Tension looms as Ankara slams US move to declare Egypt’s Islamist movement terrorist

Turkey’s ruling party has slammed the United State’s intention to designate Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, which has close ties with Turkey’s ruling party, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

A new potential dispute is looming between the US and Turkey as White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced on Tuesday in an e-mail that “the designation is on its way through the internal process.”

This was after US President Donald Trump consulted with US national security officials and leaders in the region.

Omer Celik, spokesman for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said that such an act would harm the democratization process in the Middle East and serve in favor of outlawed groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS).

“[The probable US decision on declaration of the Brotherhood as terrorist] will undoubtedly yield extremely wrong results regarding stability, human rights, basic rights and freedoms in countries of the Islamic world and at the same time, will be the biggest support that can be given to the propaganda of Daesh [ISIS],” Celik said.

Similarly, the Brotherhood responded to the US announcement on Tuesday saying it would continue to work in line with “their moderate and peaceful thinking” regardless of moves by the Trump administration.

A debate to declare the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement, a terrorist organization has been underway since Trump took office in January 2017.

If declared, the Brotherhood and consequently its allies will be subjected to US sanctions.

The Brotherhood has links with some Muslim organizations and countries, one of which is Turkey.

Islamist-rooted AKP has been hosting many of the group’s members who had to flee to Turkey after it was designated as a terrorist organization in 2013, in Egypt. Ankara sees the Brotherhood as an entirely peaceful organization.

The US move came after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi visited Trump on April 9, according to a report in the New York Times on Tuesday.

It is not clear whether the US would ultimately go ahead with such a move or if it goes ahead, when. It is, however, clear that the US intention will be enough to cause a disturbance between the NATO allies, the US and Turkey.

Another Brotherhood-related friction with Germany emerges

Brotherhood-related friction between Turkey and Germany had emerged as well early in January.

Two prominent members from the Muslim Brotherhood joined a conference in Koln organized by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), the union linked to Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), which has come under repeated criticism in recent years, partly because of Erdogan’s political influence.

Cem Ozdemir, former co-director and MP from Green Party heavily criticized the incident arguing such conferences and events were being used as a “long arm of Erdogan in Europe,” DW Turkish service reported.

“These places [mosques] of worship are abused by foreign governments and this should cause alarm bells to ring in Berlin and Brussels,” said Ozdemir.

Joachim Hermann, minister of domestic affairs in the Bavaria federal state and representative for the Christian Social Unity Party (CSU) alluded to how “it is particularly scary to know that DITIB invited the Muslim Brotherhood to their conference.”

In his comments to Augsburger Allgemeiner, Hermann went on to say that it is not out of question to have DITIB supervised by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), the domestic intelligence agency.

“The Muslim Brotherhood represents a stance against the constitution, this means the state should be very careful in this case,” Hermann warned.

Political tension with the US has been high for some time

The controversy over the F-35 is the latest of a series of diplomatic rows between the US and Turkey. Early in April, Washington told Ankara that it could face repercussions for buying Russia’s S-400 missile defense system under a sanctions law known as Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CATSAA)

The CATSAA is designed to target enemies of the US. Through CATSAA, the US administration has imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

In an attempt to make Ankara cancel its S-400 purchase the Trump administration has halted the delivery of F-35 fighter jet equipment to Turkey.

The two NATO allies have been at odds with each other regarding Turkey’s import of Iranian crude oil.

On April 22 the US declared it would end previously granted sanctions exemptions to some eight countries, including Turkey so that they cannot import Iranian crude oil anymore. If those countries continue to import oil from the Islamic Republic after May 2, companies in those countries will be subjected to being locked out of the US financial system.

Turkey’s request for an Islamic cleric from the US has been a major cause of friction between the two countries.

Erdogan’s regime has been trying to make the Trump administration extradite  US-based Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for being a leader of a terrorist group, which allegedly conducted a failed coup in 2016. The extradition requests have been denied by the US, citing a lack of substantial evidence.

What is the Brotherhood

Founded in Egypt in 1928, the Brotherhood sought to establish a worldwide Islamic caliphate by peaceful means, denying using violence.

Some conservative and anti-Muslim activists, however, have argued for years that the Brotherhood has been a breeding ground for terrorists, with its estimated one million members.

The group came to power after Egypt’s first modern free election in 2012, a year after long-serving autocrat Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising.

A year later, al-Sisi ousted the Brotherhood’s President Mohamed Mursi in 2013. Since then, Sisi has overseen a crackdown on Islamists, banning the movement and sending its leaders, together with its supporters to jail.

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