An expert on northern Africa said in a Manhattan appearance Tuesday that the Muslim Brotherhood — which has taken power in Egypt and Tunisia and is gaining ground in Libya and Syria — already has an “absolutely horrifying record of mass atrocities” in power.
The evidence: Sudan, where President Omar al-Bashir is from the Muslim Brotherhood. In that country, 1.8 million have died during al-Bashir’s rule. That includes conflicts between Sudan and the now-independent South Sudan, and also with the Darfur region. Muslim Brotherhood ideology is at the heart of the problems, he said.
“There’s nothing to make you think that they will protect human rights,” said Andrew Natsios, a former special envoy to Sudan in 2006 and 2007.
Under al-Bashir, Sudan has been “the closest ally of Iran,” Natsios said, and also indirectly connected to Osama bin Laden.
While the so-called Arab Spring appeared to be a potential flowering of democracy in the region, Natsios said it should now be characterized as the “Arab Winter.” That’s because the Muslim Brotherhood has used the opportunity to gain power – in Egypt, where president Mohammed Morsi is a member and in Tunisia, where the prime minister is, too. The same thing could happen in Syria, Natsios said.
“We need to be very worried about what has happened,” Natsios said. “Other countries in the region are extremely upset… but we don’t seem to realize what’s going on.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is opposed to democracy,” he said. “They believe democracy is a corrupt system” and that the only real law needed is sharia law. That’s the strict fundamentalist Islamic law that includes executions by stoning and crucifiction, chopping off a hand and foot for thievery, and complete subservience for women.
Currently an executive professor at the George H.W. Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M, Natsios was the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development from 2001 to 2005 prior to becoming the special envoy to Sudan. He’s also been at Georgetown and also served for years in the Massachusetts legislature. He is a Republican and said he has been advising the Romney campaign, although he said his presentation in Manhattan was not intended to advocate for either candidate.
He recommends that the U.S. essentially treat the Muslim Brotherhood as it did the communists in the Cold War. That is, the U.S. should try to contain it and allow it to eventually collapse when its leaders fail to produce progress for their nations. They are not interested in job creation, for instance; they believe that all their problems will disappear if they can only implement sharia law.
Specifically, Natsios said the U.S. should build a stronger military alliance with South Sudan, which has a large land Army and is very pro-American. He said the U.S. should build more cultural bridges with moderate Muslims – from the Sufi tradition, rather than the Salafi tradition, from which the Muslim Brotherhood springs. And the U.S. should build aid programs and military training support across north Africa to keep the chaos from spreading, he said.
Among other things, Natsios said that this region of the world will become increasingly important because of “huge oil reserves” that have been discovered there. The current presidential campaign, largely focused on jobs and the economy, misses the point that if the international energy market goes through some convulsions, “there’s not going to be an economy,” Natsios said. “So this is important in our national interest. They need our help.”
Natsios was in Manhattan to speak in a lecture series coordinated by K-State Political Science Prof. Dale Herspring. It’s called the Political, Diplomatic and Military Lecture Series.