education, specifically religious education for all Egyptians.

3.  Adequate housing and food for the poor along with a thorough review of labor laws to ensure wage control according to Islamic principles.

4. An insurance system for sickness, death, physical injury, and employment, as well as old age pensions and free medical care for the indigent.

5. Agrarian and industrial reform, nationalization of the Bank of Egypt, and government regulation and supervision of all other banks in Egypt.

6. Social reform that abolished the use of titles and the purging of all members that where part of or contributed to King Farouk’s government.7.  Compulsory military training in all schools and universities.

8.  Abolishment of political police

9. To unify Egypt, remove the British, and to pursue Arab and Islamists interests in the region, namely in a Middle Eastern defense alliance.

10.  An Egyptian Constitution based on Islamic principles.  (Harris, 1964)

Some of these interests were in line with the objectives of the new government, which is yet another reason the Muslim Brotherhood was against the RCC.  For instance, the Revolutionary Government, through legislation, enacted free public education and allocated national income to the establishment of state universities.  It also enacted welfare services and social insurance.  Between 1952 and 1955 the government started national development policies with land reclamation projects and exploitation of natural resources.  This increased both agricultural and mineral production and contributed to raising the general standard of living in Egypt (Harris, 1964).  Additionally, Colonel Nasser was able to tap into the feelings of nationalism at the time when he asserted his rejection towards foreign control of Egypt and its assets and championed the poor and disenfranchised (Phillips, 2009). 

These reforms incensed the Muslim Brotherhood because it felt the Revolutionary Government and Colonel Nasser “cut the ground from under the economic and social welfare program of the Muslim Brotherhood” (Harris, 1964, p. 209).  The Muslim Brotherhood was also angry that they were not able to assist or participate for which they had only themselves to blame.  In 1952, the Brotherhood had excluded themselves when refusing to back down on a demand for the RCC to establish a wholly Islamic government (Harris, 1964).  Colonel Nasser’s and his RCC secularist views and rule also did not sit well with the Brotherhood (Phillips, 2009).        

Further driving a wedge between the new Revolutionary Government and the Muslim Brotherhood was RCC’s General Naguib who made it clear that he was opposed to any extremism and “fanatical Islamism” (Harris, 1964, p. 210).  The RCC proposed that Egypt should be united and that all citizens, Muslim and non-Muslim, should enjoy the full benefits of citizenship and stated that Islam, in its truest form, is tolerant.  Additionally, Colonel Nasser, in the interest of social unity and equality for all Egyptians, introduced legislation that transferred the administration of all religious laws to the civil courts.  This was done to abolish autonomous religious courts that held what the RCC felt to be antiquated practices and procedures, and conflicting jurisdictions (Harris, 1964).

Another point of contention between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Revolutionary Government was a law that was established in 1952 that was similar to the Associations Law in 1951.  In this case, the new law, called the Parties Law, regulated political parties.  Technically the Muslim Brotherhood was not a political party, however, the organization had grown beyond the legal limits and had taken up all the attributes of a political movement (Harris, 1964).  The Muslim Brotherhood had to clarify its status.  At the same time, the RCC began to shift its view on the Muslim Brotherhood and deemed that the organization might pose an internal threat to state security.  The support for the Brotherhood was evident when the RCC toured the countryside and noticed religious demonstrations and admiration for the former leader, Hassan al Banna (Harris, 1964).

In 1953, after an attempt by the Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations to apply to operate under the new Parties Law, the RCC dissolved all political parties, confiscated their funds, and declared a military dictatorship for three years.  When this occurred, the Muslim Brotherhood withdrew its application and declared that it would operate under the former Associations law.  The RCC reluctantly accepted (Harris, 1964).  The Brotherhood resumed its expansion, acquiring new members at every opportunity in order to bolster its strength against the military-led government.  In particular, it continued subversive activities against the military and police forces by attempting to infiltrate them with Brotherhood members (Harris, 1964).

The opposition between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Revolutionary Government reached a climax when, in January 1954, Brotherhood members openly condemned the government at a ceremony held at the University of Cairo (Harris, 1964).  Consequently, a violent fight broke out between students who were Brotherhood members and groups loyal to the current government.  Later that day the RCC took action against the Muslim Brotherhood and arrested hundreds of members, including the organization’s leader al Hudaybi.  The RCC asserted that the Muslim Brotherhood, despite claiming to be a non-political movement and operating under the Associations Law of 1951, had now become a political movement which was illegal.  The RCC also pressed charges against the Muslim Brotherhood.  Charges included the attempt to force the government to give the Muslim Brotherhood veto power, pressuring the government to establish a wholly Islamic state in Egypt, the refusal to support the Free Officers since the first day of the revolution, and treason against the government with subversive activities (Harris, 1964).

Tensions between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood eventually subsided.  The Brotherhood was given a probationary status and its leader, al Hudaybi, and other members were released from prison.  During the summer of 1954 negotiations between the British and Egyptian governments took place in which the British negotiated terms of withdrawal from the Suez Canal Zone (Harris, 1964).  The treaty was signed in October 1954, but, to the dismay of Egyptians and the Brotherhood, the treaty included a “return clause” that would allow the British to return in the case of any outside attack against any member state of the Arab League or against Turkey who was a member of NATO.  In the eyes of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptians, this also meant that Egypt and its government would still be aligned with the West and possibly be dragged into the Cold War against its will should Turkey be attacked by the Soviet Union.  The Muslim Brotherhood denounced the new Anglo-Egyptian treaty and took a risk by conducting a failed attempt to assassinate Colonel Nasser (Harris, 1964).  Sayd Qutb, a leadership figure and more extreme member of the Brotherhood, allegedly orchestrated the plot along with several other members (Isseroff, 2008).


After the assassination attempt and by the end of 1954, an estimated 20,000 members of the Brotherhood had been arrested for treason in nationwide security sweeps, including al Hudaybi and other leaders (Phillips, 2009).  Those directly involved in the assassination attempt were executed.  By 1955, the Muslim Brotherhood had been broken up to the point of ensuring there could be no attempt to resurrect it into the public sphere, and thus forced the organization to become an underground movement, again (Harris, 1964).  Some members of the organization fled the country and were provided asylum by other Arab countries, especially those Arab countries that opposed Nasser due to his pan-Arab views and activities in the Middle East (Aboul-Enein, 2010).

Egypt’s Embarrassment

In June of 1967 Egypt was defeated in the Six Day War with Israel.  This defeat humiliated Egypt and was viewed by many Arabs, including the Muslim Brotherhood, as punishment for Colonel Nasser and his government for corruption and “abandoning God” (Phillips, 2009, p. 9).  As a result of Israel’s defeat of Egypt, many Egyptians sought refuge and a sense of community by joining the Brotherhood (Phillips, 2009).

In 1970 Colonel Nasser died and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat.  Sadat was not popular as President but adopted an image of being a pious Muslim with the goal of winning favor from the Brotherhood which, despite being an underground movement, was still popular (Phillips, 2009).  His strategy was that by gaining favor with the Muslim Brotherhood, he could use them to counterbalance Egyptian leftists, communists, Nasserists, and the rest of his critics and opposition (Aboul-Enein, 2010).

Unfortunately for Sadat the Muslim Brotherhood turned against him too.  By brokering the peace talks between Egypt and Israel in 1977 to normalize relations with the West, Sadat only angered the Brotherhood.  The anti-Western Brotherhood saw Sadat as a puppet of the United States and condemned him for what was perceived as “bowing to Israel” (Phillips, 2009, p. 9).  The Muslim Brotherhood organized mass protests across Egypt resulting in a government crackdown.  The peace treaty with Israel also caused dissent in Egypt’s military.  During a parade in 1981 Egyptian soldiers belonging to another Islamic organization killed Sadat in an exchange of gunfire (Phillips, 2009).  Hosni Mubarak, who was present during Sadat’s assassination, became the next Egyptian president.      

 The Mubarak Era

Still a banned organization, the Muslim Brotherhood continued to provide social services to Egyptians garner support.  During Mubarak’s era the Brotherhood was able to expand its membership and access influential segments of Egyptian society, to include infiltrating several professional syndicates (Phillips, 2009).  Mubarak, wary of the organization, granted the group leniency but only to moderate members.  The Brotherhood reciprocated by supporting Mubarak’s candidacy for presidency in the 1987 Egyptian presidential election (Walsh, 2003).

Mubarak, however, remained suspicious.  As a secularist, Mubarak believed that religion and politics did not go together.  He viewed the Brotherhood and its goal of establishing Sharia law and an Islamic state as a precursor for religious authoritarianism (Phillips, 2009). Mubarak became particularly concerned when the Muslim Brotherhood expressed its desire to participate in the electoral process.  Mubarak and his government refused and from 1992 to 1995 Mubarak cracked down by conducting nationwide security sweeps rooting out the country’s militant Islamist cells and arresting thousands, including Brotherhood members. 

Concurrently, rifts within the organization began to occur.  Members of the “middle generation” – those who had been students in the 1970s and had become professionals in the 1980s, some attaining prominent positions within the organization – became increasingly resentful of the “older generation” of the Brotherhood (Phillips, 2009).  The “middle generation” resented what they perceived to be the organization’s antiquated policy of discipline, autocracy, and ideological rigidity.  They also resented the lack of democratic decision making.  The “middle generation” was more pragmatic and committed to making the Brotherhood more mainstream and influential.  This included working within Egypt’s political process to establish the Muslim Brotherhood as a legal political party and to clarify the organization’s position on Sharia law, women’s rights, and improving the Egyptian economy (Phillips, 2009).  Beginning with the 1951 election of moderate al Hudaybi as Supreme Guide of the Brotherhood and into the 1980s, the more moderate and pragmatic views of the “middle generation” heavily influenced the Brotherhood's shift from predominantly conservative to a more moderate organization.  This evolution continued through the 1990s and early 2000s, and was evident during the Arab Spring where the Brotherhood displayed moderation by honoring the Egypt-Israeli Peace Treaty and seeking a balanced relationship with the West.

Conditions worsened internally for the Muslim Brotherhood when its Guidance Office feuded with the political element of the organization – which consisted primarily of “middle generation” members – over tactics and political strategy (Phillips, 2009).  In 1996, the feud climaxed when the Guidance Council did not consult with the political element over the appointment of a new leader of the Brotherhood.  As a result of the Guidance Office’s unwavering position and strict obedience model, a splintering of the organization occurred and the Wasat (Center) Party was formed by some “middle generation” members (Phillips, 2009).

In 2004 Mohammed Mahdi Akef was elected as the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Akef, who had spent 20 years in prison for his role in plotting the assassination of Nasser in 1954, was considered radical and was unlike his predecessor, al Hudaybi.  His leadership and rhetoric caused further resentment between the Muslim Brotherhood old guard and the “middle generation.”  After the United States invaded Iraq, Akef led demonstrations against the war.  With respect to Palestine, he proclaimed Jihad against the Zionists (Phillips, 2009).  His views, however, did not represent the mainstream elements of the Muslim Brotherhood and, in 2005, a rally was held in Cairo where Muslim Brotherhood members renounced violence, extremism, and terrorism (Phillips, 2009). The contrast between the Brotherhood’s leader and mainstream elements within the organization demonstrates another example of the Brotherhood’s evolution from conservative to moderate.

Under Mubarak, and after the controversial parliamentary elections of 2000 where the government backed National Democratic Party (NDP) won the majority, the government further restricted opposition groups in Egypt from participating in the electoral process.  The government banned opposition campaign rallies under the guise that since Sadat was assassinated, political gatherings represented a “threat to national unity” (Phillips 2009, p. 18).  Mubarak’s stance was also reinforced with Article Five in the Egyptian Constitution that banned political parties based on religion, which was directed at the Muslim Brotherhood (Y. Aboul-Enein, personal communication, August 29, 2013).  Brotherhood members were arrested during the period prior to the elections, and on election day, roadblocks and riot police were deployed in areas deemed to be Brotherhood strongholds (Phillips, 2009). 

During parliamentary elections in 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood blamed the NDP for Egypt’s poor economic state as well as the “technological and educational backwardness of the nation, and the marginalization of Egypt’s pivotal role in the regional and international front” (Phillips, 2009, p. 18).  During the 2005 elections, many Egyptians wondered why they should even bother to vote if the NDP would win anyway.  The Muslim Brotherhood, however, capitalized on voter resentment toward the NDP and ran for parliamentary elections winning 88 seats.  Those Egyptians who voted for the Muslim Brotherhood did not do so because they were supportive of the organization, but because they resented the NDP, and to protest what they perceived as corruption and economic failures in Mubarak’s regime (Phillips, 2009).

Supported by a pervasive sense of injustice amongst Egyptians under the Mubarak regime, the Muslim Brotherhood was able to broaden its grass roots appeal by “highlighting its victimization at the hands of Egypt’s security services” (Phillips, 2009, p. 19).  Mubarak’s extensive use of emergency powers and anti-terror legislation had caused widespread discontent among Egyptians, especially with imposed limits on democratic participation of opposition groups.  Since Sadat’s assassination, over 30,000 Islamists had been arrested under those laws, including Brotherhood members, and the law’s use became a “major flashpoint for discontent” among Egyptians (Phillips, 2009, p. 19).

In protest against Mubarak and out of convenience, the Muslim Brotherhood joined forces with another Islamist organization, the Kifaya party.  In 2005 anti-government and anti-Mubarak protests were organized.  Seeking to appease Egyptians, Mubarak revised an article of Egypt’s Constitution that allowed for multiparty elections for president (Phillips, 2009).  This change was short-lived since the NDP-dominated parliament immediately began imposing conditions that ruled out any chance of opposition parties from participating in elections.  The Muslim Brotherhood protested the NDP actions, and after the amendment passed, both the Brotherhood and non-Brotherhood Egyptians took to the streets in protest which resulted in more arrests (Phillips, 2009). 

As time passed, Mubarak and his regime only exacerbated tensions.  For example, the Egyptian government’s sentencing of two outspoken judges who claimed irregularities and document forgery in parliamentary elections caused widespread protests.  Another example was Mubarak’s decision to postpone local elections in 2006 which was seen by the Muslim Brotherhood as a move to impede its ascendency and participation in Egypt’s government (Phillips, 2009).  Mubarak continued to make amendments to Egypt’s Constitution that further banned the formation of political parties and only allowed those that were already licensed to nominate presidential candidates.  It also limited the role of election monitors (Phillips, 2009). 

In the Israel-Lebanon war of 2006, Mubarak showed no leniency for dissenters who opposed his position on the war.  He restricted independent media, had bloggers arrested, and enacted laws to make it a punishable offense to “affront the President of the Republic—or insult parliament, public agencies, the armed forces, the judiciary, or the general public interest” (Phillips, 2009, p. 23).  Mubarak’s rule left the Muslim Brotherhood hopeless that it would ever be allowed to function as a legal political party.  Mubarak’s tactics also discredited the Muslim Brotherhood’s “middle generation” since it sought peaceful reform and moderation—only to have the Brotherhood be victimized by Mubarak and his government.  For Mubarak, any Muslim Brotherhood participation in the electoral process would post a grave national security threat to Egypt, and its acceptance as a legal political group was out of the question (Phillips, 2009).

Arab Spring

The events in Tunisia in December of 2010, where Tunisians revolted against their government, touched off a revolution that had a cascading affect across the Middle East, Egypt included.  The pent up frustration and resentment under the Mubarak regime from decades of brutal crackdowns, emergency laws, arrests, and no chance of legal political opposition suddenly exploded as thousands of Egyptians took the street demanding Mubarak’s resignation. 

As the revolution kicked off in Egypt in January 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood, directed by its cautious senior leadership, initially stayed on the sidelines.  Senior leaders were afraid of reprisals based on historical precedent from Mubarak and his regime.  It was not until the organization’s youth got involved and prompted their senior leadership to act that the Muslim Brotherhood positioned itself as one of the primary beneficiaries (Kaye, Martini, & York, 2012).  The younger members participated in conjunction with several other liberal groups, all organizing their efforts mostly online via social networking sites.  The protests against Mubarak quickly escalated as Egyptians gathered in Cairo by the thousands and on January 28th, known as the “Day of Rage”, a battle between the police and protestors erupted and the protestors set fire to the headquarters of Mubarak’s ruling NDP party (Sanger, 2012).  Additionally, the Brotherhood youth served as the organization’s “muscle” and participated in demonstrations and counterdemonstrations while calling for Mubarak to step down.  The organization’s youth also helped protect fellow protesters during the “Battle of the Camels” where Mubarak’s regime dispatched camel riding forces in an attempt to remove protesters from Tahrir Square (Kaye, Martini, & York, 2012).

Mubarak’s continued refusal to back down caused the Muslim Brotherhood to take action by joining forces with other groups.  Additionally, Brotherhood leadership issued an order for “all able-bodied men to join in the liberation of Tahrir Square” (Sanger, 2012, p. 298).  With the ongoing chaos from protests, the Egyptian military stepped in, Mubarak resigned, and the military established an interim government.      

Post-Arab Spring

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood created the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) which was to be its political arm in anticipation of upcoming parliamentary elections.  This was the Muslim Brotherhood’s chance of achieving what it strived for—a significant voice in deciding how Egypt would be run (Sanger, 2012). 

In the 2012 parliamentary elections, the Muslim Brotherhood’s FJP won 47 percent of seats in the lower house of parliament.  In another 2012 political achievement, the Brotherhood won the presidential election and Mohammed Morsi became Egypt’s new president. The Brotherhood’s political victories were due to how organized the Brotherhood was compared to its competition, its grass roots support, professionalism, and the youth of the organization who provided assistance to voters (Sanger, 2012).  Additionally, the Brotherhood harnessed technology to organize, interacted with other groups, exchanged ideas, and attracted and recruited new members.  The Brotherhood also provided outreach programs such as food distribution, campaign flyers, cleaning public places, voting assistance, and security (Kaye, Martini, & York, 2012). 

Once elected, Brotherhood parliament members set about to “cast themselves as the moderate voice of political Islam” (Sanger, 2012, p. 306).  A challenge to the Muslim Brotherhood, especially the newly elected officials, was its nemesis, the Egyptian military and particularly its leadership—the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).  The SCAF, which was secular had enjoyed several perks and autonomy under Mubarak and was wary of turning over control to a new Islamist-led parliament.     

Nevertheless, the Muslim Brotherhood was pleased that it could participate in free and fair elections.  It decided to move cautiously, work with the military, and slowly remove it from power (Sanger, 2012).  In regard to the Egypt-Israeli peace treaty, which the military oversaw, the Muslim Brotherhood took a pragmatic approach. Brotherhood senior leader Essam el Erian was quoted as saying that the treaty was “a commitment of the state, not a group or a party, and this we respect,” but he also stated that the Muslim Brotherhood was now given a voice and a platform to voice Arab anger over Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories (Sanger, 2012, p. 309). 

In other foreign policy areas, the Muslim Brotherhood sought to allay U.S. concerns regarding its intentions.  The United States, caught by surprise over the Arab Spring, was unsure how to deal with an Islamist organization that was traditionally opposed to the West and had several former members splinter off to join al Qaida.  The United States was not sure if the organization that took power after Mubarak would resemble the moderate voice its current leadership proclaimed, or if it would resemble the days of Hassan al Banna, or worse, follow the teachings of Sayd Qutb (Sanger, 2012).  Seeking to repair its image, the Muslim Brotherhood sent members of its political arm to Washington DC.  Their intent was to foster a relationship of understanding between the Brotherhood and the United States (Wan, 2012).  Additionally, the Muslim Brotherhood was looking for international legitimacy and, having the United States on its side, would make the Brotherhood’s access to the international scene easier (Sanger, 2012).

The Muslim Brotherhood sought to focus on making Islam compatible with democratic values and craft a new constitution that would reflect this accordingly.  Also of concern were Egypt’s domestic issues, including in particular its deteriorating economy.  By establishing a democratic system compatible with Islam, the Muslim Brotherhood hoped that foreign investors would want to invest in Egypt which, in turn, would help Egypt’s economy (Sanger, 2012).  The Muslim Brotherhood, with the urging of the United States, also sought a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to alleviate immediate economic concerns.  Despite opposition to accepting foreign money, the Muslim Brotherhood realized the dire circumstances of Egypt’s economy and being pragmatic, “recognized the need to manage the impending economic crisis and a willingness to negotiate if the conditions were acceptable” (Sanger, 2012, p. 327).

As the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi, and the FJP consolidated their newly found power after the 2012 parliamentary and presidential elections, rifts began to occur within the Muslim Brotherhood.  These were similar rifts, if not the same, that occurred in the 1980s when the “middle generation” began to resent the older generation.  Both the “middle generation” and the Brotherhood’s youth were opposed to the general inflexibility, strict adherence to hierarchy, and lack of opportunity for youth to hold leadership positions and be heard.  They also resented the organization’s “listen and obey” model that had dominated the group since the 1930s (Kaye, Martini, & York, 2012, p. 27). 

Both the “middle generation” and youth were considered more “progressive” than the older and more senior members.  They had a different vision on how to conceptualize the role of religion in public life and how to prioritize challenges that faced Egypt after the revolution (Kaye, Martini, & York, 2012).  As “progressives,” they were more “closely aligned with Western attitudes on religious freedom, democracy, and women’s empowerment” (Kaye, Martini, & York, 2012, p. 21)  As a result of the rifts within the organization, some youth members joined other Islamist organizations that were rivals to the Muslim Brotherhood (such as the Wasat Party), and some formed their own break-away parities, such as the Egyptian Current Party, to pursue their own reformist ideas (Kaye, Martini, & York, 2012).

To appease the “middle generation” and youth, the Brotherhood leadership took steps to institute a transition process to allow younger members into the leadership ranks.  These steps included lowering the age requirement for members to obtain leadership positions and increasing dialogue between youth and senior members.  The organization’s leadership also increased its use of social media to open dialogue, as well as respond to criticism from defectors (Kaye, Martini, & York, 2012).  Furthermore, the leadership “co-opted its youth wing to use the middle generation as an intermediary” between the group’s youth and senior leadership (Kaye, Martini, & York, 2012, p.48).  Although these efforts were successful, generational challenges continue to occur within the organization and some youth members refuse to be placated as demonstrated by continued internal dissent (Kaye, Martini, & York, 2012). 

The Muslim Brotherhood, FJP, and newly elected Mohammed Morsi had to manage these issues and provide solutions.  Egyptians, riding the tides of nationalism, had high expectations after Mubarak was ousted from his three decades of rule.  They hoped for an Egypt that was free, democratic, and economically sound.  The Muslim Brotherhood had to deliver.

Morsi and the Brotherhood

As President, Morsi took steps that would only worsen conditions in Egypt and ultimately lead to his removal. He also put the Muslim Brotherhood in a position where after years of popularity and sympathy among Egyptians, it lost favor.  That is not to say, however, that all of his and the Brotherhood’s actions were unpopular among Egyptians.

Since the Brotherhood backed FJP had the majority in Parliament, along with its member Morsi as president, they quickly set about to consolidate power.  In the minds of the Muslim Brotherhood it had won elections by majority vote and believed in majoritarianism over pluralism.  In other words, they believed that “since they won the elections, albeit narrowly, they should get to decide policy issues alone, regardless of other’s preferences” (Wittes, 2013, para. 27).  Additionally, after militants attacked the Egyptian military in August of 2012, Morsi issued a declaration that allowed him and the Muslim Brotherhood to consolidate power in all branches of government and to control foreign policy and national security matters (Sharp, 2013).  He also dismissed Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and other officers and shifted the power previously enjoyed by the military to civilian institutions (Maree, 2012).   Additionally, the Brotherhood attempted to control the education system, labor unions, and religious establishments.  This was seen by opponents and Egyptians in general as a power grab, and he and the Brotherhood faced a public backlash (Sharp, 2013). 

In other areas, the Muslim Brotherhood began to occupy critical positions in Egypt’s military.  Under Mubarak, Brotherhood members were not allowed to join the military and they were prohibited from attending Egypt’s military academy.  That changed under Morsi leadership. (Sanger, 2012).  The intent for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood was to Islamize the military in order to solidify Islamic rule (Eleiba, 2013).  Toward the same end, Morsi also restructured the Interior Ministry and worked to Islamize the police forces (Gertz, 2013).

The attempt to Islamize institutions in Egypt, especially the police and military forces, was in line with the organization’s next objective—to establish a government based on Islamic principles.  This included the abolishment of political parties due to the unitary principles of Islam.  In the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, as stated previously, Islam is the only unifying force and therefore all other political parties need not exist (Harris, 1964).  Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood sought to do this peacefully and through the consensus of the Egyptian people (Johnson, 2012).  However, Morsi and the Brotherhood believed they had the consensus of the Egyptian people because of their majority in the elections, and thus started a forceful takeover of other government institutions.

While consolidating power, Morsi and the Brotherhood sought to improve the image of the organization and seek international legitimacy.  Previously an organization that was painted by Mubarak as Islamists who were up to no good, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood extended an olive branch to the West.  Specifically, the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to avoid being branded as a terrorist organization by the United States (Pargeter, 2011).  The Brotherhood took steps to welcome the West to foster a relationship based on mutual respect and understanding, while at the same time, expressing that it wanted to be taken seriously as a legitimate political force in the region (Pargeter, 2011).   Especially of interest to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood was having a balanced foreign policy with the West, specifically the United States, and the Brotherhood wanted to make Egypt a key player in regional diplomacy (Maree, 2012).  Finally, Morsi and the Brotherhood wanted to dispel misunderstandings, spell out areas of concern between the United States and the Brotherhood, define its policy objectives, and secure both U.S. foreign aid and U.S. cooperation to gain access to foreign lending intuitions (Kaye, Martini, & York, 2012).

Even though Morsi and the Brotherhood wanted to cultivate a relationship with the West, they were still ideologically opposed to the Western world, especially the United States and Israel.  The Muslim Brotherhood had a long history of resentment towards the West starting with the days of Hassan al Banna and British imperialism.  The Egyptian military, outfitted with U.S. military equipment and accepting monetary aid from the United States, was also seen as symbol of imperialism in Egypt.  This was compounded by the military’s history from Nasser to Mubarak of brutal crackdowns against the Muslim Brotherhood, and by the military’s status as the keeper of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty since U.S. monetary aid was conditioned upon it. 

Additionally, the senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood or “old guard” were more conservative and traditionally anti-Western and anti-Israel (Levinson, 2011).  Anti-Israel sentiment was demonstrated in Egypt with the siege of the Israeli embassy in September 2011 when Egyptian militants crossed the border into Israel and killed Israeli soldiers.  Israel reacted and accidently killed Egyptian soldiers, causing an uproar in Egypt (Maree, 2012).  Furthermore, Muslim Brotherhood leader, Essam el Erain, is quoted as saying “Israel must know they are not welcome in this region” (Atran, 2011, p. 2).  Last but not least, there was a view among the Muslim Brotherhood that Egypt’s problems were not due to Mubarak, but due to secularism and playing by Western rules (Sanger, 2012).

To complement the anti-West and anti-Israel views, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to pursue interests that were more in line with their world view, and what they thought Egyptian and Arab interests should be.  As Egyptians, they saw themselves as having Arab, Sunni, and larger Muslim responsibilities (Bryen, 2012).  The Brotherhood also saw itself as the defender of traditional values and national pride (Kenney, 2013).  The organization therefore did not want to be seen as courting too much U.S. support or to be seen as an instrument of U.S. influence since it would then be deemed illegitimate by Islamist opponents and lose favor (Kaye, Martini, & York, 2012).  Therefore, the Brotherhood had to maintain balance between engagement with the West, and upholding its ideology of being anti-West and supporting Arab, Sunni, and Muslim responsibilities. To maintain their legitimacy among Islamists, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood sought to establish foreign policy goals that were independent of U.S. influence (Maree, 2012).  They also supported Hamas (an off shoot of the Brotherhood) to maintain an image of being anti-Israel and to put pressure on Israel (Nada, 2012). 

On the more progressive and pragmatic side, and because of the influence of the “middle generation” and youth in the organization, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood focused on other areas as well.  This included attempting to solve domestic issues and the economy, and upholding the unpopular Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. 

To appear progressive and modern, the Muslim Brotherhood took steps to avoid polarizing issues such as anti-vice laws, and was careful about changing the wording of the Egyptian Constitution on the role of Islam in the legal system (Kenney, 2013).  It began to adapt to mainstream political and economic ideas because at the time, it was seen as the best option for stabilizing and securing Egypt’s future (Kenney, 2013).  It also rejected violence and put a focus on political participation and grass roots activities since the Muslim Brotherhood was traditionally committed to social engagement (Vidino, 2013). 

On domestic issues, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to implement social services and address poverty—which the Muslim Brotherhood has done historically and was integral to their ideology (Nada, 2012).  It sought to improve security since crime had increased and the Sinai Peninsula became a breeding ground for arms smuggling, human trafficking, and violent Islamic extremism after Mubarak’s overthrow (Juul, Katulis, Sofer, 2013).  Finally, to address economic concerns, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood sought to secure an IMF loan to help pay off Egypt’s deficit (Sharp, 2013).  This was done, in part, by seeking international legitimacy so they could attract foreign lending institutions as stated previously.  Morsi also proposed new taxes such as duties on cigarettes and alcohol, property tax, a stock market tax, and raised corporate taxes; some of these proposals were immensely unpopular and later retracted (Sharp, 2013).

Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood chose to honor the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty, viewing it as instrumental to the Muslim Brotherhood international legitimacy (Hanna, 2013).  Upholding the treaty also meant economic incentives since Egypt received over one billion U.S. dollars in military and economic aid from the United States as part of the arrangement (Hanna, 2013).  The treaty could also be used as leverage and help the organization’s goal of being a key player in the region and a mediator over Israeli-Palestinian issues and Hamas (Pargeter, 2011).  Therefore, in the eyes of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, abandoning the treaty would be seen as too risky since it would affect them both diplomatically and financially.

The Second Revolution and the Future

During Morsi’s tenure as president he became increasingly unpopular.  Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood consolidated power across Egypt’s government and used their new found powers for partisan gain (Wickham, 2013).  Morsi gave Islamists control over government ministries, ousted provincial governors and replaced them with Brotherhood members, and placed his actions above judicial review—though he later retracted the judicial decree.  Egyptians interpreted these actions as evidence that the Brotherhood was intent on monopolizing power (Wickham, 2013).  Morsi was met with resistance in the form of strong pushback among Mubarak loyalists in the government and other political fronts (Spark, 2013).  In the eyes of Egyptians, Morsi was failing as President since he “didn’t do enough to build consensus among Egypt’s very fractious forces and he had a style of government that wasn’t inclusive” (Spark, 2013, para. 30). 

To make matters worse, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood failed to revive Egypt’s economy, which only worsened after Mubarak was deposed.  Egypt’s Arab Spring decreased tourism, a crucial source of revenue for Egypt (Spark, 2013).  The bad economy left many Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi supporters – the poor and middle class –disaffected (Spark, 2013).  To compound these problems, Egypt was riddled with power outages, fuel shortages, rising inflation, and unemployment, which infuriated Egyptians who blamed the poor management of Morsi’s government.  Furthermore, foreign investments were low, the IMF loan had yet to materialize, and Egypt survived with insufficient bailouts from Qatar and Libya (Editorial Board, 2013).

In June 2013 tensions rose and anti-Morsi protests filled the streets of Cairo starting Egypt’s second revolution.  Many Egyptians believed Morsi had failed as President, and that he had failed to deliver on promises. Protestors called for his resignation.  At the same time, pro-Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood supporters staged counter-protests. As with Mubarak, Morsi refused to step down causing the military to intervene once again and side with the anti-Morsi protestors. The military issued an ultimatum to Morsi demanding that he step down, but Morsi again refused.  On 3 July 2013 Morsi was removed by the military and placed under house arrest in what some have called a military coup.  With the military takeover, the military suspended Egypt’s Constitution and established an interim government.

Protests erupted after Morsi’s removal as President and Egypt is split into two camps: those people who support Morsi and those who do not.  For Morsi supporters, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi was democratically elected and is therefore the legitimate president of Egypt.  They also claim that Morsi had not been given a fair chance, that expectations were too high, and that people had been impatient (Sly, 2013). For anti-Morsi and anti-Brotherhood members, they had had enough of failed promises, majority rule, continued economic problems, fuel shortages, and power outages (Follath, 2013).  In the aftermath of Morsi’s ouster, violence has erupted in Egypt and Egypt’s military has taken action to quell the protests of pro-Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood members (Follath, 2013).

Of concern to the international community is that this is Egypt’s second military takeover of the government in recent years.  Egyptians and the international community worry these takeovers could set a bad precedent where the military can take over the government as it pleases based on what it perceives to be public support or its own resentment of whomever is in office (Hauslohner, 2013).  Even more alarming are the long term consequences of Egypt’s second revolution.  The Muslim Brotherhood, in the eyes of ultra-conservative and Islamic extremists, tried democracy only to be ousted by Egypt’s military a year later.  In other words, democracy failed the Brotherhood according to this view.  For moderate Islamists, including moderates within the Muslim Brotherhood, the overthrow of Morsi will potentially erode the group’s credibility—especially any attempt to revitalize a democratic movement (Ayoob, 2013).  Because of their perception that democracy failed in Egypt, extremists contend that democracy and Islam are incompatible and the only resort is violence.  Additionally, Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood in the future will potentially see themselves as not being allowed to participate or exercise their power, which is “likely to push a substantial portion of mainstream Islamists into the arms of extremists who reject democracy and ideological compromise” (Ayoob, 2013, para. 13).  For Islamic extremists who had been watching events unfold on the sideline, the “military coup validates the use of violence” (Sly, 2013, para. 5). 

Thus, the Muslim Brotherhood’s future is uncertain and may signal a repeat of history where it will become an underground and subversive organization.  It is unknown whether Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood will be able to return to power, or if they will be driven underground as they had been under Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak.  It seems every time the Brotherhood asserts itself and wants to become a legitimate political organization, it is driven out by the Egyptian military and the secularist opposition.  They are forced to become an underground and subversive organization, sometimes embracing violence.  If history is any indication of the future, it is possible that the Brotherhood may experience another period of violence and subversive activities directed against Egypt's secular and military establishment. 


This section is devoted to the methodology used to determine the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood and the United States, and to examine the sometimes competing interests of the two groups.  It will show a variety of techniques that include convergent and divergent thinking, and qualitative and quantitative methods.

The research focused on the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and used ideological and historical factors to identify interests that have remained constant, interests that have evolved over time, and interests that developed during the Arab Spring. These interests are used to identify conditions that would adversely impact U.S. interests.  To further narrow the scope, a broad assumption was made: the Muslim Brotherhood acts as a unitary actor.

Convergent Thinking: Modified Cross-Impact Matrix

To determine what the impacts on U.S. interests might be, one first needs to understand what those interests were to begin with – for both the Muslim Brotherhood and the United States – and have a framework in which to evaluate them.  Using Richards Heuer and Randolph Pherson’s book Structured Analytical Techniques for Intelligence Analysis, the convergent thinking model of a “cross-impact matrix” was chosen.  The matrix was ideal since it helped with the complex problem of determining and organizing issues, and “systematically examine how each factor in a particular context influences all other factors to which it appears to be related” (Heur & Pherson, 2011, p. 104).  The matrix was also ideal because the situation in Egypt is tenuous and the matrix allows for an understanding of “all factors that might influence the outcome” (Heur & Pherson, 2011, p. 104).  A notional example of how the “cross-impact matrix” was used in the context of this paper is as follows:

With Muslim Brotherhood interests in the left column and U.S. interests in the top row, each Muslim Brotherhood interest was evaluated against a U.S. interest in each corresponding cell.  Then a qualitative assessment was made to determine whether Muslim Brotherhood interests were either aligned with those of the United States, neutral/no impact, or in conflict.  The color codes are as follows:

1)  Green: Muslim Brotherhood and U.S. interests are aligned and the issue is a potential opportunity for the United States.

2)  Yellow: Muslim Brotherhood and U.S. interests are neutral and/or have no impact, and the potential for opportunity for the United States may be limited.

3)  Red: Muslim Brotherhood and U.S. interests are contrary.  The identified issue is a point of friction or flashpoint between the two groups’ goals and objectives.

The matrix, however, was insufficient by itself.  Because the Muslim Brotherhood (and the United States) is assumed to be a unitary actor under this research, all major interests that represented the conservatives and moderates in the group had to be represented.  Although each interest is important, some are more important than others because the “old guard” and conservatives are currently in control and their interests take precedence.  Therefore the “cross-impact matrix” was modified to take on a more quantitative approach to address competing internal Brotherhood interests.  This was done by the following method:

1)  Research was performed to acquire relevant reading materials about the Muslim Brotherhood and the United States, including materials on U.S. foreign policy, U.S. interests, Egyptian and Muslim Brotherhood history, interests, ideology, and so forth.  These resources were found using an online directed search via the World Wide Web and various Johns Hopkins Sheridan Library services.  Examples of search terms are as follows:

                        a)  Muslim Brotherhood + Egypt + history

                        b)  Muslim Brotherhood + Egypt + interests

                        c)  Muslim Brotherhood + Egypt + U.S. + interests

                        d) Muslim Brotherhood + Egypt + ideology

An effort was made to avoid being too specific in search terms such as searching for “Muslim Brotherhood + Egypt + interest + international legitimacy”.  This was done to avoid being led to an answer, and to ensure relevant materials and opinions were reviewed to reduce bias.  Using general search terms, however, runs the risk of not being able retrieve hard to find information that would potentially support the analysis in this paper.  To mitigate this issue, Muslim Brotherhood and U.S. interests were vetted through a subject matter expert to ensure key interests were identified.   Refer to Appendix A for a list of sources used in this paper for analysis. 

2)  After sources were identified and collected, they had to be evaluated in terms of confidence level—high, medium, or low.  Then confidence levels were given a numerical value: High was given a (3), Moderate given a (2), and Low given a (1).  Confidence levels were then assigned to each source based on a qualitative assessment derived upon the authority of the source.  While not a perfect approach, a method was needed to rate sources to support the analysis in this research.  For instance, blogs and personal opinions were given a low confidence score because they represent a personal view and sometimes tend to be uncorroborated. News media were given a medium confidence score because they often vary depending if they are conservative or liberal, because of their “cherry picking” of facts, and their use of sometimes uncharacterized sources.  Academics and think tanks were given a high confidence score due to the view that their work is traditionally well researched and subject to review by their peers.  The source rating system is as follows:

The following chart provides a source confidence breakdown.  To note, most sources are ranked medium to high.  This allows for a medium-high confidence level in stating that Muslim Brotherhood and U.S. interests presented in this research can reasonably be believed to be accurate based upon the totality of the information supporting them. 

3)  Two approaches were used to reduce bias.  First, efforts were made to ensure source selection was diverse, and included sources ranging from domestic to international.  Next, sources were collected from different time periods.  However, given the recent events in Egypt and how the Muslim Brotherhood took power in 2011, most of the materials acquired span the 2011-2013 range.  Using a majority of materials from this time period might arguably introduce bias, but it was necessary because the Brotherhood’s interests have evolved in the wake of the Arab Spring.  Additionally, material that captures the evolution of Muslim Brotherhood interests during the Arab Spring have only recently become available in the 2011-2013 time period.  The two charts below illustrate the source diversity and time periods used in this research:

Chart 1:

Chart 2:

To see what number each source was assigned, refer to Appendix A.  To see how each source was rated and categorized, its publishing date, and how the tables above were computed, refer to Appendix B.  In Appendix A, readers may notice that the numbering system, where each source was assigned a number, is not sequential.  The system is not sequential for two reasons.  First, some sources such as the book Structured Analytical Techniques for Intelligence Analysis, were not appropriate to collect data on the Muslim Brotherhood and were used elsewhere in this paper.  Therefore it was not put into the “cross-impact matrix” for analysis.  Second is that some sources were deemed irrelevant and to re-number the sources would cause a delay in analysis and production of this paper.

4)  It should be noted that not every publicly available source was utilized.  To do so would be unreasonable, exhaustive, and nearly impossible.  However, based on final source selection, the general themes of both the Muslim Brotherhood and U.S. interests were identified.  Additionally, the interests identified were vetted through a subject matter expert to reduce bias and to ensure findings were consistent with expert opinion.

5)  Next, an extensive and systematic review of each source was conducted.  This also involved a review of the Muslim Brotherhood’s history.  When each source was reviewed, themes were identified and common themes were grouped together to form interests.  For example, one theme stated that the Muslim Brotherhood was seeking to consolidate power in all branches of government.  This theme was prevalent and corroborated in several sources in which they stated the same idea in similar terms.  Therefore this theme was made into the Muslim Brotherhood interest of “consolidating power.” 

6)  Concurrently, as each interest was identified, information supporting each interest was cataloged.  This would ultimately affect how each interest was ranked in order of importance, and rated in terms of an analytic confidence level.  For example, one source stated the Muslim Brotherhood was seeking to inundate the Egyptian military with Brotherhood members.  This supports the Brotherhood interest of  “consolidating power”.  Therefore, this information was “tagged” as a data point to support this interest.  An example of the data point is as follows:

7)  After collecting all the data points, they were organized alongside each Muslim Brotherhood interest as follows:

8)  Next, confidence levels were totaled to determine an interest’s aggregate score.  The aggregate score represents the quality and quantity of individual sources supporting each interest.  It also represents the preponderance of the interest based on the collection of sources, and infers the relative importance of interests to the Muslim Brotherhood or the United States.  Therefore, the higher the aggregate score, the more important the interest.  Findings are, however, also informed with a qualitative assessment by expert opinion.  A notional example is as follows:

-The total of Muslim Brotherhood Interest 1 confidence level is: 3+2+2 = 7

-The total of Muslim Brotherhood Interest 2 confidence level is: 3+3+3+2 = 11

In the example above, Muslim Brotherhood interest (2) ranks higher than interest (1) and is more important because its aggregate score is higher than interest (1).  Refer to Appendix C and D to see each data point and to which interest it is mapped, and to see each interest’s aggregate score.  To note, some data points were applicable to more than one interest and were applied when appropriate.  Also, some sources may contain data points supporting more than one interest.  Additionally, one source may contain several data points to support one interest.  Therefore, among the different interests identified, readers may notice the same sources and data points supporting more than one interest—or several data points from the same source supporting the same interest.  To see the results of the data points and interests, refer to Section Six.

9)  In addition to an aggregate score, each interest is accompanied by an analytic confidence level – high, medium, or low.  The analytic confidence level is independent of an interest’s aggregate score.  Analytic confidence levels strictly represent the likelihood the Muslim Brotherhood or the United States holds an interest.  The likelihood is based upon the totality of information supporting each interest, and expert opinion.  A confidence level for each interest was determined by using a rounded average of the quality score of the sources underpinning the confidence judgment of each interest.  For example, in the notional example above, Muslim Brotherhood interest (2) has an average confidence level of 2.75.  Rounding the average up to (3), it is deemed a high confidence interest as opposed to interest (1) with an average of 2.3—or rounded down to medium confidence.   Therefore interest (2) has a “high” confidence level and is likely a Muslim Brotherhood interest.  To note, any interest that had an average of 2.5 – exactly between a medium (2) and high (3)  – was rounded up to a high confidence level.  Refer to Appendix C and D to view confidence levels and average scores. 

10)  To determine U.S. interests, the same approach was used but with a slight nuance.  U.S. interests were ranked by “red lines” fist.  For the purposes of this paper, a “red line” is a U.S. interest that would be severely impacted, that the United States would not tolerate an action on, or the United States would potentially intervene in a given situation.  The difference in methodology between ranking U.S. interests and Muslim Brotherhood interests is due to the view that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East changes, and policies vary by administration (Muasher, 2012).  Therefore, U.S. interests that have remained constant throughout various U.S. administrations and interests where the United States would intervene – such as “red lines” – were ranked first.  Refer to Appendix D to see each data point and to which U.S. interest they are mapped.  Additionally, U.S. interests are described in Section Six.

11)  After determining the ranking of each interest from the totality of their data points, Muslim Brotherhood and U.S. interests were put into the “cross-impact matrix” and evaluated against each other to see where they aligned, where there was neutrality/no impact, and where the conflict points were.  The following matrix is a notional example:

12)  Based on the example matrix above, we can determine which Muslim Brotherhood interest conflicts with U.S. interests as annotated by the red boxes.  We can therefore extrapolate each interest and conduct further analysis.

Divergent Thinking: DIME-PSI

The next part of the analysis involved the merger of two divergent thinking models referred to as DIME and PMESII which are used by the Department of Defense.  DIME stands for: Diplomatic, Infrastructure, Military, and Economy.  PMESII stands for: Political, Military, Economy, Social, Infrastructure, and Information Systems.  For the purposes of this paper, Information Systems in the PMESII model was changed to Ideology.  The DIME model is used to assess instruments of power a nation can use to affect another state (DIME/PMESII, 2013).  PMESII is used to determine the strengths and weakness of an adversary (U.S. Joint Forces Command, 2008).  In the context of this research, DIME and PMESII are being used differently than their original purpose because only the lenses in the models (such as Diplomatic, Military, etc) are needed.  These lenses will be used to determine the various environmental factors or conditions that can influence a Muslim Brotherhood interest to adversely affect a U.S. interest.  This method of analysis will allow the U.S. government to better monitor conditions in Egypt that would cause the Muslim Brotherhood to act contrary to U.S. interests. 

The DIME and PMESII models were picked because they provide an adequate lens to view environmental factors and conditions that would influence a Muslim Brotherhood interest.  They were also picked because they allowed for divergent thinking in regards to different conditions in Egypt influencing the United States and Muslim Brotherhood interests and to brainstorm ideas to consider in the research.  The merger of the two models involved the elimination of redundant terms and resulted in a simplified model: DIME-PSI.

Using the DIME-PSI model, the Muslim Brotherhood interests that impacted U.S. interests were extrapolated and examined under the different lenses previously discussed.  The following graphic is a notional example:

Under the DIME-PSI model, conditions were identified that the United States can monitor to evaluate its interests in Egypt based on an understanding of the ideological origins and history of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Finally, after determining areas of conflict and conditions to monitor, areas of opportunity where United States and Muslim Brotherhood interests aligned  or where there was no impact/neutrality were identified.

Defining and Evaluating Interests

Muslim Brotherhood Interests

After a systematic study of materials collected for this paper, various themes were identified and grouped into ten distinct but related interests.  While all interests are important for the Muslim Brotherhood, some are more important than others.  As described in the methodology section, the Brotherhood’s interests reflected below are ranked in order of importance based on their aggregate score, and each interest is accompanied by an analytic confidence level.

            1)  Consolidate power

                        Analytic confidence level: High (Average 2.6)

                        Aggregate Score: 81

                        Definition:  Because it won the elections, the Muslim Brotherhood feels it has the will of the people and a mandate to rule.  It believes it gets to rule alone and unilaterally.  It seeks to consolidate power in all branches of government and enforce a strict hierarchy within the organization and government.  The Brotherhood is saturating Egypt’s military and other government institutions with its members.  Following the unitary principle of Islam as espoused by al Banna, the Brotherhood seeks to establish a wholly Islamic state in their image.  They want a government administered by Muslims, for Muslims.  Their desire to create a state in their image has alienated other Muslims who do not agree with their interpretation of Islam (Y. Aboul-Enein, personal communication, August 26, 2013).

            2)  Establish a government based on Islamic principles

                        Analytic confidence level:  High (Average 2.6)

                        Aggregate Score:  59

                        Definition:  The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to establish Egypt as an Islamic state in its image and its interpretation of what Islamic principles are.  It wants to use Islam as a reference point for all law making and wants to uphold the principles of Islam since it believes Islam governs all aspects of life.

            3)  Legitimacy

                        Analytic confidence level:  High (Average 3)         

                        Aggregate Score:  48

                        Definition:  The Muslim Brotherhood seeks both domestic and international legitimacy and wants to be taken seriously as a legitimate political force in Egypt and the region.  It wants to improve its image, remove any negative stigma associated with the organization, and prevent being branded as a terrorist organization.  The Brotherhood wants to voice moderate Islam as part of an effort to be deemed a legitimate organization and also wants to maintain a working relationship with the United States and the Western world.

            4)  Anti-West and anti-Israel

                        Analytic confidence level:  High (Average 2.6)

                        Aggregate Score:  45

                        Definition:  The Muslim Brotherhood traditionally has an anti-imperialism sentiment resulting from its history and ideology.  It is against foreign occupation and influence in Egypt and the region.  It believes Egypt’s problems are due to influence from the United States and the West in general.  The Brotherhood is also confrontational towards Israel, and believes Israel has no right to exist.

            5)  Pursuit of Egyptian and Arab causes

                        Analytic confidence level: High (Average 2.7)       

                        Aggregate Score:  38

                        Definition:  The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to pursue what it perceives as the interests of Egypt and the Arab world.  The Brotherhood wants to establish a foreign policy that is independent of a U.S. and Western agenda.  It also does not want to be viewed as supporting the United States or viewed as a U.S. puppet since it would lose credibility in the eyes of other Islamists.  They may therefore become complicit in anti-U.S. actions or not be inclined to make U.S. interests a priority.  The Brotherhood, however, will work with the United States to establish a more balanced relationship in order to pursue its interests of becoming an internationally recognized political organization.  The Brotherhood supports what they deem are regional Arab goals, specifically over the Palestinian issue.  It supports Hamas as a means to put pressure on Israel.  It also supports fellow Sunnis in the region, and the rebels in Syria.

            6)  Garner support

                        Analytic confidence level:  High (Average 3)         

                        Aggregate Score:  33

                        Definition:  The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to continue its grass roots campaign to garner support and recruit new members.  It wants to expand its influence and size, and through recruitment, build a new generation of believers to advance Brotherhood goals.

            7)  Moderation

                        Analytic confidence level:  High (Average 2.9)

                        Aggregate Score:  29

                        Definition:  Despite its historical precedent, the Muslim Brotherhood rejects violence and wants to focus on political participation and social engagement.  It wants to peacefully mold public opinion gradually and through incremental change, to enlist the Muslim masses of Egypt for support, and to reform Egypt through mass consensus.

            8)  Improve Egyptian quality of life

                        Analytic confidence level:  High (Average 2.8)

                        Aggregate Score:  28

                        Definition:  The Muslim Brotherhood wants to focus on domestic issues by improving security, and reducing crime and violence.  They also want to improve public services such as sanitation, infrastructure, and traffic congestion.  The Brotherhood wants to curtail fuel and food shortages, and institute government, social, and economic reform, including raising the standard of living for Egyptians..          

            9)  Maintain Egypt-Israeli Peace Treaty

                        Analytic confidence level:  High (Average 2.8)

                        Aggregate Score:  26

                        Definition:  The Muslim Brotherhood views maintaining the Egypt-Israeli peace treaty as in the national interests of Egypt and will help promote Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood’s legitimacy.  Abandoning it would be too risky for Egypt both financially and diplomatically.  The Brotherhood views the treaty as imparting a leadership role for Egypt in the region, and allowing Egypt to serve as a mediator over the Palestinian issue.  It also believes it can be used as leverage.  Additionally, the Brotherhood views the treaty as vital to information sharing and security cooperation.

            10)  Improve Egypt’s economy

                        Analytic confidence level:  High (Average 2.8)

                        Aggregate Score:  26

                        Definition:  The Muslim Brotherhood wants to improve Egypt’s economy.  It wants to secure an IMF loan and find new sources of tax revenue to pay off Egypt’s (foreign currency) deficit.  By building a legitimate government system, and improving the Muslim Brotherhood’s image, it hopes to attract foreign investors to bring hard currency into Egypt to improve economic conditions.

U.S. Interests

            1)  Egyptian and regional security / counterterrorism – Red Line

                        Analytic confidence level: High (Average 2.7)

                        Aggregate Score: 39

                        Definition:  The United States wants security in the region and for the Sinai Peninsula to be secured.  The United States has a zero tolerance policy for the presence of terrorists, or acts of terrorism.  It also has a zero tolerance policy for organizations providing support to terrorist organizations.  The United States seeks Egypt’s cooperation on the embargo against Iran and curbing Iran’s nuclear ambition.  The United States views Egypt as a strategic ally in the region and an anchor for regional security, counterterrorism efforts, and a partner in advancing other U.S. national security interests. 

            2)  Egypt and Israeli Peace Treaty – Red Line

                        Analytic confidence level: High (Average 2.5)

                        Aggregate Score: 30

                        Definition:  The United States wants Egypt to honor the 1979 Egypt–Israeli Peace Treaty and encourages Egypt to do so with economic incentives.  The treaty also guarantees Israel’s security, promotes border security between Egypt and Israel, and provides a model for the rest of the Middle East to follow.

            3)  Freedom of navigation of the Suez Canal – Red Line

                        Analytic confidence level: High (Average 2.7)

                        Aggregate Score: 22

                        Definition:  The United States wants freedom of navigation of the Suez Canal and unfettered passage of international shipping.  It also wants access to the Suez Canal for military and naval purposes, and to protect energy resources in the region.  The United States views the Suez Canal and Egypt as the cornerstone to projecting military power and influence in the region.

            4)  Democracy

                        Analytic confidence level: High (Average 2.6)

                        Aggregate Score: 39[1]

                        Definition:  The United States wants to promote democracy in Egypt.  They want to see that Egypt’s government protects civil liberties and human rights.  It wants transparency and accountability in Egypt’s government, and for Egypt to develop democratic institutions.  The United States wants a robust and independent civil society in Egypt, free and fair elections, rejection of violence, respect for the outcome of elections, and equality under the law.  Additionally, the United States wants to advance the democratic process throughout the region. 

            5)  Maintain U.S.-Egyptian military relations.

                        Analytic confidence level: High (Average 2.8)

                        Aggregate Score: 26

                        Definition:  The United States sees the partnership with the Egyptian military as vital to maintain the Egypt-Israeli peace treaty and to maintain security in the region.  The partnership allows the United States to conduct valuable training in the region, acquire regional familiarity, and allow Egypt to be a base of operations if needed.  The United States maintains a working relationship through financial incentives in supporting the peace treaty, along with co-production of military equipment and military equipment sales.

            6)  Improving Egypt’s economy.

                        Analytic confidence level: High (Average 2.5)

                        Aggregate Score: 15

                        Definition:  The United States seeks to improve Egypt’s economic conditions since a good economy promotes regional stability and politically stability within Egypt.  A stable economy would remove conditions for extremism such as social unrest and disenfranchisement, and allow for stable reform (Forst, 2012).  To improve Egypt’s economy, the United States provides economic aid packages in addition to military aid, and has sought to support Egypt in obtaining an IMF loan.

            7)  Engagement

                        Analytic confidence level: High (Average 3)

                        Aggregate Score: 15

                        Definition:  The United States seeks to engage with all political parties that are peaceful and non-violent, including reaching out to Islamists.  It views engagement with Egypt and its government necessary to counteract extremism, and to have Egypt be a regional partner to help support and advance U.S. interests. 

The Matrix

Comparing the identified Muslim Brotherhood and U.S. interests brings to light areas of alignment, neutral/no impact, and conflict.  The following table is the “cross-impact matrix” that describes both U.S. and Muslim Brotherhood interests ranked in order of importance.  U.S. interests are along the top row, and Brotherhood interests are along the left column.

Evaluating Interests

At a glance, several intriguing ideas are immediately evident.  First is that, surprisingly, only four of the identified Muslim Brotherhood interests conflict with U.S. interests.  Second is that several areas of alignment and neutrality/no impact exist between the United States and the Muslim Brotherhood, which suggests there are several areas of opportunity and positions the United States can leverage.  Third, in regards to Brotherhood interests, they almost seem dichotomous—ranging from conservative at the top to moderate at the bottom.  This is important for four reasons:

1)  It shows that the analysis done to determine and rank interests is consistent with the current leadership of the organization.  The leadership currently consists of both conservative members and devout Muslims and therefore their interests would naturally rank higher since they lead the organization.

2)  Since the organization consists of the “middle generation” and youths who oppose their leadership’s strict hierarchy and antiquated ideology, the matrix reflects their interests as almost the majority as opposed to conservative interests ranked up top.  This is important because as time goes on, there may be a leadership change where the “middle generation” and youths assume the reigns of leadership and cause Muslim Brotherhood interests to change.  It could also mean as the more moderate factions assume power, more Muslim Brotherhood interests could align with that of the United States.  If and when that happens, new data would have to be collected, interests reevaluated, and the matrix updated accordingly.

3)  Taken as a whole, the matrix suggests that the Muslim Brotherhood can be or is pragmatic.  This would help explain the competing interests ranging from conservative (e.g. Islamist government) to moderate (e.g. maintain the peace treaty with Israel).

4)  The upper quadrant is primarily in conflict, especially in the upper left corner where Muslim Brotherhood interests impact U.S. red lines.  This reflects the Brotherhood’s current leadership stance.  These areas of conflict can help the United States understand which areas are potential flashpoints when dealing with the Brotherhood, thus helping the United States to mitigate issues by counteracting Brotherhood interests by leveraging areas of opportunity.

As mentioned, there are four Muslim Brotherhood interests that conflict with U.S. interests.  They are highlighted in the below matrix extract by a purple box, and numbered one through four.

Not surprisingly, those Muslim Brotherhood interests that conflict with U.S. interests are the more conservative.  They are as follows:

            1.  To consolidate power.

            2.  Establish a government based on Islamic principles.

            3.  Anti-West/Anti-Israel.

            4.  To pursue Egypt and Arab interests.

Explaining Conflicting Interests

The next objective is to explain why each of the four Muslim Brotherhood interests mentioned previously conflicts with U.S. interests.  As for those interests that are neutral/no impact or aligned, they are self-explanatory based on the definitions of each interest, understanding of the Muslim Brotherhood’s history, and their actions and pragmatism during the Arab Spring.  To note, there is considerable redundancy in the rationale explaining why interests conflict.  This is because many interests are related and the same reasons can explain more than one interest. 

                        1) Consolidate power

                                    Conflicts with:

                                    a)  Egypt and Regional Security / Counterterrorism.

                                     Rationale:  Should the Muslim Brotherhood consolidate power, it will attempt to place its members and Islamists who are traditionally opposed to the West into other government institutions, including the military.  Therefore, a reduction of cooperation and support on counterterrorism issues can be expected since the Brotherhood would likely oppose the West.  Additionally, the Muslim Brotherhood would be sympathetic to “Arab causes”, especially over the Palestinian issue and Israel.  It would likely support extremist organizations against U.S. wishes, as evidenced by Muslim Brotherhood support to Hamas which the U.S. Department of States has designated as a foreign terrorist organization.

b)  Egypt-Israeli Peace Treaty.

                                    Rationale:  If the Muslim Brotherhood consolidates power, government officials would likely be Islamists who have been ideologically and historically confrontational towards Israel.  Members of the Brotherhood view Israel as a Zionist occupier of Arab lands and assert that Israelis are not welcome in the region.  Therefore, the treaty would be at risk. 

                                    c)  Freedom of navigation of the Suez Canal

                                    Rationale:  By consolidating power across the government, Islamists who are traditionally opposed to the West would likely be opposed to allowing unfettered U.S. military passage through the Suez Canal. 

                                    d)  Democracy.

                                    Rationale:  Consolidation of power conflicts with democracy for two reasons.  First is that consolidation of power removes any opposition in the government.  In doing so, the Brotherhood will likely quell any dialogue and discussion with non-Brotherhood members regarding how a Muslim Brotherhood dominated government should be run.  Second is that ideologically, the Brotherhood seeks to abolish political parties due to the unitary principle of Islam.  The principles of democracy and the democratic process rely on multi-party systems for success, which would be negated by having a single dominating and ruling party, and lack of diversity in government.

                                    e)  U.S.-Egyptian Military Relations.

                                    Rationale:  By consolidating power across the government, including the military, Islamists who are traditionally opposed to the West would be in charge.  This was demonstrated by Morsi retiring SCAF General Mohammed Tantawi.  Should the military and its leadership be infiltrated with Brotherhood members, the United States may see reduced military cooperation and limited military access to Egypt since the military leadership will consist of Brotherhood members. 

                                    f)  Economy.

                                    Rationale:  By consolidating power, the Muslim Brotherhood will infringe on the democratic process.  The United States, being an advocate for democracy, may not support Egypt in securing an IMF loan to help pay off Egypt’s deficit and the United States may cease providing economic aid to Egypt.  Furthermore, as mentioned previously, should Brotherhood members are traditionally opposed to Israel.  Therefore, should the Brotherhood take complete control of the government, the peace treaty and/or Israel’s security would be affected as a result, and the United States may cease its annual $1.3 billion military and economic aid package that is contingent upon Egypt maintaining the treaty.  As a result of the lack of funds by foreign investors, an IMF loan, or U.S. aid, the Brotherhood’s interest of consolidating power may have a direct impact on Egypt’s economy.        

                        2) Government based on Islamic principles

                                    Conflicts with:

                                    a)  Egypt and Regional Security / Counterterrorism.

                                    Rationale:  A government based on Islamic principles means a government dominated by Islamists, in this case the Muslim Brotherhood.  As stated previously, Islamists and the Brotherhood are friendly towards “Arab causes” and may support more extreme organizations to either help support the Islamizing of government, or support Islamizing efforts elsewhere as evidenced by Brotherhood support to rebels in Syria, with some of those rebels potentially being extremists.  Another example is the Brotherhood’s support of Hamas to put pressure on Israel.  Although Morsi brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, he probably did so for political gain, and the ceasefire should not be interpreted as the Brotherhood changing its longstanding policy of supporting Hamas.  The ceasefire also likely plays into Morsi’s and the Brotherhood’s objectives of being deemed a legitimate organization and serving as a mediator in the region.  By playing a role in the cease fire, the Brotherhood will be seen as a leader in the region and garner domestic and regional support which is another interest of the Brotherhood.  Having more domestic and regional support would increase the Brotherhood’s political capital and therefore allow them to consolidate power further.       

                                    b)  Egypt-Israeli Peace Treaty.

                                    Rationale:  For the same reasons stated previously, since the Muslim Brotherhood are Islamists and traditionally opposed to Israel, this interest may have a direct impact on the peace treaty and Israel’s security.

                                    c)  Freedom of navigation of the Suez Canal.

                                    Rationale:  A government based on Islamic principles means a government run by Islamists.  Therefore, Islamists (Muslim Brotherhood), opposed to the West, may hinder the United States’ ability, specifically military access, to the Suez Canal.

                                    d)  Democracy.

                                    Rationale:  Many Islamists and Muslim Brotherhood members view democracy and Islam as incompatible.  Therefore a government based on Islamic principles would be in conflict with democracy.  Additionally, the Muslim Brotherhood and its interpretation of Islam has not clarified the status of women’s rights which is also in conflict with democracy since democracy advocates for equality under the law.  Furthermore, a government based on Islamist principles means that non-Muslims would not be able to participate in government.  This too is in conflict with democracy because of democracy’s principle of diversity.

                                    e)  U.S.-Egyptian Military Relations.

                                    Rationale:  Once again, a government based on Islamic principles assumes Islamists in government—the Muslim Brotherhood in this case.  Islamists in government would also include the military and, as a result, the United States may see reduced cooperation and access to Egypt.  Additionally, in order to establish an Islamist government and maintain it, the Muslim Brotherhood would need a strong Islamist military—as proposed by Hassan al Banna.  Therefore, an Islamist military may not necessarily want to cooperate with the West due to ideological reasons.          

                        3) Anti-West / Anti-Israel

                                    Conflicts with:

                                    a)  Egypt and Regional Security / Counterterrorism

                                    Rationale:  The Muslim Brotherhood being historically and ideologically opposed to the West and Israel could potentially mean less security cooperation in the region.  The Muslim Brotherhood may pursue “Arab causes” as mentioned previously that go against U.S. counterterrorism policies such as supporting Hamas.  Additionally, the Muslim Brotherhood may become complicit or may not be inclined to support U.S. national security interests such as the embargo against Iran.  This was demonstrated in 2011 when two Iranian ships passed through the Suez canal carrying weapons (Bryen, 2012).

                                    b)  Egypt – Israeli Peace Treaty

                                    Rationale:  The Muslim Brotherhood has been historically and ideologically opposed to  Israel since Israel’s founding.  It even participated in the Arab-Israeli war in 1948 and Egypt’s Six Day War against Israel in the 1967.  Additionally, the current leadership of the organization is opposed to Israel.  Israel’s security and the treaty would therefore be at risk should the Muslim Brotherhood decide to terminate or undermine it, or conduct subversive actions against Israel.   

                                    c)  Freedom of Navigation of the Suez Canal.

                                    Rationale:  The Muslim Brotherhood,  being anti-West to begin with, would be opposed to United States and Western presence in the area, especially a military presence.  This may impact U.S. military access in Egypt, and U.S. naval access to the Suez Canal—both of which are of strategic importance to the United States for projecting military power and political influence in the region. 

d)  Democracy

                                    Rationale:  Since the current leadership of the organization is generally conservative, and anti-West, they do not believe democracy and Islam are compatible, nor would they be inclined to support Western democratic principles or influence.  Additionally, as Islamists, the Brotherhood would not believe in some of the tenets of democracy due to the unitary nature of Islam. 

                                    e)  U.S.-Egyptian military relations.

                                    Rationale:  Being opposed to the United States and the West, the Muslim Brotherhood would not want to see continued cooperation between the United States and the Egyptian military.  The military, historically, has been a nemesis of the Brotherhood and the Brotherhood has viewed the military as an instrument of Western imperialism.  This view comes from the military’s status as the keeper of the Egypt-Israeli Peace Treaty, the primary beneficiary of maintaining the treaty by way of receiving financial support, and the recipient of U.S. military equipment.  U.S. military equipment is the very equipment that has been used to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood, including Morsi’s removal in July 2013 by American-made armored personnel carriers and other military vehicles. 

                                    f)  Engagement.

                                    Rationale:  Since the United States seeks engagement with Egypt due to Egypt’s strategic importance, the Muslim Brotherhood, which is already opposed to the United States and West, would likely reduce cooperation and seek to advance its own agenda in line with its world view.  Additionally, the United States seeks engagement with all parties in Egypt as part of the democratic process, including non-Muslims and non-Brotherhood members which would be viewed unfavorably by the Brotherhood.  

                        4) Pursuing Egypt and Arab causes

                                    Conflicts with:

                                    a)  Egypt and Regional Security / Counterterrorism.

                                    Rationale:  The Muslim Brotherhood will seek foreign policy objectives that are independent of the United States and the West.  It will pursue what it deems are important to Arabs, to further Brotherhood principles, and its interpretation of Islam.  It may become complacent or not be inclined to make U.S. interests a priority.  The Brotherhood may also support other Islamist organizations, including some that are more extreme or militant such as Hamas or the rebels in Syria.  As a result, the Brotherhood may be in direct defiance of U.S. security and counterterrorism initiatives in the region.

                                    b)  Egypt-Israeli Peace Treaty.

                                    Rationale:  Due to its ideology and world view, the Muslim Brotherhood believes Israel is not welcome in the region and has no right to exist.  Morsi is even quoted as stating Israelis are the descendants of “apes and pigs” (Behar, 2013).  The notion that Israel is not accepted in the Middle East is supported by many Arab countries as well.  Therefore, in an effort to pursue Egypt and Arab interests (according to the Brotherhood’s world view), to support Israel would not be in its interest.  The Brotherhood would not want to be seen as supporting Israel since that would make it look illegitimate among Arabs and other Islamists.  It would also go against the Brotherhood’s ideology and affect their relationship with Hamas.

                                    c)  U.S.-Egyptian Military Relations.

                                    Rationale:  To have a U.S.-backed Egyptian military would not be in the interest of the Muslim Brotherhood since it is opposed to the United States to begin with.  It is also opposed to any U.S. interference and wants to seek a foreign policy agenda, security policy, and diplomatic relations that are more balanced and independent of U.S. terms.

                                    d)  Engagement.

                                    Rationale:  By pursuing Egypt and Arab interests, there may be less cooperation and engagement between the United States and Muslim Brotherhood since the Brotherhood seeks a foreign policy agenda that is independent of U.S. influence.  The Muslim Brotherhood may seek to partner with other countries such as China as evidenced by Chinese economic interests in the Suez Canal zone.  Additionally, the Muslim Brotherhood may not want to support, nor advance U.S. national security interests—especially over terrorism since the Brotherhood supports Hamas.

Conditions and Triggers

Having identified four Muslim Brotherhood interests that are in conflict with U.S. interests, the next step is to examine those four interests under the DIME-PSI model to identify conditions and triggers that would adversely affect U.S. interests.  By identifying conditions and triggers, the United States can monitor them which, in turn, would allow for indications and warnings should the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt enter into conditions that would further impact U.S. interests.  It should be noted that this is not an exhaustive list, but provides for an adequate number of conditions for the United States to monitor.  Additionally, most of the conditions and triggers below assume a worst case scenario.  To note, there is a lot of redundancy and overlap since many of the triggers and conditions are applicable to more than one interest.  Those redundant and overlapping triggers and conditions have been grouped into common themes and are discussed below.  Despite the redundancy, each of the four Brotherhood interests contained nuanced conditions and they are described in the subparagraphs following the common themes section, starting on page 84.

Common Themes

1)  Diplomatic: 

The United States should monitor the effects of its influence and Western influence in Egypt and the region such as its foreign policy and national security objectives in case they trigger backlash or reprisals from the Muslim Brotherhood or other Islamist groups.  Continued U.S. and Western influence in Egypt may be perceived as interference by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Brotherhood may become subversive, or worst case, even hostile or violent.  The United States will have to monitor for increasing signs of hostility towards itself and the West, such as increased rhetoric, propaganda, or subversive activities conducted by the Brotherhood.  The United States and the West will also have to understand implications of U.S. and Western presence and attempts to exert influence in the region.  They will likely have to exercise caution when dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The United States should monitor changes in the perceived legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood.  The goal of the organization is to become a legitimate political force in the region and to be recognized as such both domestically and internationally.  Additionally, the Muslim Brotherhood enjoying political legitimacy is also an organization inclined toward pragmatism in order to maintain and expand its political power.  Should the Brotherhood not achieve that goal, not receive international recognition, or should it be alienated or marginalized, the Brotherhood may behave in a manner that is incompatible with U.S. interests.  A politically threatened Brotherhood is also more likely to shift toward extremism and violence to energize its power base.

The United States should monitor the Brotherhood’s alignment or indications it is allying with other Middle Eastern countries—especially those countries that are not aligned with or are in competition with the United States.  By gaining support, the Muslim Brotherhood will be able to increase its capability to exert its influence, political capital, and embolden them to advance its agenda.  This, too, may impact U.S. interests.

2)  Infrastructure:

The United States should monitor domestic issues in Egypt such as fuel shortages and power outages.  These issues have caused turmoil in Egypt and because the Muslim Brotherhood has failed to fix them, the Brotherhood has become unpopular.  This turmoil may cause one of two things, or a combination of both.  First is that continued Muslim Brotherhood unpopularity would put pressure on the Brotherhood and it may choose to reclaim stature by any means necessary.  Second is that the Brotherhood may try to divert or shift blame to the West, the Egyptian military, or secularists in order to buy time and further their agenda.  Either one would impact U.S. interests.

3)  Military:

The United States should monitor how the Muslim Brotherhood interacts with Egypt’s government institutions, specifically the military.  The United States should also play close attention to subversive activities the Muslim Brotherhood conducts against the Egyptian military and police forces.  Of concern is the Brotherhood’s continued attempt to Islamize the government and military by inundating them with Brotherhood members.  Therefore, the United States should monitor the degree to which the Brotherhood is implanting members in the military and identify any leaders who are either members or sympathetic to the Brotherhood’s cause.  Additionally, increasing the number of devout Islamists and Brotherhood members in the military may result in an increase of the level of anti-Western and anti-Israeli sentiment and would directly impact U.S. interests.  Furthermore, it may create another organization in Egypt opposed to the United States in addition to the Brotherhood. 

The United States should also monitor the Brotherhood’s reaction to continued U.S. economic aid and support to Egypt’s military.  Historically, the Brotherhood has been opposed to the military due its privileged status, secularist outlook, status as the keepers of the Egypt-Israeli Peace Treaty, and its arrests of thousands of Brotherhood members.  The military is also seen as a puppet of the West.  Therefore, continued U.S. support to Egypt’s military may cause the Brotherhood to adversely affect U.S. interests by increasing anti-Western sentiment and becoming hostile towards the military.

4)  Economic:

The Muslim Brotherhood was directly affected by economic issues because the inability for the Brotherhood to fix Egypt’s dwindling economy after the Arab Spring has made it unpopular.  A continued bad economy may put pressure on the Brotherhood because the organization may be made into a scapegoat.  This, in turn, would likely cause the Brotherhood to feel cornered and it may resort to any means necessary to regain its previous stature; some of those means may impact U.S. interests.  A bad economy can also cause conditions for extremism that would potentially make the Brotherhood more violent (Forst, 2009).  Alternatively, the Brotherhood can divert blame elsewhere to buy time, rally support, and advance its agenda.  These activities may also impact U.S. interests because diverting blame and garnering support may increase an anti-Western sentiment. 

5)  Political:

The United States should monitor political pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood to become more Islamic and to press harder to pursue Islamic interests, both from hard line and conservative members inside the organization, and from external Islamist groups and conservatives. 

Additionally, the United States should monitor Brotherhood activities to see if the Brotherhood joins forces with other Islamist organizations to further its cause.  Examples would included aligning with like-minded groups such as the al Nour party who are Salafists.  By joining forces, the Brotherhood can further advance its goals and consolidate power with added support.  Furthermore, the United States should monitor the Brotherhood to see if it receives support from other Arab countries, specifically countries not friendly towards the United States.

6)  Social:

The United States should monitor Muslim Brotherhood attempts to recruit, proselytize, campaign, and garner support, especially any increases in these efforts.  The United States should also monitor the Brotherhood’s use of technologies such as social networking services that are used for outreach, idea sharing, recruitment, and furthering its cause.  The Brotherhood’s increase in size, increase of support, and increased proselytizing may further Islamize Egyptian society and increase its political capital.  An increase in support may allow the Brotherhood to sway public opinion more easily, permeate Egyptian institutions – both government and private sector – and,  create an unfriendly environment towards the United States.

7)  Ideology:

Similar to political pressures, the United States should monitor internal and external ideological pressures from Islamists that would make the Brotherhood more conservative or extreme and/or put pressure on the Brotherhood to further their more conservative goals—thus impacting U.S. interests.

Consolidating Power

Below are the more nuanced conditions that were not mentioned in the common themes section.  The first Muslim Brotherhood interest to examine is their goal of consolidating power. In the diagram below, we see the Muslim Brotherhood interest in the yellow box and which U.S. interests it affects. 

  1)  Diplomatic:

  • The United States and the West will have to temper their presence and their attempts to exert influence in Egypt, and to understand the Muslim Brotherhood’s disdain for Western interference.  Additionally, reaching out to non-Muslim Brotherhood members may cause the Brotherhood to root out pro-Western elements in the government and to further consolidate power (Sanger, 2012).  In doing so, the United States may lose channels of communication and support in Egypt.
  • The United States and the West will have to caution itself or refrain from influencing divisions within the Muslim Brotherhood, showing preferential treatment to certain individuals, or preference to political parties other than the Brotherhood (Kaye, Martini, & York, 2012).  In doing so, the United States and the West would risk the Muslim Brotherhood eliminating opposition and further consolidating its power. 
  • The United States will have to be careful when working directly with the Egyptian military.  Traditionally, the Egyptian military was responsible for national security issues and defense.  The military also had a say in Egypt’s foreign policy.  Because the Egyptian military has been the nemesis of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Brotherhood may try to undermine the military by infiltrating it with Brotherhood members, garner support to put the military under civilian rule, and conduct other subversive activities against the military as the Brotherhood has done historically.   
  • Monitor support from neighboring Middle Eastern countries that could potentially support Muslim Brotherhood attempts to consolidate power.  This would include providing training, techniques, and procedures to the Brotherhood of how to consolidate power and to conduct subversive activities.

2)  Infrastructure:

  • Infrastructure issues such as power outages and fuel shortages may cause conditions that would put pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood.  In response, the Brotherhood may espouse propaganda and return to a “grass roots” campaign in an effort to garner support by championing the poor and impoverished, and providing a sense of salvation—as Hassan al Banna did in the 1930s.  By garnering support, the Brotherhood will attempt to reclaim stature in order to increase its political capital with a goal of Islamizing the government.  Alternatively, pressure on the Brotherhood could cause it to become threatened and it may resort to extremism or violence in such a case. 

3) Military:

  • Monitor nationalism and military propaganda.  The Egyptian military stresses that Egyptian servicemen should be loyal to the nation, not the Muslim Brotherhood (Eleiba, 2013).  The Egyptian military, as an institution, is also secular.  Should secularist ideas increase and permeate Egyptian society, the United States should monitor how the Brotherhood reacts and its rhetoric, and monitor any subversive action the Brotherhood would take to counter rising secularism in Egypt.
  • Monitor the Muslim Brotherhood’s perception of the privileged status of the Egyptian military.  Should the Brotherhood decide that the Egyptian military, specifically its leadership, are corrupt and continue to benefit from financial assistance received from foreign military aid, the Brotherhood may take subversive action against the military as it has done historically.  This may include propaganda, attempts to cast the Egyptian military as puppets of the West, and putting Brotherhood members in the military in an attempt to Islamize them. The Brotherhood’s goal is to raise the standard of living for all Egyptians and therefore the Brotherhood would rather see financial assistance allocated elsewhere, namely for social and economic reform.

4)  Economic:

  • Not applicable.  Refer to common themes section. 

5)  Political:

  • Monitor the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood.  By having the Egyptian peoples’ support, the Muslim Brotherhood would perceive it has the “will of the people” and political capital to do what it wants to achieve its goals. 
  • Monitor the political opposition against the Brotherhood.  Under the unitary principle of Islam, there should be only one political party.  Other political parties may therefore be rooted out or the Brotherhood may attempt to win over members of its opposition as it has done previously. 
  • Monitor to see if the Muslim Brotherhood loses political influence.  If so, this can cause the Brotherhood to become more strident, dictatorial, or violent, and attempt to further consolidate power to reclaim control and stature.
  • Monitor how the Brotherhood balances non-Muslim communities, as well as the diverse Muslim practices in Egypt from the liberal to ultra-conservative along with their political blocs (Y. Aboul-Enein, personal communication, August 26, 2013).  How the Brotherhood handles elements external to its own will signal to the United States how capable the Brotherhood is of participation in a multi-party political environment.

6)  Social:

  • Not applicable.  Refer to common themes section. 

7)  Ideology:

  • Monitor conditions where the Brotherhood expels its enemy al Qaida or other Islamic militant factions in Egypt, specifically in the Sinai, in order to quell opposition (Y. Aboul-Enein, personal communication, August 26, 2013).  This can also be seen as an opportunity; refer to Section Eight. 
  • Monitor conditions internal to the Brotherhood where hard-line members exert pressure on the organization’s leadership to consolidate power in order to establish a fully Islamic state (Witte, 2013).
  • Monitor internal views that would indicate the Brotherhood will resort to violence to reclaim stature due to a prevailing view that democracy failed them as demonstrated by their removal from power by Egypt’s military in July of 2013.
  • Monitor conditions internal to the organization that would cause Brotherhood members to splinter off due to incompatible ideology, especially from those who are more moderate.  This may trigger the Brotherhood to further consolidate power since it does not want to show weakness, lose members, or lose support.   

Government Based on Islamic Principles

The next interest to be examined is establishing a government based on Islamic principles. 

1)  Diplomatic:.

  • Monitor alignment with other Arab nations and organizations such as Hamas to pursue Islamist objectives both in Egypt, and across the Middle East.  A perceived increase of support by the Muslim Brotherhood from Islamists in the region and sympathetic countries will embolden the Brotherhood to further its goal of establishing a government based on Islamic principles.

2)  Infrastructure:

  • Not applicable.  Refer to common themes section.

3)  Military:

  • Conditions should be monitored in which the Brotherhood establishes enough political capital or public support, or joins forces with other Islamist organizations to rally against the military in order to Islamize them. The United States should also monitor the degree of sympathy toward the Muslim Brotherhood within the Egyptian military ranks since Egyptian soldiers are influenced by Islam (Y. Aboul-Enein, personal communication, August 29, 2013).   

4)  Economic:

  • Not applicable.  Refer to common themes section.

5)  Political:

  • Monitor for any leadership change within the Guidance Council or election of a new Supreme Guide to see if new leadership is more extreme or replaced by hard-line members.
  • Monitor opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood by secularists, non-Muslims, and non-Brotherhood members that would cause the Muslim Brotherhood to root eliminate them since the Brotherhood would view such opposition as a threat to establishing an Islamic state.  Groups in opposition to the Brotherhood can be used as a scapegoat for Egypt’s problems and further legitimize the organization which, in turn, would allow the Brotherhood to advance its goals.

6)  Social:

  • Not applicable.  Refer to common themes section.

7)  Ideology: 

  • Monitor the Brotherhood for any attempts to conduct a religious revivalist movement and to restore Islamist power and sentiment in Egypt (Atran, 2011).
  • The United States and the West should be cautious of their presence in Egypt and the Middle East.  Their presence and influence are traditionally opposed by the Brotherhood and may cause Brotherhood members to act out.  This can take the form of the Brotherhood taking action against Egyptian establishments deemed under the influence of the West in order to “purify” Egypt and take another step to achieving an Islamic society.


This next section will cover the Brotherhood’s anti-Western and anti-Israel views.

1)  Diplomatic:

  • Monitor Muslim Brotherhood perceptions of perceived foreign occupation or influence in Egypt and the Middle East.  Influence and presence may potentially increase anger against the United States and the West by the Brotherhood as demonstrated by the response to the Iraq war.
  • The United States should understand foreign policy implications and how they are viewed by the Muslim Brotherhood.  Traditionally, the Brotherhood has viewed U.S. foreign policy as against Egyptian and Islamic interests (Kaye, Martini, & York, 2012).  Any future foreign policy deemed anti-Egypt and un-Islamic may increase the Brotherhood’s anti-Western sentiment.  
  • Monitor Israel’s actions in the region, especially those that would upset Islamists such as border incidents, military action against Palestinians, and Israeli settlement activities.  Also monitor and understand implications of Israeli relations with the United States by putting pressure on the U.S. government to support secularist movements in Egypt.  An example was Israel urging the United States to support Mubarak during the Arab Spring.  Such activities may increase anti-Israeli sentiment amongst Brotherhood members and cause backlash.
  • The United States should monitor the backlash caused by its support to Israel.  The Muslim Brotherhood is opposed to what it deems as an occupation of Arab lands. Continued support to Israel by the United States and the West will continue to increase anti-Western sentiment.

2)  Infrastructure:

  • Not applicable.  Refer to common themes section.

3)  Military:

  • Not applicable.  Refer to common themes section.

4)  Economy:

  • Should the United States and the West not support Egypt in acquiring an IMF loan, Egypt’s economy may suffer.  As a result, the Brotherhood and other Islamists can blame the lack of support and dwindling Egyptian economy on the West, and therefore increase anti-Western views.

5)  Political:

  • Monitor conditions where oppositionist groups oppose the Muslim Brotherhood and want to implement secularism and democracy in Egypt.  To the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s election and subsequent removal was evidence that democracy had failed in Egypt.  Therefore, since democracy and secularism are Western principles, oppositionist groups supporting those principles may exacerbate anti-Western sentiment among Brotherhood members.

6)  Social:  

  • Monitor conditions where the Muslim Brotherhood casts itself as the “defenders of traditional values and national pride” to garner public support (Kenney, 2013).  By doing so, it will advance its anti-Western and anti-Israel ideology.
  • Monitor Muslim Brotherhood or other Islamist organizations attempts to increase propaganda and recruitment, attempt to win the “hearts and minds” of Egyptians, and its use of technology such as social networking sites.  By doing so, it will spread its Islamist ideology and may increase anti-Western and anti-Israel views.

7)  Ideology:

  • Attempts by the United States and the West to influence Egypt and advance their interests may trigger an ideological backlash from the Muslim Brotherhood.  Therefore the United States and the West should understand implications of their foreign policy and their presence in Egypt when dealing with the Brotherhood and other Islamists.  Should the United States and the West enact new policies in Egypt and towards the Brotherhood, they should be sensitive to the various Islamic interpretations and balance diverse expressions of faith with notions of democracy in the 21st century (Y. Aboul-Enein, personal communication, August 26, 2013).    
  • Monitor the domestic situation in Egypt since domestic pressures influence the Muslim Brotherhood to behave in certain ways.  For instance, should the economy get worse, the Muslim Brotherhood may provide social services to the impoverished and at the same time blame the West for Egypt’s problems. 
  • Monitor any increased aversion by the Brotherhood against the United States or the West.  Monitor any increased rhetoric against Israel.  Should the Muslim Brotherhood do so, its aversion can be seen as an attempt legitimize itself in the eyes of other Islamists.  The Muslim Brotherhood does not want to be seen as dealing with the West, nor as a puppet of the West.  It also wants to be confrontational towards Israel since it does not feel Israelis are welcome in the region.

Pursuing Egypt and Arab Causes

This next section will examine the Muslim Brotherhood’s interest in pursuing goals independent of U.S. and Western influence.

1)  Diplomatic:

  • Monitor for Muslim Brotherhood actions that would go against U.S. and Western interests such as Muslim Brotherhood support to Hamas and Syrian rebels, particularly extremist rebels.
  • Monitor for Muslim Brotherhood complacency or not being inclined to uphold U.S. national security interests such as the embargo against Iran.  Monitor for Brotherhood relations with countries that compete with the United States, such as China.
  • Monitor for aversive or subversive behavior by the Brotherhood towards the U.S. and Western influence and the Brotherhood’s pursuit of other Arab interests in the region.

2)  Infrastructure:

  • Monitor Brotherhood attempts to seek out nations not aligned or in competition with the United States to support Egypt’s infrastructure needs, such as China.  An example would be Chinese presence in the Suez Canal zone.

3)  Military:

  • Monitor conditions where the Muslim Brotherhood will inundate the military with Brotherhood members to Islamize them.  Should this happen, it may cause the Egyptian military to reduce cooperation and information sharing with the West and seek security partnerships elsewhere in the region—thus impacting U.S. national security interests.
  • Monitor conditions where the Brotherhood influences the military and/or sympathizers within the military to reduce border security between Egypt and Israel (Gjelten, 2011).  This would allow Hamas to conduct subversive operations against Israel and would affect Israeli and U.S. regional security interests.  

4)  Economy:

  • Monitor for conditions where the Muslim Brotherhood seeks economic ties elsewhere with countries such as China.  Since Morsi was recently removed from power, however, monitor for conditions where the Muslim Brotherhood puts pressure on Egypt’s government to seek economic ties elsewhere.

5)  Political:

  • Monitor for conditions where the Muslim Brotherhood puts pressure on government institutions, politicians, and other country leaders to pursue Egyptian and Arab interests that are independent of the United States and West.

6)  Social: 

  • Monitor Muslim Brotherhood outreach to other Islamist organizations, including creating alliances.  Examples would be continued support to Hamas to advance the Palestinian cause or supporting the Syrian rebels, particularly extremist rebels.

7)  Ideology:

  • Monitor attempts by the Brotherhood to proselytize and further Islamize Egyptian society in its image and to the exclusion of all other Muslims and non-Muslim minorities who do not share their views (Y. Aboul-Enein, personal communication, August 26, 2013).  Doing so would be in line with its objective of making Egypt an Islamic state in their image and their ultimate goal of unifying the Arab world (Sennott, 2011).  In the Muslim Brotherhood’s view, this would further Egypt’s and Arab interest—to establish an Islamic state.
  • Monitor for internal pressures in the organization such as increased conservative ideology or pressure from more conservative members that may cause the Muslim Brotherhood to seek its interests with parties elsewhere—other than the United States or the West.  This includes seeking economic interests, or international legitimacy from countries that rival the United States.
  • Monitor for conditions external to the organization from fellow conservative Islamists that may put pressure on the Brotherhood for not pursuing Egyptian or Arab interests effectively.


Despite Muslim Brotherhood interests that conflict with U.S. interests, there are nine areas of opportunity the United States can leverage to counteract the Brotherhood’s more conservative interests.  This section is devoted to explaining those nine areas.  

One choice would be to wait and see how the events in Egypt unfold and what happens to the Muslim Brotherhood as a result.  It is unknown if the Brotherhood will regain its power or whether the opposition will drive it underground.  Additionally, as described in the history section of this paper, there are rifts in the Brotherhood amongst the “middle generation” and youths that oppose the current leadership’s conservatism and antiquated ideology.  Therefore, perhaps the United States can wait until there is a leadership change and see if more moderate members assume control of the organization.  Given Egypt’s strategic importance to the United States and on-going issues in the Middle East in which Egypt plays a key role, should the United States not want to wait, there are other courses of action the United States can pursue.  Though not an exhaustive list, there are nine areas of leverage and opportunity in the matrix that the United States can use to counteract the conservative faction of Brotherhood and Brotherhood interests that conflict with the United States.   Refer to the matrix below where those areas have been identified. 

The areas of leverage and opportunity are organized into a sliding scale consisting of the most preferred option to the least preferred or worst case option.  Additionally, each area of leverage and opportunity discussed in the paragraphs below is accompanied be a color code that corresponds to which portion of the sliding scale it belongs to.  The United States can either use these approaches individually, or implement several at once.  Whatever approach is taken, the United States will have to monitor the effectiveness of each area of leverage and opportunity and observe how the Muslim Brotherhood reacts.  Refer to the bar graph below:

(1) Counteracting Consolidation of Power

As described previously, the Muslim Brotherhood seeks to consolidate power in all branches of government and under the unitary principle of Islam, abolish all political parties and create one unified Islamic state.  This impacts the United States for all reasons described previously.  The United States can counteract this Brotherhood interest in several ways. 

(Green) a)  First the United States can continue to engage by having open dialogue with Brotherhood leadership and discuss the implications of abolishing rival political parties, as well as the need for diversity in government and for minority voices to be heard.  The United States can use the Brotherhood’s history and show how the Brotherhood wanted its voice to be heard and to be a legitimate party only to be driven underground—so why not afford the same concerns to others?  By using this example, the United States can point out that should the Brotherhood continue consolidating power at the expense of free and open democracy, the Brotherhood could be viewed as hypocritical.

(Green) b)  Second, the United States can work with the Egyptian government to ensure Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist organization inclusion in foreign policy making.  This would allow the United States to hear and address concerns of the Brotherhood, and by including them, make them feel that they are part of the process and have a stake in Egypt’s future.  Simultaneously, the United States needs to work with the Egyptian government to allow the Brotherhood to be a registered civil society organization in order to obtain funds from the United States or other Western countries for social welfare activities.  This, in turn, would honor the Brotherhood’s goals of having the recognition it feels it deserves, being a legitimate political actor, and having a stake in social reform through welfare activities.

(Green) c)  Third, since al Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood are enemies, the United States can leverage the Brotherhood’s disdain for al Qaida and seek active cooperation to suppress al Qaida and associated members in Egypt, specifically the Sinai Peninsula (Y. Aboul-Enein, personal communication, August 26, 2013).

(Yellow) d)  Fourth, the United States can appeal to the leadership of the Egyptian military.  The United States can caution that should the Brotherhood establish an undemocratic government, the United States can reduce or cut off financial aid.  Doing so would cross a red line for Egypt’s generals since they want access to U.S. military financial aid and sophisticated U.S. hardware, including spare parts to keep its current inventory operational (Y. Aboul-Enein, personal communication, August 26, 2013).     

In all four scenarios described above, the United States should be careful not to exert too much influence in the region, as overstepping its bounds would potentially trigger negative consequences for the reasons described in Section Seven under the DIME-PSI model.  Therefore the United States should find a balance – perhaps utilizing a third party or mediator – between involvement and distance and, be mindful of Islamist apprehensiveness towards the West. 

(2) Counteracting a Government Based on Islamic Principles

(Green) a)  To counteract the full establishment of a government based on Islamic principles (in the Muslim Brotherhood’s image), the United States, as mentioned before, can engage and have open dialogue with the Brotherhood to discuss implications of a fully Islamic state.  The United States can discuss the negative consequences of creating such a state and how it would marginalize and alienate other political parties, and Muslims like the Shiites and Sufis, as well as the significant Christian minority, which, would also potentially cause problems (Y. Aboul-Enein, personal communication, August 26, 2013).  This can be done by using the White House Director for Muslim Outreach or the U.S. Ambassador at Large for the Organization of Islamic Conference (Y. Aboul-Enein, personal communication, August 26, 2013). 

(Green) b)  The United States can also discuss other options, such as establishing a state based on Islamic principles, but with the inclusion and ideas of other parties that would make for a more balanced and inclusive government—which may appease all involved. 

(Yellow) c)  Alternatively, the United States can support groups not in favor of establishing a fully Islamic state and use them to counterbalance the Muslim Brotherhood.  In both cases (2b and 2c), however, the United States would have to understand the risk involved.  As discussed in Section Seven, too much U.S. influence in Egypt, especially in support of secular groups, can cause backlash and anti-Western sentiment.  The United States would therefore have to exercise caution.

(Yellow) d)  Another method to counteract the Brotherhood’s attempt to build an Islamic state in its image is through economic assistance.  The United States can capitalize on the Brotherhood’s goal of raising the standard of living in Egypt and providing social and economic reform.  By providing economic assistance and ensuring the Egyptian government spends aid money where it should be spent, Egyptians will not need to turn to the Brotherhood for their support since, ideally, they would have it elsewhere and hopefully from their own government.  Additionally the United States can support Egypt in acquiring an IMF loan, continue to provide or increase economic assistance (or seek financial support from other Western countries), or assist Egypt in finding new sources of revenue.  By improving Egypt’s economy, it will help stabilize Egypt and potentially counteract the Brotherhood’s attempt to Islamize the government, since Egyptians would not need to rely on the Brotherhood to provide leadership or support, or to find a scapegoat.  This method, however, is not without risk.  As seen historically in the 1950s when Nasser and the RCC governed Egypt, they had goals similar to the Brotherhood.  Nasser took steps to implement social and economic reforms which caused the Brotherhood to resent the government since it believed it was being marginalized by the government stealing its ideas.  Therefore, should the United States choose this route, it risks marginalizing the Brotherhood and increasing an anti-Western sentiment.

(3) Appealing to Legitimacy

(Green) a)  It has long been a Muslim Brotherhood goal to become a legitimate political organization.  The United States can appeal to the Brotherhood’s desire to become one by including them in the decision making process for foreign policy and matters related to Egypt, Israel, and the region.  Through its inclusion and participation, the Brotherhood will likely feel that it has a voice and stake in Egypt’s future and therefore have its interests addressed.  This will likely ease Brotherhood apprehensiveness when dealing with the United States, and, as a result, it may become more moderate or inclined to work with the United States.  It may also offset more conservative Brotherhood interests.  In the long run, by recognizing and working with the Brotherhood to build a stable Egypt, cooperation might help undermine and curb the influence of al Qaida (Payne, 2011).

(4) Counteracting anti-Western/anti-Israel Sentiment

(Green) a)  The Muslim Brotherhood has been opposed to the West since the days of British rule and the founding of an Israeli state.  While this is a permanent feature of modern Egyptian and Arab politics, the United States should be cognizant about the degree of anti-Western discourse and assess whether it is merely for political posturing.  Examples of heated rhetoric typically occur on the eve of elections (Y. Aboul-Enein, personal communication, August 26, 2013).  To mitigate this issue, the United States can appeal to the Brotherhood’s more pragmatic side and demonstrate that it is in Egypt’s national interest to maintain diplomatic relations with the West for both international legitimacy and financial reasons, such as attracting foreign investors and economic aid packages. 

(Green) b)  In regard to Israel, the United States can leverage the Brotherhood’s goal of legitimacy and argue that by ensuring Israel’s security, it will provide a role model for other Islamist groups to demonstrate that Arabs and Israelis, while not having to like each other, can co-exist peacefully.  The United States can also point out that the treaty with Israel has saved three generations of Arabs and Israelis from war (Wittes, 2013).  The United States can also increase its economic aid package to Egypt or allow for preferential trade agreements and business arrangements in an effort to improve Egypt’s economy.  The intent of economic incentives would be to help stabilize Egypt, allow for moderate reform, lessen civil disobedience and social unrest, which, in turn, will ideally lessen conditions causing extremism within the Brotherhood and ease tensions with the West and Israel.

(5) Counteracting Pursuance of Egyptian and Arab causes

(Green) a)  The Muslim Brotherhood has sought to pursue policies and interests that it deems are important, are in the interests of Arabs, and are independent of U.S. influence.  To counteract this situation, the United States can use the same economic assistance methods stated previously, including economic incentives such as preferential trade, business arrangements, or other enticements that would appeal to the Muslim Brotherhood, and that would be in Egypt’s best interest.  The United States would, however, have to recognize that it would be competing with other nations jockeying to establish an economic foothold in Egypt, such as China and its developments in the Suez Canal zone. 

(Red) b) Alternatively, should the Muslim Brotherhood pursue interests or become complacent in areas that threaten U.S. national security, the United States can use the threat of sanctioning, embargoing, and freezing of financial assets as leverage, or have the U.S. Department of State designate the Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization—all of which may have a severe impact on the Brotherhood.  For example, Egypt is responsible for ensuring passing ships in the Suez Canal comply with the embargo against Iran—as mandated by the United Nations Security Council.   In April 2011 Egypt declined a U.S. request that an Iranian ship passing through the Suez Canal be inspected for illegal arms (Bryen, 2012).  There are, however, mixed reports that Egyptian authorities did a “routine” inspection or did not do an inspection at all since they were assured by Iranian diplomats that the ship was clear.  It was later determined the ship had been carrying 50 tons of weapons, including anti-ship missiles and radars (Bryen, 2012).  Either way, this abdication of responsibility can be seen as complacency, turning a blind eye, or the Brotherhood being disinclined to make a U.S. national security interest a top priority.  Therefore the United States can take appropriate steps as mentioned previously.

(6) Appealing to the Brotherhood’s Moderate Side

(Green) a)  As demonstrated during the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood has shown a moderate and pragmatic side possibly due to the Brotherhood’s realization that in order to govern, it must take into account all elements within the government and include them in the decision-making process as appropriate.  Another factor may be the generational divide within the organization where the middle generation and the youth are moderate and have different interpretations of Islam’s role in modern society.  The United States can therefore appeal to the moderate factions of the Brotherhood and seek the support of the middle generation and youth in an attempt to have them appeal to their older and more conservative leadership in order to sway the leadership’s opinion.  By engaging with young Islamists, the United States could “reap policy benefits in the long run” (Kaye, Martini, & York, 2012, p. 52).  Additionally, the United States can point out that Morsi’s and the Brotherhood’s removal from power in July of 2013 was due to majority rule and a winner takes all mentality.  Had the Brotherhood been more moderate and Morsi practiced a policy of inclusiveness, the Brotherhood may still be in power, at least until the next election.

(Green) b) To appeal to the moderate side of the Brotherhood, the United States can also provide economic incentives as mentioned previously.  These methods are not without risk.  As discussed in Section Seven under the DIME-PSI model, members aligned with the United States or opposed to the Brotherhood can cause the Muslim Brotherhood to eliminate perceived dissenters.  Alternatively, the Brotherhood can become increasingly dictatorial in order to prevent dissent and signs of weakness due to fissures within the organization.  The United States will therefore have to exercise caution and monitor for backlash from the Brotherhood should the United States choose the aforementioned methods.

(Green) c) Another method to counteract the Muslim Brotherhood’s conservative side and increase its moderation and cooperation with the United States is to exploit its adversarial relationship with al Qaida (Payne, 2011).  The Muslim Brotherhood has rejected violence and believes in change through participation.  Al Qaida does not share these sentiments and has denounced the Brotherhood.  The United States can therefore discuss a shared interest with the Brotherhood in keeping al Qaida out of Egypt and the Sinai (Payne, 2011) which would potentially open the door for further cooperation on other issues.

(7) Assisting Egypt with Domestic Issues

(Green) a) Using the same method of providing economic assistance or incentives, the United States can support the Muslim Brotherhood in addressing Egypt’s domestic issues.  The United States can either encourage local non-governmental organizations to partner with the Brotherhood to improve infrastructure and living conditions, or increase funding to U.S. based aid organizations for improvement projects in Egypt.   This also includes the United States working with the Egyptian government to allow the Brotherhood to become a registered civil society organization for reasons already described previously.  The United States, however, will have to be mindful and avoid marginalizing the Brotherhood in economic recovery and social reform efforts due to reasons already discussed in the DIME-PSI model in Section Seven. 

(8) Egypt-Israeli Peace Treaty

(Green) a) The United States can leverage the Muslim Brotherhood’s more moderate and pragmatic side by praising its understanding of the need to support the peace treaty.  Though the Brotherhood is traditionally opposed to Israel, the United States can reiterate to the Brotherhood that the treaty has saved generations of Arabs from war (Wittes, 2013).  The treaty is also in Egypt’s national interest because it allows for Egypt to play an important role, possibly even be a role model, in the Middle East as a mediator in the Palestinian issue, and it encourages security cooperation over extremists in the Sinai.  For the Muslim Brotherhood, its support for the treaty garners international legitimacy for the organization, a long term goal of the Brotherhood.  The United States can also reiterate that economic and military assistance is tied to the treaty.  If the treaty is broken, Egypt’s economic conditions could worsen.  The United States, however, will have to evaluate the risk of stopping financial aid tied to maintaining the treaty.  The Egyptian military relies on this aid and stopping it would affect U.S. relations with Egypt’s military.  Halting aid could also be used by the Brotherhood as another reason to increase anti-Western sentiment.

(9) Assisting with Egypt’s Economic Issues

(Green) a) Since Mubarak’s removal, Egypt’s economy has suffered and continues to worsen.  While in power, the Muslim Brotherhood was unable to provide effective solutions and fell out of favor, which is what led to its removal from power.  To assist and counteract the Brotherhood’s more conservative members, the United States can enlist the support of other Western countries and work with the Brotherhood to provide financial aid or incentives to improve conditions in Egypt.  The intent of working with the Brotherhood would be to include it in the decision making process, allow it to have input on how money should be spent in accordance with its ideology (e.g. social and economic reform), and to show good faith.  Working with the Brotherhood and allowing Brotherhood input on economic assistance will alleviate pressure against the Brotherhood from their opponents.  Additionally, providing aid to Egypt would lessen conditions that cause extremism such as civil disobedience, disenfranchisement, and social unrest.  This, in turn, would ideally prevent the Brotherhood and other Islamists from becoming extreme.  Alternatively, the United States can also grant debt forgiveness to reduce Egypt’s economic burden (Sanger, 2012).

Analysis Summary

Ideology and History

By reviewing the Muslim Brotherhood’s history and ideology, this paper has identified common themes that were later evolved into interests, and provided the motivations and cause for each Brotherhood interest.  This paper has also shown an evolution of the Muslim Brotherhood’s interests that have become more pragmatic and moderate due to a generational divide and challenges presented while in power post-Arab Spring.            

Defining and Evaluating Interests

Ten Muslim Brotherhood interests were identified and ranked in order of importance based on quantitative methods supported by expert opinion.  In similar fashion, seven U.S. interests were identified and ranked in order of “red lines”.  Therefore, a key judgment of this paper is as follows:

            1)  From the sources collected for analysis, this paper assesses with high confidence that the following are likely to be Muslim Brotherhood interests and are ranked in order of importance:

                        a)  Consolidate power

                        b)  Government based on Islamic principles

                        c)  Legitimacy

                        d)  Anti-West/Anti-Israel

                        e)  Pursue Egypt and Arab causes

                        f)  Garner support

                        g)  Moderation

                        h)  Domestic issues

                        i)  Egypt-Israeli Peace Treaty

                        j)  Economy

            2)  For the same reasons, this paper assesses with high confidence that the following are likely to be U.S. interests, and are ranked by “red lines” first.

                        a)  Egypt and regional security / Counterterrorism – Red Line

                        b)  Egypt and Israeli Peace Treaty – Red Line

                        c)  Freedom of navigation of the Suez Canal – Red Line

                        d)  Democracy

                        d)  U.S.-Egyptian military relations

                        e)  Economy

                        f)  Engagement

            3)  Having inputted interests into the cross-impact matrix, the following four Muslim Brotherhood interests were found to conflict with U.S. interests:

                        a)  Consolidate power

                        b)  Government based on Islamic principles

                        c)  Anti-West/Anti-Israel

                        d)  Pursuing Egypt and Arab interests

Conditions and Triggers

Employing the DIME-PSI model helped identify triggers and conditions for each Muslim Brotherhood interest that would adversely affect U.S. interests.  Each interest contained nuances, however seven common themes prevalent in all interests were identified.  Summaries of the common themes are as follows:


  • The United States should monitor backlash from its foreign policy and presence in Egypt and the region.
  • The United States should monitor perceived legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • The United States should monitor the Brotherhood’s alignment or alliances with other state and non-state actors.


  • The United States should monitor domestic pressures exerted on the Brotherhood due to shortfalls in Egypt’s infrastructure and see how the Brotherhood responds.


  • The United States should monitor Brotherhood interactions with the Egyptian military and attempts to inundate them with Islamists.
  • The United States should monitor backlash from continued support to Egypt’s military and the Brotherhood’s reaction to the military’s continued privileged status in Egypt.


  • Similar to monitoring infrastructure issues, the United States should monitor how economic pressures cause the Brotherhood to behave and see if it diverts blame elsewhere or uses any means necessary to reclaim stature.


  • The United States should monitor internal and external pressures to the organization ranging from leadership changes, ideological pressures, and pressure exerted by other Islamist groups to see how the Brotherhood responds.
  • The United States should monitor to see if the Brotherhood joins forces or aligns itself with other Islamist organizations to strengthen support and advance its objectives.


  • The United States should monitor increased attempts by the Muslim Brotherhood to recruit, proselytize, campaign, and garner support.  The United States should also monitor any increase in the size of the organization and the Brotherhood’s use of technology and use of social networking services.


  • Similar to political pressures, the United States should monitor internal and external ideological pressures from conservatives and Islamists that would make the Brotherhood more extreme and/or put pressure on the Brotherhood to further its more conservative goals.


Having examined areas of conflict, nine areas of opportunity were identified that the United States could leverage and counteract the Muslim Brotherhood.  These are as follows:

 (1)  Counteracting Consolidation of Power:

  1. Engage and have open dialogue with the Brotherhood and discuss implications of consolidating power across Egypt’s government. 
  2. Include the Brotherhood and Islamists in decision making and, the political process, and deem it a legitimate organization.  Allow it to have a stake in Egypt’s future, and social, and economic reform.
  3. Leverage the Brotherhood’s disdain for al Qaida.  Use the Brotherhood’s animosity as a mutually beneficial interest to rid Egypt of al Qaida and a path to future cooperation.
  4. Appeal to the senior leadership of the Egyptian military.  Should Egypt become undemocratic, the United States could reduce or cease funding.  This is a red line for the military since they need U.S. funding to sustain themselves.  The military may therefore cooperate with the United States to work against the Brotherhood.

(2)  Counteracting a Government Based on Islamic Principles:

  1. Engage and have open dialogue with the Brotherhood on implications of a fully Islamic state.  Discuss negative consequences, and problems that would occur by alienating and marginalizing other groups.
  2. Discuss alternatives by still implementing Islamic principles, but include other ideas from other groups to appease all parties concerned.
  3. Support groups in Egypt not in favor of establishing a fully Islamic state and use them to counterbalance the Brotherhood. 
  4. Provide economic assistance and capitalize on the Brotherhood’s goal of economic reform in order to stabilize Egypt and lessen the degree to which Egyptians, particularly the poor and impoverished, rely on the Brotherhood for social services.

(3)  Appealing to Legitimacy

  • Appeal to the Brotherhood’s goal of becoming a legitimate political organization that is recognized domestically and internationally.  This may reduce apprehensiveness when dealing with the United States and the West and offset conservative interests.

(4)  Counteracting anti-Western/anti-Israel Sentiment

  1. Appeal to the more pragmatic side of the Brotherhood and demonstrate that it is in Egypt’s national interest to maintain diplomatic ties to the West and ensure Israel’s security.  Show that supporting the West and Israel will grant legitimacy to the Brotherhood. 
  2. Remind the Brotherhood that peace with Israel has saved generations of Arabs from war and the treaty with Israel allows for Egypt to serve as a role model in the region.  Provide economic aid and incentives to lessen conditions for extremism that would, in turn, be breeding grounds for anti-Western/anti-Israeli sentiment and increase tensions.

(5)  Counteracting Pursuance of Egyptian and Arab causes

  1. Provide economic incentives and business arrangements to compete with other nations the Brotherhood and Egypt are pursuing.
  2. Should the Brotherhood pursue interests that threaten U.S. national security interests, then sanction, embargo, freeze financial assets, or label the Brotherhood a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

(6)  Appealing to the Brotherhood’s Moderate Side

  1. Exploit the generational divide within the Brotherhood, appeal to the moderate and younger members, and encourage them to sway conservative leadership.  Have open dialogue with leadership and discuss implications of strict majority rule, such as its recent removal from power in July 2013, and the need for moderation. 
  2. Provide economic incentives as mentioned previously.
  3. Exploit the Brotherhood’s adversarial relationship with al Qaida.  This is a shared interest between the United States and the Brotherhood and can potentially open the door for further cooperation on other issues.

(7)  Assisting Egypt with Domestic Issues

  1. Provide economic assistance and incentives to curry favor with the Brotherhood.  Encourage local non-governmental organizations to partner with the Brotherhood to improve the quality of life in Egypt. 

(8)  Egypt-Israeli Peace Treaty

  1. Leverage the Brotherhood’s more moderate and pragmatic side and praise its understanding of the need to support the peace treaty.  Reiterate that the treaty is in Egypt’s national interest to maintain and the Brotherhood’s to gain legitimacy.  Remind the Brotherhood that the treaty has saved generations of Arabs from war. 

(9)  Assisting with Egypt’s Economic Issues

  1. Enlist the support of other Western countries and work with the Brotherhood to provide economic financial aid and incentives to improve conditions in Egypt.  Working with the Brotherhood would put a Brotherhood “face” on economic assistance and relieve pressure on the organization from current unpopularity.  Further, by including the Brotherhood in the decision making process of how financial aid is spent will potentially appease the Brotherhood by allowing money to be spent in accordance with its Islamic values.  Alternatively, grant Egypt debt forgiveness to lessen Egypt’s financial burden.


The methodology, analysis, and findings of this paper present two broader implications: a recommendation for U.S. government policy towards Islamist organizations and the use of an modified analytical model in evaluating other organizations.

From a U.S. policy perspective, even though there are several areas of conflict between Muslim Brotherhood and U.S. interests, there are many more areas of leverage and opportunity that the United States can pursue when dealing with the Brotherhood.  Further, the Brotherhood, whether due to its generational divide or its short time in government forcing it to deal with its opposition, has a moderate and pragmatic side.  Additionally, the analysis of this paper has offered conditions for the United States to monitor that would cause the Brotherhood to behave in a way that would impact U.S. interests.  If the United States can better understand the Brotherhood’s history and drivers behind each interest, then the United States can navigate around conflict areas, seek out areas of opportunity, and find common ground with the Brotherhood and appease all parties concerned.  Furthermore, the United States can apply the same methodology when dealing with other Islamist organization, or any other foreign political state or non-state actor and determine areas of conflict, neutrality, and common ground.

As alluded to above, the analytical framework in this paper can potentially be applied to other groups.  Though structured analytical techniques are nothing new, the framework presented in this paper is different because it has modified two existing analytical models.  This modified model provides a different way of analyzing an organization’s interests and evaluating them against the United States, or any other country.  This model should not be limited to Islamist groups since it could be applied to other foreign political groups or nation states.  For instance, this model can examine two separate countries together, determine their interests, and evaluate them.  As a result, this model can be used as a mediation tool, or to solve or predict problems.  For example, in the case of Israel and the Palestinians one could identify their interests, evaluate them through the use of this model and look for common ground to mediate issues.  Then, under the DIME-PSI model, once could look for conditions that would affect interests for either side.  Should those conditions occur, one could potentially predict why and how Israel or the Palestinians would react to events.

Further Research

The focus of this paper was strictly on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.  As history has shown, however, the Brotherhood has grown and is now an Islamist organization that spans the Middle East.  To identify the Muslim Brotherhood’s interest as a whole organization across the Middle East may uncover interests that vary from those addressed in the analytical framework discussed in this paper.  Further research is necessary to determine if Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood interests corroborate, are consistent with, or are any reflection of those of the organization as a whole.  Along similar lines, while this analytical framework was applied only to the Muslim Brotherhood, applying it to other Islamist groups – or to any outside political group that affects the United States – would help strengthen the framework and confirm its applicability.

This paper relied on publicly available materials and is therefore limited in that regard.  This paper was also limited by time and resource constraints and, therefore, only a small fraction of what was publicly available was utilized.  Further research is necessary to see if incorporating non-publicly available materials from U.S. government holdings would affect the analysis and outcome of this paper such as identifying other interests or alter the ranking or weighting of interests.  Additionally, having more resources and time would allow for more analysts to collect data, allow for identifying additional subject matter experts and vetting of interests and findings, and therefore potentially further mitigate bias.  This, in turn, may also alter the weighting and ranking of interests, or identify other interests not previously uncovered.    

The situation in Egypt is constantly changing.  The future of Egypt, its interim government, and what will happen to the Muslim Brotherhood is unknown.  This paper collected data from May to July of 2013 and focused on the Brotherhood’s history from its creation through July 2013; should circumstances change, the findings of this paper would have to be reevaluated.  The findings of this paper would also have to be reevaluated should there be a leadership change within the Brotherhood.  As discussed, the middle generation and youth have caused a generational divide within the organization and they are opposed to the more conservative leadership.  Alternatively, more conservative or extreme members could take over as well.  Therefore, future research is necessary to see how the Brotherhood evolves and to determine if its interests will change.    


The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the United States have traditionally been opposed to and suspicious of each other due a clash of ideology, values, and culture.  Taken by surprise by the Arab Spring, the United States was forced to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood when it assumed power in 2012.  From a U.S standpoint, Islamist organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood, have typically clashed with U.S. political, economic, psychological, cultural, and strategic interests (Vidino, 2013).  Additionally,  since 9/11, the U.S. government has been suspicious of Islamist groups (Vidino, 2013).  The United States was unsure as to the outcome of the revolution and, after Egyptian elections, took a cautious approach when dealing with the Brotherhood.  The United States was concerned over what type of organization the Brotherhood would become: a group that wanted a strict Islamic state or a party of pragmatists and moderates (Sanger, 2012).  Even though the Brotherhood has recently been removed from power, it will still have a long-term and strong presence in Egypt and the United States will likely have to contend with the organization in the future.

Given that Egypt is of strategic importance to the United States and Egypt allows access to the Middle East, the United States must take into account all influential parties within Egypt, including the Brotherhood, in order to advance U.S. interests in the region. 

By understanding historical and ideological drivers that motivate the Muslim Brotherhood, the United States can learn the causes behind each of the Brotherhood interests.  In doing so, through the use of the analytical framework described in this paper, the United States can avoid and counteract adversarial interests, navigate to common ground, and use areas of opportunity to promote cooperation.  This is proven in the analysis provided in this paper that revealed with high confidence that there are ten distinct Brotherhood interests, four of which that conflict with U.S. interests, and six that do not. 

Despite four Muslim Brotherhood interests that conflict with the United States, the analysis of this paper has shown nine positions of leverage and opportunity to promote cooperation.  Analysis has also revealed that despite the conservative side of the Brotherhood, elements within the organization and external pressures have made the Brotherhood more moderate and pragmatic, providing further proof that cooperation is possible and that there are avenues of mutually beneficial interests the United States and the Brotherhood can explore.  More importantly, this paper has identified conditions to monitor that would impact U.S. interests post-Arab Spring.  Knowledge of these conditions will provide the United States with indications and warnings to anticipate Muslim Brotherhood actions and the situation in Egypt.

This paper reflects academic work done under the auspices of the author’s enrollment at Johns Hopkins University.  The statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the United States Government.  Review of the material does not imply Department of Defense or United States Government endorsement of factual accuracy or opinion. 

Works Cited

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End Note

[1] Although this score ranks higher than preceding U.S. interests, as a reminder, U.S. red lines were ranked first and then followed by all other U.S. interests.  Red lines were deemed constant interests that remained in place regardless of U.S. administrations and because crossing a red line would cause the United States to intervene.  While democracy is an important interest to the U.S., depending on the U.S. administration, the United States seems to support democracy when it suits immediate U.S. objectives.  For example, the United States supported President Mubarak’s regime since 1981—despite Mubarak’s repressive tactics and government that ran counter to democratic principles.


About the Author(s)

M. David Yaman, the son of a Foreign Service Officer, grew up in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.  He received his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Virginia Military Institute (VMI), and completed a masters degree in Intelligence Analysis Studies at Johns Hopkins University in December 2013.  He is Level II Program Management certified by the Defense Acquisition University and Project Management certified by the Project Management Institute.   Upon graduation from VMI in 2004, Mr. Yaman was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.  He served twice as an Intelligence Officer over the course of two combat deployments to Iraq.  Additionally, he led over 100 combat missions in support of counter insurgency efforts.  Mr. Yaman also served as an Infantry Platoon Commander and Executive Officer with Company G, Second Battalion, Second Marines during the training and deployment with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit to the Middle East.  After his third deployment, he was assigned as the Assistant Operations Officer, but due to unfortunate events, he sustained serious injuries.  He was transferred to Quantico, Virginia and his remaining time in the Marines was spent recovering from injuries and culminated with a two year tour as a Project Manager at Marine Corps Systems Command.  As Project Manager, he managed an intelligence program in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.  Mr. Yaman was honorably retired from the Marines for service injuries in June of 2011.  Upon leaving the military he spent a year as a contractor with CACI as an analyst.  In July of 2012, Mr. Yaman joined the federal government and is working as a counterterrorism analyst with the Department of Defense.