White House to designate Muslim Brotherhood terrorist organisation

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The Trump administration is working to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organisation, the White House said on Tuesday.

According to a Tuesday report in The New York Times, the White House tasked national security and diplomatic officials with exploring ways the US could sanction the group following an April 9 meeting between US President Donald Trump and Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Mr Sisi asked US President Donald Trump to make the move, US media said. Since then, Sissi has overseen a crackdown on both liberal and Islamist opposition in his country, jailing thousands of supporters and much of the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"The president has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern, and this designation is working its way through the internal process", Sanders said in an email, Reuters reported.

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But targeting the movement would be a major new impediment in U.S. ties with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pushed an Islamist foreign policy that includes support for the Muslim Brotherhood inside Egypt. One option would be to designate another group linked to the Muslim Brotherhood as a terror organization, which will ultimately subject it to harsh sanctions.

A spokesman for Turkey's ruling AK Party said on Tuesday that the designation would hinder democratisation efforts in the Middle East and provide a boost to other militant groups in the region, according to United States media.

Egypt already describes the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists.

The Egyptian government blamed the Muslim Brotherhood organization for a 2013 suicide bombing at a police station that killed 16 people.

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Placing the Muslim Brotherhood on a terrorism blacklist would allow U.S. officials to impose sanctions on any person or organization with links to it. The organization has close ties with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling AK Party, and many of its members fled to Turkey after the group's activities were banned in Egypt. Sisi ousted the previous Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, in 2013 and was elected president the following year.

But the defence department, career national security staff, government lawyers and diplomatic officials have laid down legal and policy objections, and have been attempting to find a more limited step that would satisfy the White House, according to the newspaper.

Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's former top official for counterterrorism who teaches at Dartmouth College, called the idea "mystifying", saying the agency considered the designation in 2017 but concluded there was no basis.

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