Coptic SolidarityU.K. Orders Investigation into Muslim Brotherhood
By Louisa Loveluck - UK Telegraph
Published on Wednesday, 02 April 2014 11:00
Britain's ambassador to Saudi Arabia has been asked to compile a report on the movement’s 'philosophy and values and alleged connections with extremism and violence'
David Cameron has ordered an urgent investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood’s alleged role in violent extremism, highlighting pressure from Britain’s allies in the Middle East to take a tougher line against the organisation.
In Egypt, thousands of Brotherhood supporters have been arrested as part of an aggressive crackdown against allies of former president Mohamed Morsi, following his overthrow by the military in July of last year.
London is now a key hub from which the movement is shaping its international message, as reported by the Telegraph back in January. There is no public evidence, however, to suggest that the Brotherhood is commanded from London.
"The Prime Minister has ordered a review to get a better understanding of the Muslim Brotherhood and its values – and look into its alleged links to extremism,” a Downing Street source told the Guardian on Tuesday.
Last month, BAE systems, the British defence firm, finalised a deal on the price of 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets it is selling to Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom regards the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to its own security and last month officially declared it as a "terrorist group”. Other British allies in the Gulf, notably the United Arab Emirates, take the same view.
The British investigation will draw on the resources of MI5 and MI6, examining claims of Brotherhood involvement in a bomb attack which killed three people in Egypt’s once-popular tourist hub of South Sinai.
The bomb blast was one of a number of attacks to have rocked Egypt in the months since Mr Morsi's overthrow. Despite its public pronouncements linking the Brotherhood to similar attacks, Egypt’s army-backed authorities have failed to produce public evidence to support such claims.
Most high-profile attacks have been claimed by Ansar Bayt el Maqdis, an al-Qaeda linked militant group with no known links the Brotherhood.
In some cases, lower level property attacks have been claimed by fledgling armed groups that include young individuals from the Brotherhood, but there is currently no evidence to suggest higher coordination of such efforts.
Whitehall’s investigation into Brotherhood comes as the Prime Minister faces pressure to follow examples set by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the Downing Street source told the Guardian. Both have criminalised the movement in an attempt to cripple its political influence.
Mr Cameron reportedly ordered the investigation into the Brotherhood after concluding that Whitehall has insufficient intelligence about the movement’s activities in Britain or Egypt.
Sir John Jenkins, the British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, has been asked to compile a report on the movement’s “philosophy and values and alleged connections with extremism and violence”.
Sir John Sawers, the MI6 chief, is expected to play a key role in the investigation. Mr Sawers served as UK ambassador to Egypt between 2001-2003. Earlier he served as Tony Blair's foreign affairs adviser.
Although a behind-the-scenes investigation into the Brotherhood’s activities will come as little surprise, the public nature of its leaking suggests a desire on the part of the British government to nail its colours to the mast on an issue that has caused a diplomatic headache for much of the west.
It also raises questions about the influence of Saudi pressure on British foreign policy. The Gulf state has been flexing its geopolitical muscles in the wake of Mr Morsi’s overthrow, replacing the United States as Egypt’s chief benefactor, and leading a region-wide campaign against Qatar over its support of the Brotherhood.