Surprisingly enough, Muslim Brotherhood organizations in Egypt and Syria share a common destiny. This veteran movement appears to have reached the limits of its power in both countries and is in decline.
DEBKA Weekly’s experts offer five reasons why the Brotherhood may have outlived its mission.
1. It has failed to throw up noteworthy leaders of national caliber. This may be due to the Brotherhood’s unyielding ideology and rigid structure which prohibits cooperation with other forces – even when it attains office. During its year in power in Egypt, the allied Salafi Al-Nur party was systematically denied access to government jobs and so pushed into the arms of the Brotherhood’s opponents, including the generals, who were delighted to welcome this unforeseen supporter.
2. The Muslim Brotherhood's legendary grass-roots mobilizing capabilities, bugbear of Arab rulers, turned out to be overrated when it came to attaining and holding national power, although still capable of making trouble.
3. Its arcane hierarchical leadership system is unsuited to managing a modern state apparatus, with its secret votes for a Shura Council by members with undisclosed identities.
The Muslim Brotherhood had finally gained the presidency with executive authority over the government administration, the armed forces and the national bank, and the support of a parliamentary majority. Yet this president was denied the right to exercise this power and obliged to submit to the edicts of a secret elite council, the Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau.
Rigid Brotherhood regimen undermined Morsi
This dual system undermined the Mohamed Morsi’s presidency.
It also disenfranchised the majority of Egyptian government officials who were not Brotherhood members. The army and the bulk of the civil service therefore had nothing to lose and everything to gain from pushing the Muslim Brotherhood out of office.
4. The Brotherhood’s political vision of an Islamic caliphate ruled by Sharia law is incompatible with the political, financial and military appurtenances of a modern state. Even if it is brought to power in democratic elections, this archaic regimen is incapable of democratic rule or safeguarding national security.
This was demonstrated in Egypt, Syria and even Turkey, where an updated version of Muslim Brotherhood government attempted by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is falling apart (See the next item on Turkey).
5. The Muslim Brotherhood failed to create a loyal republican guard, militia or security apparatus for buttressing its regime.
The Brothers did use paramilitary militias for controlling the street and fighting their opponents.
In Syria, for instance, those militias were able to harass central government, without however posing a real threat to the regime.
In the Syrian uprising against President Bashar Assad, the expansion of the revolt diminished the Muslim Brotherhood’s role. Outside of pockets of traditional support, like Homs and Hama, the Brotherhood played only a marginal role in the mainstream of the revolt.
Decades of repression had their effect
In Egypt too, the Brotherhood ran a clandestine security apparatus called Algihas Al-Siri. But during its year in office, this group was never able to penetrate the national intelligence and security services. It was reduced to providing the organization’s leaders with bodyguards and protecting activists in Egyptian streets.
This impotence was manifested in Brotherhood protests this week against the ouster of Mohammed Morsi.
It was not merely the outcome of a rigid ideology and hierarchy, but also of decades of persecution and repression by Arab rulers – for the past 60 years by Egyptian presidents Gemal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, and for 40 years by the Assad clan in Syria.
So effective were their repressive methods that the Muslim Brotherhood has never truly recovered – even in Egypt during two brief years of freedom from persecution – more than their Syrian brothers ever enjoyed.
President Barack Obama's vision of a new Muslim order built around a moderate Muslim Brotherhood was rooted in the common misconception that this organization was capable of national political leadership. The Syrian and Egyptian experiences say otherwise.