DAVOS, Switzerland - While the White House on Monday announced Monday that it favored a dialogue between the embattled Government of Hosni Mubarak and all opposition parties, and would not rule out involving the Muslim Brotherhood, former State Department official Leslie Gelb had a dramatically different view to offer.
In an interview Monday with The Atlantic, Gelb, currently President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, spoke of the Brotherhood's past support for Al Qaeda and voiced serious doubt that they are the kind of truly moderate, fully democratic and non-violent party that Washington is hoping for. His opinion was much more in line with the consensus that emerged from the closing hours of the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos than with the emerging trend inside the Obama Administration.
While Robert Gibbs told reporters Monday that before the Brotherhood could be involved in a dialogue it had to demonstrate "an adherence to the law, adherence to nonviolence, and a willingness to part of that democratic process," Gelb was far more skeptical.
"They say that they will be peaceful and democratic," Gelb said in a telephone interview from his home in New York. "But we do know flat out that their foreign policy is against U.S. interests. They would not be with us in counter-terrorism operations as Egypt now is, they have shown sympathy toward Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, and they have raised fundamental questions about the Israeli-Egypt peace."
Gelb noted that the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood - Yusuf al-Qaradawi - had both inspired and supported jihadi interests and Al Qaeda in the past. "Support for Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda's role in the Middle East has been part of the Brotherhood's history, and this is one of the reasons why a prudent person would be skeptical about their claim to being committed to democracy," said Gelb.
Asked why he believed a Muslim Brotherhood role in any future Egyptian government would endanger U.S. counter-terrorism operations, Gelb said that irrespective of their current moderate rhetoric "history suggests they would be very sympathetic to groups that we consider to be terrorists, including Hamas and Hezbollah."
As the annual meetings in Davos ended, delegates were beginning to focus on what kind of government might come after President Mubarak eventually leaves office. The overwhelming message that emerged over the weekend in Davos was one of concern that the Muslim Brotherhood could not be trusted.
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