Alwaght- The Muslim Brotherhood is known across the world as being a reformist movement. However, its behavior and performance in Syria— its best example is the 1982 insurgency in Hama in west-central Syria— has been in a way that it could be recognized as a subversive force in the country. Being the oldest Islamist movement in Syria, Muslim Brotherhood is now extremely isolated, and is predicted to take a very small role in Syria’s political future. The reasons for such a prediction are as follows:
Taking tactical approach and diversion from the principles
After foundation in Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood pursued the idea of establishment of an Islamic government based on calm and gradual reforming process through social education and planning methods. They also upheld the idea of closeness of Islamic religious branches and showed no support for the takfirism. A proof for this claim is the statement published in 1980 in Al-Nazeer magazine by Muslim Brotherhood, lauding the Islamic Revolution of Iran of 1979. The statement read: “the Islamic Revolution of Iran is the revolution of all of the Islamic movements across the Muslim world, although there could be different ideologies leading these movements.”
However, after spark of crisis in Syria, the social status of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria was impaired as they preferred to break up with many of their initial principles and policies, and due to their tactical and interest-based dealing with major developments taking place in the country. Some experts suggest that the movement now holds only a 20 percent base in the Syrian society. They add that once it decides to participate in some sort of election in the future— either parliamentary or presidential— it would certainly fail to make any gains.
Among the other opposition groups in the country, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has the longest age. It caused troubles for the Syrian government several times even before the beginning of the 2011 crisis. This is why it is recognized as the most influential group opposing the Damascus government.
This comes while its new leaders choose to act with a consideration of the time’s conditions and requirements— a behavior not hidden from the close watch of the American think tanks. The Brookings Institution describes the pragmatic behavior of the leaders of the Islamist group and says that despite the fact that Muslim Brotherhood has Islamic roots, when it comes to joining the Syrian National Council (SNC) — an entity founded a couple of months after start of protests in 2011—, its leaders never insist on their Islamist pathways in a bid to have better contacts with allies and take the leadership of the SNC. Additionally, the rifts in the body of its leadership have seen a surge, destroying the unity and consistency and control of the movement which strives after taking high-profile role in the country’s political future. It must be taken into consideration that the new approaches the new leaders adopted would distance from them social groups with religious tendencies. This comes while due to their violent past the movement holds no place in the eyes of the Western players of Syrian crisis, and it would be isolated even more in Syria by the West, especially the US.
Ignoring anti-Israeli resistance
The Palestinian cause and the anti-Israeli fight after occupation of Palestine by the Israelis have turned to a legitimizing factor for the different parties and movements across the Arab world, to the point that even terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda branch in Syria, have set liberation of Al-Quds as their ideal. Therefore, it can be firmly presumed that one of the most significant factors affecting the region’s developments and establishment of the governments is their vision on the anti-Israeli resistance and the way they deal with the Israeli regime. This factor is important because the region’s people are highly conscious of the issue, and also because the countries of the region are recognized and evaluated based on their approach to Tel Aviv and the resistance against Israeli occupation. Like many other countries in the region Syria is no exception. The issue of Golan Heights and their liberation from the occupation of the Israeli regime is a factor not only influencing Damascus at home but also it affects its regional role, and even it determines the way the regional and transregional countries view Syria. Syria’s role is so crucial in the West Asia region that the analysts argue that peace is impossible in the region without Damascus.
It is for these reasons that the Syrian future political system, either the government of President Bashar al-Assad keeps standing or a new government rises to power in the country, needs to make its stance clear regarding dealing with the Israeli regime. It needs to specify its position about cooperation with or confrontation against the majorly anti-Tel Aviv Resistance Axis in the region.
Should we seek having a clear understanding of the positions of Muslim Brotherhood on the case, we need to get back to remarks and performance of its leaders. In the past, the leaders of the movement took tough stances towards the Israeli regime, seeing the armed battle the only way to deal with the Regime. However, in past few years, they showed a kind of easing of their firm stances concerning fight against Tel Aviv. When in April this year the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Tel Aviv would never return Golan Heights to Syria, Zahir Salem, the spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria, said that the movement wanted to get the occupied Syrian territory back from the Israelis in a peaceful way, adding that when something could be achieved through peaceful ways, why there should be war.
“The world laws support this Syrian right, and liberation of Golan Heights is a priority for all of the Syrian people”, continued Salem.
The leaders of Muslim Brotherhood even failed to take positions like the leader of the ISIS terrorist group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or the leader of Al-Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri. Such a behavior laid bare the fact that confrontation of the Israeli regime is no longer a priority for Muslim Brotherhood, and even more it indicates that the movement is ready to negotiate and make compromises with Tel Aviv. This fact could be recorded as negative point in the profile of Muslim Brotherhood’s performance in Syria.
Lacking charismatic leadership
One of Muslim Brotherhood’s strong points when it was founded in Syria was having a charismatic leading body. The charisma of Mustafa al-Siba’i, the leader of Islamic Socialist Front, the Syrian branch of Muslim Brotherhood, went beyond Syria, and he was known as a person with exceptional leading powers across the countries where the movement had roots and activity. But after him none of movement’s leaders managed to gain the same charisma al-Siba’i had. If the same charisma was transferred to the later leaders of the Islamist movement, it could easily attract young people even from out of the country. Charisma is so significant in terms of leadership that terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda have been successful in recruiting a large number of youths using charismatic figures like Abdullah al-Muhaysini, an originally Saudi cleric, to provoke religious emotions. This comes while the current Syrian Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders are having difficulties leaving a deep impact on the Syrian society.
Lacking an internal unity
Having in mind that a movement could have a domestic cohesion only when its members have an acceptable level of unity, and certainly common objectives and ideals could bring about this expected level of consistency, the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria following death of Mustafa al-Siba’i went dispersed. This status continued to the time of eruption of devastating crisis of 2011. Even the conflict declined to repair the inconsistency of the movement. This issue pushed the leaders of Muslim Brotherhood who believed in armed confrontation to lean towards the militant groups like Ahrar ash-Sham, al-Nusra Front, and others. The group members who were living in exile have managed to prepare to get a share in the country’s political future using support provided by the foreign countries.
Failing to mobilize resources
One of mistakes concerning the Syrian crisis is that many see the Muslim Brotherhood as triggering the conflict in the country, while the crisis started from Daraa in southwestern Syria, where Muslim Brotherhood has the least presence and influence, and the strongest drives moving the anti-government protests were the living and economic conditions. In fact, the movement during the crisis never managed to organize its supporters under a united entity, and so failed to make influential moves. The movement only exploited the critical conditions in the country to ask for money and arms from the foreign countries. It distributed the supplies between the other armed movements as it lost the proper social base in the country. It is also accused of financial corruption during the process of distribution of foreign aids.
Following foreign countries
Despite the fact that Muslim Brotherhood in Syria was initially an original Islamist move, with 85-year record of political and religious activities, allegiance to foreign countries including Qatar which is largely dependent to the West is a new behavior by the movement that challenges its independence in the country and exposes to bargaining away one of the most significant identity features of the movement.
By Al Waght