The Brotherhood has been regarded as the inspiration for Muslim
the Arab world. The organization, founded in Egypt, spread through Saudi
financing and has served as the inspiration for Al Qaida.
Many Arab countries have banned the Brotherhood. But in Egypt, a party
composed of Brotherhood members has won 20 percent of the seats in the
National Assembly and plays a major role in domestic policy.
In 2007, officials said, the State Department was quietly fostering ties
with the Brotherhood. U.S. embassy staffers in Cairo have attended sessions
led by parliamentarians from the Brotherhood and invited the Islamists to
"We respect the laws of this country," U.S. ambassador to Egypt Francis
Ricciardone said. "But, at the same time, we're ready to establish relations
and hold meetings with all the legal political elements in the country.
Officials said a U.S. approach toward the Brotherhood was vital in wake
of the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in late June. They said the policy
could encourage what officials
have identified as a pro-Western wing of the Palestinian Islamic movement.
The administration policy has been supported by the
Democratic-controlled Congress. On April 7, House leaders, including
Democratic whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, attended a reception by the U.S. embassy
in Cairo that included Brotherhood deputies. The reception took place at the
The State Department has been discussing the new policy with the U.S.
intelligence community. On June 20, the department's Bureau of Intelligence
and Research convened a meeting with members of the CIA and Defense
Intelligence Agency to expand dialogue with the Brotherhood.
The proposal was based on a study by Robert Leiken, a researcher at the
Nixon Center. The study, commissioned by the National Intelligence Council,
urged the United States to open a formal channel to the Islamic movement.
Such a channel would include formal meetings with Brotherhood leaders
throughout the Arab and Islamic world and invite members to study or work in
the United States. Officials said the law enforcement community,
particularly the FBI, opposes the proposal, concerned that this would
facilitate Al Qaida plots to attack the United States.
At the State Department forum, Leiken was opposed by Hillel Fradin, an
Islamic expert from the Hudson Institute. Fradkin was said to have argued
that engaging the rigidly ideological Brotherhood would dash any hope for
reform within political Islam.
"You make them partners," Zeyno Baran, Fradkin's colleague at Hudson,
told the New York Sun. "They might Islamize the Muslims, but it's okay
because they can think or do what they want as long as they are not violent.
That is the misunderstanding and mistake."