Exclusive: Lawmakers call on Trump administration to outlaw Muslim Brotherhood with new strategy

Lawmakers behind a House bill aimed at designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization have prepared a draft letter calling on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to designate the group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The draft letter was signed by some two dozen congressmen and was shown to Fox News.

The draft letter, which Fox News has authenticated, calls on Tillerson to consider the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act of 2017 that is sponsored by 63 members of Congress.

 The letter gives examples of how the Muslim Brotherhood had been outlawed in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and says by following suit, the U.S. would be in a position to stifle those organizations by adding financial and travel restrictions and making it difficult for the group to function, while also further isolating them.

While the lawmakers support a full designation of the group, they also suggest a new strategy by which the administration could first designate country-specific organizations. It notes that chapters of the Brotherhood in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are all good examples of where a country-specific designation would work.

One Middle-East adviser closely involved in the congressional push on the Brotherhood told Fox News the designation is a “no-brainer.”

 “There might be a debate over labeling the entire Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, but there's no debate about these three branches. Our Egyptian, Saudi, and UAE allies already did the legwork uncovering all the bad behavior, and they concluded these branches support terrorism, and they are looking to us for support. Designating these branches is good politics, good policy, and - especially - good diplomacy,” the adviser said.

 The letter is expected to be part of a broader legislative effort aimed at pressing the Trump administration to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as an FTO in part or in full.

 The draft argues that there are precedents in designating nation-specific terrorist organizations and lists Ansar al-Shari’a, which has two groups in Libya and one in Tunisia, designated as separate FTOs.

 The lawmakers concluded by calling for immediate action on the Brotherhood by the State Department, arguing that the individual designations would be an important first stage in the international fight against terrorism.

 The Trump administration had reportedly considered designating the Muslim Brotherhood as an FTO back in February. Former Trump Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was said to be one of the officials pushing for the designation but lost out to other voices in the administration who were opposed.

Florida Republican congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, who is one of the co-sponsors of the House bill, told Fox News’ Eric Shawn earlier this year that the Brotherhood threatens the U.S’ national security interests and should be designated by the administration.  

 “You have leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood who are designated terrorists, you have organizations under the Muslim Brotherhood, like Hamas, who are designated as terrorist organizations, so I think it’s pretty much a no-brainer that this is a terrorist organization.”

 Back in January, during his confirmation hearing, Tillerson said that groups like Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood were “agents of radical Islam.” The lawmakers now want him to take decisive action against the group.

 

 

Ben Evansky reports for Fox News on the United Nations and international affairs.

He can be followed @BenEvansky