Below I’ve translated a series of tweets from Abu Obeida al-Gharib, a leader in Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusrah. He weighs in at length on divisions within the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which was mostly decapitated after Egypt’s 2013 coup and has since been split between a militant youth wing and a more circumspect old guard.
Al-Gharib – who may himself be Egyptian, although I can’t say that definitively – provides a sort of outside, jihadist perspective on the Brotherhood’s splits and how its leadership have struggled with how far to take violent revolutionary action. He also refers more or less matter-of-factly to the Brotherhood’s links to various nascent militant organizations, including al-Uqab al-Thouri (Revolutionary Punishment). (For more on the new rise of Egypt militancy, see Mokhtar Awad and Mostafa Hashem’s recent “Egypt’s Escalating Islamist Insurgency.”)
Anyway, read for the narrative, but stick around for the final, closing punch. Spoiler alert: Jihadists may not love any wing of the Brotherhood, youth or old guard, but they do have a vested interest in how this debate shakes out.
The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is witnessing a sharp division between its older and youth trends. The youth trend within the Brotherhood thinks there has to be new mechanisms to confront Egypt’s coup, including popular and armed confrontation in addition to protests.
The youth trend in the Egyptian Brotherhood took control of the organization’s field leadership for a period after the first and most of the second tier of its leadership was arrested. That resulted in the establishment of two wings to confront the security forces and the military: one military wing, represented by the groups of al-Uqab al-Thouri (Revolutionary Retribution); and one semi-military wing, the groups of al-Muqawamah al-Sha’biyyah (the Popular Resistance).
The goal of the groups of al-Uqab al-Thouri was to carry out purely military operations targeting the Egyptian security services and army. As for al-Muqawamah al-Sha’biyyah, it was meant to target security and army vehicles randomly and burn them with Molotov cocktails and other means. That was done randomly by different groups of young people who would move in all the streets and neighborhoods.
What was left of the old leadership inside the country and the leadership abroad turned a blind eye to what the youth were doing for a while so they could pressure the Egyptian regime and its security services. But the scope of [the youth’s] action started to expand, and the leadership started to feel that things were getting out of their control, that Egypt was on its way towards becoming a new Algeria, and so they decided to back off.
That’s when this clash happened between the old leadership and the youth leadership, who rejected this. The youth decided to continue their action, without paying attention to the old leadership, and in particular those leaders outside the country. The external leadership and those remaining senior figures inside the country cut off funding from the youth leadership and the families of the martyrs, detainees, and fugitives from the security services in an effort in an effort to split the Brotherhood’s membership from the youth leadership. And they managed to do it, and they regained control over the Brotherhood.
The dispute returned again with the approach of the anniversary of the January Revolution and calls to revive the revolution in Egypt, and it manifested itself in the removal of Brotherhood spokesman [Muhammad Muntasser]. The old leadership of the Brotherhood wants to rule out confrontation as an option because they know that the rug will pulled out from under them, and that things will get out of control in Eygpt. They want to keep the matter to either [Egyptian President Abdulfattah] al-Sisi or [deposed President Muhammad] Morsi. And other option is rejected, even if it’s in the interest of Muslims and sparing them from slavery and oppression.
[Abu Obeida shares a series of related headlines from Al Jazeera and Al-Islamiyun.]
The return of Muhammad Muntasser as official spokesman of the Brotherhood is the first real victory of the youth trend inside the group. Muhammad Muntasser: “The dispute inside the Brotherhood is one between the reformist and revolutionary wings. Those who lead the Brotherhood are its members inside the country, not abroad. And we won’t allow anyone to dictate to us from abroad. I don’t know anything about a deal between the Egyptian regime and the Brotherhood abroad, but what is for sure is that we’ll continue on the revolutionary path.”
It the revolutionary youth line succeeds in dominating the Brotherhood inside Egypt, that means a direct, intense confrontation with the security services.
And that’s what jihadists are waiting for…