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US embassy cables: Muslim Brotherhood started meeting with US Government in 1986

MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD: EAGER FOR U.S. CONTACTS

Ref ID: 86CAIRO21221

Date: 1986-09-16 10:43

Origin: Embassy Cairo

Classification: SECRET

O 161043Z SEP 86
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7648
INFO AMCONSUL ALEXANDRIA

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 21221

E.O. 12356:  DECL: OADR
TAGS: PINS PINR EG
SUBJECT:  MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD:  EAGER FOR U.S. CONTACTS,
FEARFUL OF GOE

1.  S-ENTIRE TEXT.

2.  SUMMARY.  THREE STRONG IMPRESSIONS EMERGED FROM EMBOFF’S INTRODUCTORY CALL ON THE NEW MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD LEADERSHIP SEPTEMBER 10:  (1) CURRENT LEADERSHIP IS KEEN TO ESTABLISH A DIALOGUE WITH THE U.S. EMBASSY; (2) AT THE SAME TIME, IT IS VERY WORRIED ABOUT AVOIDING PROBLEMS WITH THE MINISTRY OF THE INTERIOR; AND (3) NEW SUPREME GUIDE ABUL  NASR APPEARS MORE A FIGUREHEAD THAN THE REAL POWER WITHIN THE LEADERSHIP, WHO MAY BE DEPUTY MUSTAFA MASHHUR.  END SUMMARY.

3.  POLOFF AND POL FSN MADE FIRST OFFICIAL CONTACT WITH MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD LEADERSHIP SINCE DEATH LAST MAY OF PREVIOUS SUPREME GUIDE OMAR TALMASSANI, MEETING AT OFFICES PREVIOUSLY USED BY BANNED MB MAGAZINE AL-DA’WA SEPTEMBER 10.  CORDIAL BUT SHORT MEETING WAS DEVOTED ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY TO WHY THE MEETING COULD NOT TAKE PLACE AT GREATER LENGTH AS PLANNED.  DEPUTY SUPREME GUIDE MUSTAFA MASHHUR HAD POSITIVELY AND PROMPTLY RESPONDED TO EMBASSY REQUEST SEPTEMBER 9 FOR THE CALL ON NEW SUPREME GUIDE MUHAMMED HAMAD ABUL NASR, BUT HAD ASKED EMBASSY TO SECURE MINISTRY  OF INTERIOR CLEARANCE. WISHING TO AVOID THE PRECEDENT OF REQUESTING SUCH ADVANCE CLEARANCE  FOR DIPLOMATIC WORK, EMBOFF APPEARED AT THE APPOINTED TIME AND PLACE WITHOUT MININT CLEARANCE.  HE EXPLAINED THAT THE CALL WAS ROUTINE COURTESY CALL.

4.  MASHHUR AND ABUL NASR CORDIALLY WELCOMED POLOFF AND FSN, OFFERED THE CUSTOMARY SWEETS, AND MET WITH THEM FOR ABOUT TWENTY MINUTES.  HOWEVER, IN THE PRESENCE OF A MALE SECRETARY TAKING APPARENTLY VERBATIM NOTES, MASHHUR AND ABUL NASR REPEATEDLY INSISTED ON THE NEED FOR THE EMBASSY TO SECURE WRITTEN PERMISSION FOR THE MB TO MEET WITH EMBOFFS — INSISTING EQUALLY STRONGLY UPON THEIR WELCOME OF CONTINUED CONTACTS WITH THE EMBASSY.  THEY STATED THEIR WILLINGNESS TO MEET EMBOFF AT LENGTH ASAP — EVEN LATER THE SAME DAY, OR IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS — PROVIDED THE WRITTEN PERMISSION WAS FORTHCOMING FROM THE MININT.  THEY EXPLAINED THAT IN THE PAST THE GOE HAD PROVIDED VERBAL APPROVAL FOR MB CONTACTS WITH THE BRITISH EMBASSY, AND YET HAD CITED THESE CONTACTS AS ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES WHEN IT FOUND THIS USEFUL AGAINST THE MB.  POLOFF NOTED, TO NO AVAIL, THAT EMBASSY OFFICERS HAD HAD PERIODIC TALKS WITH TALMASSANI IN THE TWO YEARS PRECEDING HIS DEATH. MB INTERLOCUTORS CONCEDED THIS POINT, ACKNOWLEDGED THAT EMBASSY MAINTAINS CONTACTS EVEN WITH POLITICAL OPPOSITION FIGURES IN THE NORMAL COURSE OF ITS WORK, AND NOTED THAT THE MB IS ALSO FREE TO MEET WITH JOURNALISTS . NONETHELESS, THEY INSISTED THAT EGYPTIAN LAW REQUIRES THE MB TO SECURE PERMISSION TO MEET REPRESENTATIVES OF ANY FOREIGN GOVERNMENT.  THEY WERE CAREFUL TO ASK THAT EMBASSY SECURE A GENERAL MININT CLEARANCE THAT WOULD PERMIT REPEATED CONTACTS WITH  MORE THAN ONE EMBASSY OFFICER, SO THAT WRITTEN PERMISSION WOULD NOT HAVE TO BE OBTAINED FOR EACH MEETING.

5.  POLOFF EXPRESSED FULL RESPECT FOR EGYPTIAN LAW AND UNDERSTANDING FOR THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD’S CONCERNS. HE STATED HIS HOPE THAT THE ISSUE COULD BE RESOLVED QUICKLY TO PERMIT AN EARLY RETURN MEETING FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROMOTING MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING.  BEFORE TAKING LEAVE, HE ALSO CONVEYED EMBASSY’S RESPECT FOR THOSE PRESENT AND FOR THE ROLE OF ISLAM IN EGYPTIAN SOCIETY. MASHHUR AND ABUL NASR RESPONDED WARMLY AND AGAIN STATED THEIR WELCOME FOR CONTACTS WITH THE EMBASSY, “BOTH AS MUSLIMS AND AS ARABS.”

6.  IMPRESSIONS FROM THIS EXCHANGE:

(1) THE MB IS EAGER TO STEP UP CONTACTS WITH THE U.S. EMBASSY.  WE CAN ONLY SURMISE THAT, APART FROM WHATEVER IDEOLOGICAL THINKING THIS DESIRE MAY REFLECT, ONE MOTIVE MAY BE TO ADD TO THE MB’S LEGITIMACY AS A POLITICAL ENTITY.

(2) THE SUCCESSOR LEADERSHIP IS MORE CONCERNED TO STAY CLEAR OF PROBLEMS WITH THE GOE.  TALMASSANI HAD NOT REQUESTED PRIOR CLEARANCE, AT LEAST NOT VIA THIS EMBASSY, FOR HIS SEVERAL CONTACTS WITH EMBOFFS. A SEPARATE CONVERSATION BETWEEN POLOFF AND A JOURNALIST CONNECTED TO THE MB INDICATED THAT THE MB IS VERY CONCERNED OVER THE RECENT WELL-PUBLICIZED ARRESTS OF NON-MB FUNDAMENTALISTS.  THIS APPARENT GOE CRACKDOWN ON NON-MB FUNDAMENTALISTS MAY BE ONE FACTOR BEHIND THE MB’S UNPRECEDENTED INSISTENCE UPON MININT CLEARANCE TO MEET WITH US.

(3) MB LEADERSHIP APPEARED TO LACK SELF CONFIDENCE AND COHESION.  THIS MAY BE ANOTHER FACTOR BEHIND ITS CAUTION.  ABUL NASR APPEARED PHYSICALLY FRAIL AND MORE A FIGUREHEAD THAN THE DOMINANT PRESENCE IN THE MEETING.  HIS COMPLEXION WAS SALLOW AND HIS WESTERN BUSINESS SUIT HUNG ON HIM LOOSELY.  HIS VOICE WAS RASPY AND UNSTEADY, AND HIS VERY THICK EYEGLASSES MAY INDICATE FAILING VISION.  ALTHOUGH ABUL NASR SAT IN THE POSITION OF HONOR BEHIND A DESK,  MASHHUR, ACROSS THE ROOM ON A COUCH, WAS THE MORE IMPOSING FIGURE.  MASHHUR, APPARENTLY IN HIS MID-SIXTIES, WAS RESPECTFUL — HE DID NOT INTERRUPT ABUL NASR — BUT NOT DEFERENTIAL.  HE CLEARLY DOMINATED THE CONVERSATION WITH STEADY VOICE AND EYECONTACT, AND THE MB NOTETAKER LOOKED REPEATEDLY TOWARD MASHHUR AS HE TRANSCRIBED THE CONVERSATION.   MOREOVER, OUTER OFFICE MB STAFF COMMENTS TO POLOFF OF PROFOUND REGRET OVER LOSS OF TALMASSANI SEEMED INTENDED TO CONVEY PERCEPTIONS OF ABUL NASR’S INADEQUACY AS A SUCCESSOR.

7.  WE DO NOT INTEND TO GET IN THE MIDDLE BETWEEN THE SHAKY MB LEADERSHIP AND GOE.  BEYOND ITS OWN CONCERNS, TALMASSANI’S SUCCESSORS MAY BE ATTEMPTING TO USE US TO TEST WHETHER THE MININT IS READY TO BESTOW LEGITIMACY UPON THE MB.  THROUGH CASUAL LOW KEY CONTACTS IN THE FOREIGN MINISTRY, WE INTEND TO MAKE CLEAR THAT OUR NORMAL DIPLOMATIC WORK HERE INCLUDES CONTACTS ACROSS THE WIDE SPECTRUM OF EGYPTIAN SOCIETY.  WE SHALL CONTINUE TO PURSUE CONTACTS WITH THE MB, MAKING CLEAR TO THEM ALSO THAT WE HAVE REMINDED THE MFA OF OUR GENERAL APPROACH.

WISNER

Source: WikiLeaks

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