The Trump administration is exploring the possibility of classifying the Muslim Brotherhood, a loose-knit organization with deep ties to radical Islamic terrorism, as a foreign terrorist organization.
The designation would implement crippling economic and travel sanctions on businesses and organizations that conduct business with entities affiliated with Muslim Brotherhood groups.
What are the details?
According to The New York Times, the Trump administration began exploring the possibility after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi met privately with President Donald Trump on April 9 at the White House.
During that meeting, el-Sisi reportedly urged the president to place the designation on the Muslim Brotherhood, to which the president responded in the affirmative, a response that Trump's advisers interpreted as a verbal commitment, the Times reported.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Tuesday that the White House is exploring the option.
"The president has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern, and this designation is working its way through the internal process," she said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House national security adviser John Bolton reportedly support the move, according to the Times.
Is there opposition?
While partisan officials within the White House support Trump's idea, the Times reported that career national security officials oppose outright designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization over fears the move would erode relations with several Middle Eastern allies that support the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Times explains:
As a matter of policy, such a designation could have rippling consequences, including further stressing relations with Turkey, whose president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is a staunch Brotherhood supporter. It is also unclear what the consequences would be for Americans and American humanitarian organizations with links to the group, and human rights officials have worried that Mr. el-Sisi might use it to justify an even harsher crackdown against his opponents.
Among the alternative ideas raised at the meeting last week were trying to identify and target a terrorist-linked group with ties to the Brotherhood that has not yet been designated or limiting any designation's scope to the Egyptian branch, officials said.
What is the Muslim Brotherhood?
While the group has existed for nearly a century, the Muslim Brotherhood rose to global prominence in 2011 and 2012 during the "Arab Spring," a series of uprisings and revolutions across the Muslim world.
The group, which advocates for a society based on Shariah law, most notably rose to political power in Egypt after Hosni Mubarak was overthrown as Egypt's president during the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi replaced Mubarak, but was overthrown himself in 2013 during a military uprising led by el-Sisi, who at the time served as Egypt's minister of defense and commander-in-chief of Egyptian armed forces.
Morsi would later be sent to trial on allegations that he killed political dissidents and spied for Islamic terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which the U.S. designated as a foreign terrorist organization on April 8.
Because of the Muslim's Brotherhood's well-documented ties to terror groups, several U.S. allies have already designated the group as a terrorist organization, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.