Ever since the start of the unrest in Syria, in March 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood has been identified as a leader of the campaign to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. In truth, the Syrian president himself had a hand in the efforts to highlight the Brotherhood's role in organizing the violence and even blamed it for acts of terrorism against the Syrian people. There is no doubt that the regime wanted to remind the world of the movement's violent history and the years of the rebellion against the Baathist government (1976-82). That bloody episode still haunts the movement today.1 In practice, however, after the massacre in Hama and the crushing of the rebellion, the Muslim Brotherhood became a pale shadow of its past self. Many years and a long process of rehabilitation were required for it to retrieve a modicum of its former strength. The movement lost its bases of power and support in Syria, its leaders were dispersed, and its center of activity was relocated outside the country, primarily to Europe.
The main aim of this article is to examine the status, role and activity of the Muslim Brotherhood since the outbreak of the civil war in Syria. It follows the transformation of the Brotherhood from an establishment movement involved in governing the country into a violent organization opposed to the Baathist regime. It also examines the years of reconstruction in exile and the return to a conciliatory line, and even a willingness to engage in dialogue with Assad. Finally, it offers an in-depth analysis of the Brotherhood's activity and its role in the opposition, from the start of the Arab Spring in Syria until early 2015, including the need to react to the radical Islamist organizations that entered Syria and began imposing their religious and political worldviews in the territories they overran.
"THE DEMONS OF HAMA": 1946-82
In the mid-1940s, during the final years of the French mandate in Syria, a number of Islamic associations merged into a single movement — the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria was the first country, after Egypt, with a local branch. Sheikh Mustafa al-Sibai, a cleric from Homs, was chosen to lead the organization in Syria. Whereas the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hasan al-Banna, aspired to establish an Islamic regime in his country, the Syrian branch was moderate and preferred to find a place in the domestic establishment. As a movement based on the urban middle class, the Brotherhood derived its strength from Syria's four largest cities — Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Hama — and was effectively an organic part of the young state's sociopolitical order. Nevertheless, it lacked support among the educated middle class, minorities, the armed forces and residents of the rural periphery. In the parliamentary elections held in 1947, the Brotherhood won only four of the 130 seats; in 1961, in the first election after Syria's secession from the United Arab Republic (its short-lived federation with Egypt), it did better and won 10 seats. In the interim, several representatives of the movement held ministerial portfolios in the Syrian government, and Supreme Guide Issam al-Attar, al-Sibai's successor, was even offered the post of deputy prime minister.2
The first cracks between the Brotherhood and the Syrian establishment emerged when a military coup (March 8, 1963) brought the Baath movement to power. The Baath, with its secular-nationalist ideology, aimed at overturning the social pyramid in Syria. Its reforms hurt both the Sunni elite and the urban middle class, which were among the strongest supporters of the Brotherhood. In addition, because the Baath regime had a dictatorial style and was supported by many minorities, including the Alawites — considered heretics by other Muslims — the hostility towards the regime grew. Thus it was only a short time until religious circles, the representatives of the old-line Sunni urban order, reached the point where they felt obligated to take a stand against the regime and prevent it from enacting its planned social, economic, political and cultural changes. Clashes soon broke out between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the regime. The movement was outlawed and its leaders arrested; al-Attar went into exile in 1964. Nevertheless, tensions did not abate. Violent disturbances broke out in Hama in April 1964 and in Damascus in January 1965. The rioters included shopkeepers, merchants and students, who called for the restoration of democracy. The regime put down the unrest with an iron fist.3
But the religious circles' fury was not expressed in earnest until the extreme wing of the Baath movement, the neo-Baath, seized power in another military coup in February 1966. This time, the revolutionary officers did not hide behind a Sunni facade, as they had done in March 1963. The sectarian nature of the new regime was more prominent, inasmuch as the coup was carried out by Alawite and Druze officers. Under the leadership of Salah Jadid, the neo-Baathist regime pursued even more extensive changes than its predecessor. The Syrian economy became more socialist and centralized, with some elements of Marxism. Once again, the primary victims of these changes were the urban Sunnis of the upper middle class. However, the Jadid regime was criticized mainly for its anti-religious line. It intervened in the appointment of clerics to positions in the state religious establishment, forbade the study of Islam outside mosques, and arrested clerics who criticized the regime. There was a sense that the restraints had been lifted and that undermining the foundations of Islam was a central aim of the new regime, whose Alawite leaders asserted increasing control of state institutions. The Alawites were not shy about using force to suppress their opponents and depended on a very narrow base of support. This only increased hatred for the regime.4
Somewhat unexpectedly, Hafez al-Assad's rise to power in the Corrective Revolution of November 1970 improved relations between the Baath regime and the religious establishment to some extent. Assad attempted to woo the Islamist circles, forged an image of himself as a believing Muslim, and in 1972 even attained a ruling by Lebanese Shiite leader Musa al-Sadr that the Alawites are Shiite Muslims. Assad supported the construction of new mosques and promoted clerics in the state religious establishment. He appointed Najah al-Attar, the sister of Issam al-Attar, as minister of culture. (Much later she would become Bashar al-Assad's vice president.) In political and economic affairs, Assad made inroads among the Sunnis, softening their bitterness and bringing them closer to him. He built a new political system in which he placed the Sunni majority at the forefront of parliament, the government and the Baath party institutions. Assad also took steps to placate the urban middle class and merchants. He liberalized the Syrian economy, encouraged the private sector and significantly eased restrictions on foreign trade.5
But the ideological chasm between the Hafez al-Assad regime and the Brotherhood was unbridgeable. The Baath leadership was perceived as secular; Assad's 1973 directive to strike a clause from the draft of the new constitution that would have required the president to be a Muslim, made this plain for all to see. In addition, the Syrian regime at that time was at its lowest ebb from both an international and a domestic perspective. In the second half of the 1970s, Syria became even more isolated as a result of the peace process between Israel and Egypt. Its involvement in Lebanon was frowned upon in the West, especially by the United States. Syria also angered the Sunnis when, in an unprecedented move, Assad supported the Maronite Christians against the Palestinian organizations in Lebanon. Meanwhile, the severe economic crisis in Syria and disappointment with the failure of the October War (while Egypt was reaping the fruits of its audacity and recovering the Sinai) did not augment the Assad regime's support.6
In 1975, Adnan Saad al-Din of Hama was elected supreme guide of the Brotherhood. Under his leadership, the movement was reorganized and developed into a sophisticated hierarchical organization with offices, formal mechanisms and a clear division of labor. More important, the Brotherhood turned the idea of violent struggle into a concrete reality, developed its military wing and launched a jihad to turn Syria into a sharia state. From the winter of 1976 until the summer of 1979, various groups affiliated with the Brotherhood attacked high-ranking members of the state and the Baath party, and even isolated military positions and camps. Members of the Alawite sect were targeted as well. On June 16, 1979, in one of its most successful moves, Brotherhood members attacked the military academy for artillery officers in Aleppo, slaughtered 83 Alawite cadets and wounded dozens of others (unofficial sources reported an even larger number of victims).7
The conflict heated up further during the subsequent months; by early 1980 it was a full-scale insurrection. Only then, when the confrontation had become an open war, did the entire movement enter the fight, no longer willing to leave it exclusively in the hands of small groups based on the followers of Marwan Hadid. Now the Brotherhood had broad popular support among various sectors of the urban Sunnis in the large cities in northern Syria. This support was expressed in strikes, protest demonstrations and riots, with violent clashes that pitted Brotherhood supporters against government security forces and backers of the regime. At the height of the violence, in March-June 1980, the Brotherhood had the upper hand, and the regime's days seemed to be numbered. This feeling peaked after the June 26 attempt to assassinate Assad. The regime responded with a vicious and unrestrained assault on the Islamist insurgents.8
Encouraged by their success but also aware of their weaknesses, in October 1980 the Brotherhood announced the formation of the Islamic Front in Syria (not to be confused with groups currently operating in Syria with similar names). It was meant to serve as an umbrella organization for all the Islamic groups and associations in Syria, so they could coordinate and cooperate and broaden the support for the Brotherhood and the other Islamic groups and "defend Islam" in the country. The Front called on the Muslim world to join the fight against the secular and heretical Assad regime and declare holy war against it. A month later, in November 1980, the senior members of the Brotherhood — Said Hawwa, Ali Sadreddine al-Bayanouni, and Adnan Saad al-Din, the supreme guide of the Brotherhood and the spirit behind the establishment of the Front — signed a document entitled "The Islamic Revolution in Syria and Its Charter." The Front published its own charter in January 1981.9
Despite the salience of the religious aspect in the Front's political platform, however, it also included conciliatory elements that reflected a clear-headed understanding of the situation — addressing the need to deal with some of the flaws of the Islamist groups opposed to the Assad regime, especially the Brotherhood. The Islamic Front, accordingly, sought to broaden the base of support for the movement and to expand the coalition of opposition forces to include those identified with the secular camp. With this in mind, the Islamic Front promised to respect human rights, allow freedom of expression, hold free elections and institute a division of power among the branches of government, even while strictly maintaining Islamic principles.10
Although the Brotherhood anticipated victory, the Assad regime recovered and was repelling the onslaught by spring 1980. After the assassination attempt on Assad, Syrian soldiers entered a prison in Palmyra and killed a thousand inmates who were supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. Assad enlisted the help of his brother Rifaat, commander of the Defense Companies, who ordered his forces to raid nuclei of support for the Brotherhood, arresting and killing hundreds of Brotherhood activists and sympathizers. Assad understood that he was facing a concrete threat to the stability of his regime, which could be neutralized only by a determined and powerful response. The Alawites, the armed forces, the Baath party, minorities and the rural population, including Sunnis, united around him. In order to give legal validity to this campaign against the Brotherhood, the regime enacted Law 49, which made membership in the movement a capital offense. Although many Brotherhood members chose to turn themselves in and receive clemency, others continued their violent resistance.11
In late 1981, the city of Hama became a stronghold of the Brotherhood's resistance to Assad. Following a number of attacks on state institutions and symbols there, especially those of the Baath party, and including police stations and military installations, the rebels seized control of the entire city. But Assad rebounded quickly. In early 1982, Syrian military forces, spearheaded by Rifaat's Defense Companies, launched a brutal attack on the city. During the night of February 2, 1982, a merciless artillery bombardment destroyed entire neighborhoods. The official estimates alleged that between 20,000 and 30,000 residents were killed and thousands more wounded. This thorough repression of the rebellion put an end to the Brotherhood's activities in Syria. Its surviving leaders and loyalists fled to other Arab countries or Europe.12
RISING FROM THE ASHES: 1982-2011
The formation of the National Alliance triggered a debate within the Brotherhood that led to the secession of the Almaa faction. There was also a split in the leadership. The followers of Adnan Saad al-Din left for Iraq, some went to Saudi Arabia with Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda, and others found refuge in Germany, where they worked alongside Issam al-Attar. As a result of these disagreements and divisions, the movement was paralyzed for many years. Some members attempted to reconcile with the regime, while others came to the realization that moderation and cooperation were the best way to achieve the movement's aims. In February 1990, in Paris, the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups founded the National Front for Saving Syria. Its aims and declarations were similar to those of the National Alliance 10 years earlier. Once again, the goal was to reinforce links with groups holding a secular-nationalist ideology in order to strengthen the anti-Assad bloc.13
Assad took advantage of the almost lethal blow the Brotherhood had suffered. Over the years, he strengthened his popular base of power and forged alliances with extremist Islamist movements and organizations, both Sunni and Shiite, throughout the Middle East, notably the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah and Amal in Lebanon. Through these alliances, Assad pursued religious legitimacy for his regime so as to consolidate his grip, while the Islamic groups were looking for an anti-Israel and anti-Western Arab ally to stand by them, despite the winds of reconciliation with Israel and the United States that were wafting among the Arab states. These alliances did indeed prove fruitful for Assad; they painted Syria as the only Arab state that remained steadfast in its opposition to Israel and took a firm stand against the United States, while it further weakened the Muslim Brotherhood and its arguments against the regime.14
Despite the regime's newfound confidence and increased surveillance of the opposition, especially the Islamists, during the 1990s it attempted to reconcile with and attract Sunni Muslims and Islamist circles. Assad wooed additional key figures in the Syrian religious establishment, such as the mufti of Damascus, Ahmed Kuftaro (a Kurd by birth) and the well-known religious scholar Mohamed Said al-Bouti. Assad freed thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood from prison, and invited the leaders and members who had gone into exile to return home — on condition that they renounce their past activities and promise to abstain from involvement in politics. At the end of the day, however, the attempts at reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood failed. The core of the disagreement was the regime's demand that the exiled Brotherhood activists return to Syria as individuals and not revive the movement's activities. It also refused to repeal Law 49, which made membership in the Muslim Brotherhood a capital offense.15
There was another attempt at reconciliation when Bashar al-Assad came to power after his father's death in June 2000, this time initiated by the Brotherhood, which was encouraged by the reforms the younger Assad was implementing ("the Damascus Spring"). The new president called for an "administrative reform" in the public and private sectors, stressed the need to respect the legal system, and called for national cooperation and unity, which he saw as "inseparable from democratic thinking."16 Later, he rescinded his father's edict that prohibited schoolgirls from wearing traditional clothing (hijab) in the classroom, released thousands of political prisoners (some of them members of the Brotherhood) who had been arrested in the 1980s and 1990s, closed down the notorious Mezze prison and, like his father, allowed exiled members of the Brotherhood to return to Syria as individuals.17
The atmosphere of openness that reigned during Bashar al-Assad's first months in power spawned platforms for political discussion and salons for intellectual thought, which slowly gave people the courage to speak out against the regime. For example, in September 2000, the so-called "Manifesto of the 99" was published in the Arab media. The signatories called for the abrogation of the state of emergency that had been in effect since 1963, the release of political prisoners, and the adoption of a constitution "that will recognize freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and freedom of expression."18
The atmosphere of openness even penetrated the Muslim Brotherhood, which published the "National Honor Pact for Political Work" in May 2001. This document sought to spark a dialogue between the movement and other opposition groups inside and outside Syria in order to create a "modern state." That new regime would be pluralistic and allow for the transfer of power by means of free elections; civil society and even opposition groups would be assigned major roles in the defense of democracy. In addition to endorsing the pact's call for prominent features of democracy — human rights, separation of powers, no discrimination among citizens, and equality between men and women — the Brotherhood proclaimed its abandonment of violent resistance and declared that Syria needed "a peaceful change of power." Note that the pact was silent about the role of religion in politics but did assert Syria's Islamic and Arab identity:
Islam, with its pure faith, lofty values, and tolerant legal spirit, creates the appropriate authority, self-identity, and culture for the members of this nation, protects it and its generosity, highlights its special characteristics, and includes the content of its call to all human beings. … For the inhabitants of our Arab and Syrian region, Islam is a source of religious authority or a source of cultural affiliation, and is also a general unifying factor for the sons of the homeland. It unites them and protects their existence. [The proposed pact expresses the idea] that the conflict between Arabism and Islam is a symbol of a historical phase that is over.19
The liberal climate of his first years in power made Bashar afraid he might lose control to the Islamists, who were gaining strength. A process of greater religious extremism affected Syrian society in the first decade of the twenty-first century. An increasing number of young women began wearing a hijab, more and more mosques were built with private funding in the large cities, especially Aleppo, and more clerics demanded to be allowed to participate in the political process and criticize the regime from their pulpits. There was also a growth in the enrollment of religious educational institutions.20 In reaction, Assad decided to roll back the political reform he had initiated and took steps against the religious drift. For example, in July 2010, the regime banned the niqab and burka on university campuses and dismissed hundreds of elementary-school teachers who veiled their faces in the classroom. Although these steps pushed the Brotherhood back into opposition, it nevertheless continued to eschew violence against the regime. In practice, the publication of the pact and the Brotherhood's conciliatory line came at a time when the Syrian opposition was reawakening. Because the Muslim Brotherhood operated chiefly in exile and had lost its relevance and bases of political power in Syria, it felt an urgent need to make itself heard within the nascent opposition camp.21
In 2004, three years after the publication of the National Honor Pact, the Brotherhood published another program, "The Political Project for the Future Syria." For all that the movement attempted to emphasize intellectual and political development, the program was conservative, saw Islam as a central element in the life of the individual, the collective and the state, and frequently quoted the Quran in support of its arguments. Opposition elements and Syrian exiles criticized the document on this account.22 The "Political Project" offered Islam as the best means for surmounting the challenges facing Syria: "Our group believes that Islam … is the best and most appropriate basis upon which a future Syria can be built."23 Despite its rejection and condemnation of the path of violence and terrorism — "whether it be the act of terrorism exercised by a state or by individuals" — the Project sanctified "resisting an occupation" both in religious terms and as warranted by the international consensus that every people is entitled to take up arms to liberate its land. It is clear that the Brotherhood aimed this statement at the Palestinian conflict as well as the Syrian battle against Israel, "the Zionist entity on the Southern Syrian borders," for the return of the Golan Heights — two issues that, according to the Brotherhood, Bashar al-Assad had abandoned. However, it was also an implicit reference to the Baath regime's repression of the Syrian people and their right to fight back. Here the Brotherhood found a place in its political platform for the principle of jihad and even explained how it was to be understood:
Jihad, which means to fight, is an act that will continue until the Day of Resurrection, as long as there are aggressions taking place against Muslims, where their lands are being occupied, their fellow brethren oppressed and treated unjustly, and where means of preventing them from delivering the message of Islam are enforced. Allah Almighty stated: "And fight in the Way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits. Truly, Allah likes not the transgressors" (2:190).24
Similarly, despite the tolerant face that the Project put on for members of Syrian minorities, including the Christians, it asserted a clear preference for the Sunni Muslim majority. The reference to "the Arab and Islamic identity of the Syrian society" and declaration that "the official religion of the country is Islam" placed the minorities in a dubious position. Moreover, according to the Project, the form of government and law should be based on Muslim principles:
The system of governance is that of Shura, i.e. consultation (Republican, Democratic). … Seeking to Islamise the laws in a gradual manner, due to our belief that Sharia revealed by Allah is a source of mercy for all mankind, and that it consists of the most humane, wise and prudent measures that are in the best interest of all people.25
In 2005, a year after the publication of the "Political Project for the Future Syria," several opposition groups, including the Brotherhood, issued the Damascus Declaration for Democratic National Change in Syria. It called, among other things, "for mobilizing all the energies of Syria, the homeland and the people, in a rescue task" that would transform Syria from a "security state … to [a] political state." Regarding the place of religion in Syria, it declared that "Islam[,] which is the religion and ideology of the majority, with its lofty intentions, higher values, and tolerant canon law — is the more prominent cultural component in the life of the nation and the people."26
A year later, in Brussels, the Brotherhood joined with 15 other opposition groups and Abdul Halim Khaddam (a defector from the Assad regime) to found the National Salvation Front (NSF). In April 2007, the Front called on the Syrian people to boycott the upcoming presidential election. The boycott was meant to heighten awareness of democratic and liberal principles, including the natural right to political involvement, to which the Syrian people are entitled. The NSF saw the boycott as "a practical launching pad for a democratic and national change, the only way for correcting all deviations that affected everything in Syrian life."27
Before defecting to France in December 2005, Khaddam had held senior positions in the Baath party and served as vice president of Syria from 1984 to 2005. As he was considered one of the pillars of the Assad dynasty, his alliance with the Brotherhood surprised many both within and outside the movement. Ali Sadreddine al-Bayanouni, the Brotherhood's Supreme Guide (1996-2010), saw him as someone who could contribute to the desired change in Syria and encourage others to defect from the regime as well. Khaddam, for his part, told an interviewer for the newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that national unity was the order of the day for dealing with the danger posed by Syria's isolation and the sense of "dejection ... and fractures in national unity." Because the Muslim movement had many Syrian supporters, Khaddam argued, it should be included in the political alignment that replaced the current regime. Thus the common goal — overthrowing the regime — served both sides, strengthening them and inducing them to set aside their past rivalry and bitterness in pursuit of their objective.28
The Brotherhood's signature on the Damascus Declaration and membership in the National Salvation Front demonstrated how much the movement had changed since the armed struggle of the early 1980s. Now the Brotherhood was willing to cooperate with secular groups, minorities including the Kurds, and even past and present officials of the Baath regime in the quest to overthrow Assad. Instead of aspiring to ideological purity or appealing to a specific sector, it had chosen to cooperate with the broadest possible swath of Syrian society in order to attain influence and, for the first time in years, be an effective opposition to the regime.
One example of this change was evident in an interview published in August 2005, in which Bayanouni presented his opposition to the regime as not a sectarian matter — that is, opposition to the Alawites as heretics — but a political issue and rejection of a situation in which a "minority elite" ruled Syria by force. He also expressed opposition to the use of violence against the regime and denied any connection between the Brotherhood and the violent uprising of 1976-82.29 In an interview about a year later, June 2006, Bayanouni offered the following explanation for the Brotherhood's cooperation with Khaddam and other opposition groups:
We do not give certificates of innocence to anyone nor do we indict or exonerate anyone. This is not our job. We are now in the midst of a peaceful opposition to bring about democratic change in the country, and we are willing to partner with all the national groups.30
Even though, according to Bayanouni, the National Salvation Front provided an important political platform through which the Syrian opposition could express itself, the Brotherhood's membership in the NSF and cooperation with Khaddam did not endure. In April 2009, the Brotherhood announced its withdrawal from the NSF.31 There were a number of reasons for this step. First, Bayanouni had been harshly criticized for participating in the NSF. Elements within the movement, especially the Brotherhood branch in Hama, known for its conservatism and opposition to any attempt at reconciliation with the regime or its representatives, saw that as an abandonment of the movement's basic principles and a capitulation to secularism. They also claimed that it displayed the Brotherhood in a negative light to the Syrian public. Secular signatories to the Damascus Declaration complained about the cooperation with Khaddam.
The second reason for quitting the NSF — the hope that the West would abandon Assad and provide assistance to the group — turned out to be invalid. Despite Syria's opposition to the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, and despite its support for the terrorism of Hezbollah and Hamas, Assad was able to improve relations with the United States and the West. His restraint after the bombing of the nuclear facility in the Deir al-Zaour governorate in September 2007 and after the August 2008 assassination in Damascus of his confidant Gen. Muhammad Suleiman gained him the admiration of the West.
Assad also worked to improve relations with Turkey after decades of hostility between the two countries. Finally, in the spring and summer of 2008, he launched secret peace negotiations with Israel, through Turkish mediation. The zenith of Assad's new closeness to the West and extrication of Syria from its isolation came after Barack Obama became president of the United States. In January 2011, the Obama administration sent a new envoy to Syria, Robert Ford, after six years when there was no American ambassador in Damascus. Even as the first riots broke out in Syria, in March 2011, Washington still retained some trust in Assad.32
The third reason for quitting the NSF was that Khaddam's political positions were very far from those of the Brotherhood. To the latter's consternation, Khaddam pursued closer ties and cooperation between the Syrian opposition and the United States. The Brotherhood, however, believed that Assad, despite his opposition to the American invasion of Iraq, was aiding the United States "in this so-called war on terrorism."33 Regarding the Palestinian issue and the attitude towards Israel, too, Khaddam and Bayanouni were at loggerheads, as the latter noted in an interview with the Brotherhood's English-language website in April 2009. This disagreement came to a head during Israel's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in the winter of 2008-09, when Khaddam expressed moderate positions towards Israel, while Bayanouni pushed for the NSF to support Hamas and aid the besieged residents of Gaza.
According to Bayanouni, the Brotherhood had "suspended our opposition activities" against the Syrian regime in order "to save effort for the key battle." He called on the Syrian regime to initiate a process of national reconciliation in order to implement the "sacred duty" of liberating the occupied territories and supporting Palestinian resistance.34 It is clear that Bayanouni was less interested in spurring Assad to declare his support of the Palestinian struggle and more intent on exposing the regime's inaction, weakness and empty declarations about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But the announcement that it was suspending its opposition activities allowed the Brotherhood to renew its dialogue with the government in pursuit of a reconciliation that would allow its leaders to return to Syria.
At this stage, the Brotherhood seemed to be in need of a new impetus, especially given the disagreements within the opposition camp in exile and apparent loss of its way. In July 2010, the general council of the Muslim Brotherhood met in Istanbul to elect its leaders. The Aleppo faction, led by Bayanouni, was outvoted by the Hama faction; Mohammad Riad al-Shaqfeh replaced Bayanouni as supreme guide. Al-Shaqfeh, born in Hama in 1944, was a key figure in the local Brotherhood chapter during the insurgency of the 1970s but fled Syria in 1980 and found refuge in Iraq. His hometown and background suggested that the movement would abandon the attempts at reconciliation and renew its struggle against the regime. However, al-Shaqfeh and his deputy Mohammad Farouk Tayfour chose to continue the efforts at reconciliation with Assad. They were supported in this by Turkey, whose ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party had close relations with Damascus.
Nevertheless, according to al-Shaqfeh, the mediation efforts failed because Assad refused to annul the restrictions on the Muslim Brotherhood, especially Law 49. Like his predecessor, al-Shaqfeh was the target of harsh criticism within the movement, already split after his election because many younger members of the Brotherhood from Aleppo had not accepted the results and quit the movement, while others, apparently with Bayanouni's support, set out on an independent path. The internal crisis accompanied the Brotherhood throughout 2011 as the unrest in Syria grew worse; it was not until March 2012 that the movement closed ranks again.35
THE BROTHERHOOD AND THE REVOLUTION
The events of the Arab Spring, first in Tunisia and later in Egypt, awakened the Muslim Brotherhood to the opportunities now available to it. The new developments swept the Brotherhood into the center of domestic affairs in Syria. For the first time in three decades, it was seen as the strongest and best-organized force among the exiled opposition groups, despite its weakness within Syria. Ironically, Assad accused the Brotherhood of inciting the street and fomenting the violence. But this was inaccurate; even though the movement expressed support for the demonstrations, it remained cautiously on the sidelines and was not eager to participate actively in the spreading unrest.36 "We have a desire to coordinate the position of the opposition. We are supporters, and not creators. The voice of the street is a spokesperson for itself," declared Zuhair Salim on behalf of the movement.37
There were several reasons for this cautious stance: first, an unwillingness to play into the hands of the regime, which claimed that Islamic extremists were behind the wave of violence in Syria. Second, the Brotherhood knew, from its own experience, that the regime would strike down the demonstrators with an iron fist, meaning that the protests had slim chances of success. In addition, there was the awareness that since its defeat in the 1980s, the movement was isolated from events in Syria and lacked independent bases of support there. Finally, the large cities, especially Damascus and Aleppo, were remaining aloof, with the protests concentrated, at least initially, in the periphery.
Over time, the Brotherhood began cooperating with other opposition groups, some of which were also signatories of the Damascus Declaration. It set up and directed organizations that represented it or were identified with it, including the National Union of Free Syria Students, the Levant Ulema League, the Independent Islamic Democratic Current and the Arab Orient Center. In this way, the Brotherhood found a place, even if not overt and official, in the broader movement of opposition to the Assad regime, especially, as we shall see below, the Syrian National Council (SNC), and became the dominant organization there. The Brotherhood also developed close connections with deserters from the Syrian armed forces, especially high-ranking officers, of whom the best known is Riad al-Assad, commander of the Free Syrian Army.38
As the protests in Syria grew more intense and developed into violent clashes between the military and security forces, on the one hand, and armed rebel militias, on the other, Assad increasingly accused the Muslim Brotherhood of engaging in terrorist activity inside the country. But now, some 18 months after the disturbances began, the claim was probably justified; despite the Brotherhood's declarations that it had abandoned the path of violent struggle, its leadership did not take steps to curtail the violence. Instead, the escalation and descent into full civil war had roused the Brotherhood's old hopes that perhaps this time it might be possible to overthrow the Baath regime. Directly or indirectly, the Brotherhood had come around to supporting the armed resistance to Assad.
Proof of this active support was provided by Molham al-Droubi, Brotherhood spokesman and a member of the SNC, in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat in early August 2012. Al-Droubi revealed that armed units formed by the Brotherhood had been active in Syria for the preceding three months, engaged "in tasks of self-defense and guarding and protecting the oppressed." He added that "this is a legitimate right and a religious obligation that respects the majority," and that the armed units were under the command of and coordinating activities with the Free Syrian Army.39
In late September 2012, a month after this revelation, the founding video of a new rebel alliance of a number of organizations, known as the Commission of the Revolution's Shields (CRS), was posted on the internet.40 Then, on December 21, the organization was formally launched in Istanbul, with the participation of al-Assad (the commander of the Free Syrian Army) and al-Shaqfeh (the supreme guide of the Brotherhood). In a propaganda film dated January 3, 2013, the CRS presented its political platform, boasted of the successful military operations it had carried out, and listed the names of its 43 member organizations. Although both the group's Facebook page and al-Shaqfeh's Istanbul declaration maintained that the CRS was independent and not the military wing of the Brotherhood, there is certainly a connection and even collaboration between the two. This can also be deduced from the interview with al-Droubi, from other videos the CRS has posted, and from additional testimonies and studies, as well as from the similarity between the organization's logo and that of the Brotherhood.41
Nevertheless, after many successes in late 2013 and early 2014, the alliance weakened and began to fall apart. Internal disagreements emerged within the Brotherhood and its leadership, especially between the Homs and Hama branches, regarding the methods to be employed against the Assad regime. They could not agree about providing military support to the rebels or forming new armed units, because some preferred that the movement continue to be exclusively political and nonviolent. The movement also faced difficulties raising money, especially after Saudi Arabia declared the Brotherhood a "terrorist organization." And the appearance on the scene of other Islamist groups, such as the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which had access to more resources, better organizational and command abilities, and proven successes in the field, led many to abandon the CRS and join them instead.42
The Muslim Brotherhood also made political moves alongside the aforementioned military steps. For example, after much hesitation, its cooperation with other elements of the opposition led the Brotherhood to affiliate with the SNC, the umbrella organization of all the Syrian groups opposed to the Assad regime, founded in Istanbul in early October 2011. However, the Brotherhood chose to maintain a low profile on the Council. It did not put forth its own candidate for Council president and supported members of the secular-left camp for the position: Burhan Ghalioun (October 2011-May 2012), Abdul Basit Sida (May-November 2012) and George Sabra (November 2012 to the present). The Brotherhood did not push for the inclusion of Islamic principles in the Council platform and repeatedly stressed its minority status in the organization. This pattern of activity led many to believe that the Brotherhood was no longer as dominant as in the past. Interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Ghalioun explained the Brotherhood's behavior by saying that "Syria is different than the other Arab nations. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has been in exile for 30 years and their internal coordination is non-existent." He added that he did not see why the secular and Islamic factions could not form a coalition, as had occurred in Tunisia after the ouster of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.43
On the surface, there was indeed common ground between the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular Syrian opposition. On March 25, 2012, the Brotherhood published a charter whose 10 articles presented its political and social vision "of a free homeland and a free and respectable life for every citizen" in Syria. It contained no significant modifications of the principles the movement had expressed in the past, especially in the 2004 political program. In the charter, the Brotherhood declared that it sought a post-Assad Syria that would be "a modern civil state, based on a civil constitution and that draws on the will of the Syrian people on the basis of a national consensus." The charter also called for free elections and a parliament "that will protect the basic rights of every citizen and group in the country" and "ensure the fair representation of all elements of Syrian society." The Brotherhood also expressed its aspiration for a civil state in which all citizens are equal, with no distinctions based on ethnic, religious, communal or ideological differences, and equality for men and women.44
Yet, despite the positive declarations, good intentions and hope for cooperation among all sections of the Syrian opposition, the reality was different from that described by Ghalioun and others. Since its formation, the SNC had been a rickety organization beset by quarrels and weakness. The primary disagreements had to do with the weight to be accorded Islam in a post-Assad Syria and whether to request foreign intervention, military or otherwise, to stop the regime's violence against its citizens. For example, the Council's official position did not rule out international pressure on the Assad regime but opposed international military involvement. In the eyes of many in the Council, the United Nations had set a bad precedent in Libya when it first called for action to prevent the massacre of innocent civilians and later launched airstrikes on the cities. These Council members were concerned about the violation of Syrian sovereignty, indiscriminate bombing of Syrian cities and, crucially, foreign occupation.45 Some members of the Council, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, saw no way to end the civil war without foreign military intervention from the air but firmly opposed "boots on the ground." The Brotherhood's fondest hope was for (1) a Turkish declaration of no-fly zones that would curtail the operations of the Syrian Air Force, (2) the creation of a demilitarized zone along the Turkish-Syrian border and (3) the establishment of buffer zones in Turkey from which humanitarian aid could be channeled into Syria.46
The members of the opposition failed to reach agreement, though they were well aware of the danger inherent in their lack of unity. "It's very dangerous at this point," said Abdel-Aziz al-Khayyar, a member of the Syrian National Coordination Body, illustrating this awareness: "If we fail to unify as the opposition, it is the greatest gift to the regime." Another danger derived from the questionable legitimacy of the opposition, many of whose members had been in exile for many long years and lacked support and status in Syria. "We only recognize those who are working inside the country. We'll only recognize those people outside when they are standing in the ranks with us, when we see something tangible from them, real help, not words," said Jamal Akta, a rebel commander in the northern Syrian city of Ariha, expressing the rebels' attitude towards those who were "fighting" from abroad.47
In addition to the disunity and lack of legitimacy, the SNC also had a major image problem: from its inception, it was labeled a creature of the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, although the Brotherhood held only 20 of the 310 seats in the Council's general assembly, it had a great degree of influence on its key organs — the SNC General Secretariat and the Executive Bureau — as well as the support of independents, other Islamists (such as the Group of 74) and even some allies in the liberal camp. In this manner, the Brotherhood forged an Islamic bloc in the SNC general assembly. It soon managed to have the Council pass resolutions that coincided with its interests in a variety of domains, including military operations and humanitarian aid, the two fields that consumed most of the opposition's financial support.
In early November 2012, the SNC increased the size of its general assembly to 420 seats. A short while later, a special meeting of the Council in Doha, Qatar, elected its president and executive agencies. The Brotherhood's dominance of the Council was clearly felt, bolstering its strength in the General Secretariat and the Executive Bureau. For example, Tayfour was elected vice-president of the Council, and, with Brotherhood support, Sabra, a Greek Orthodox Christian from the left-wing camp, was elected president.48
On November 11, 2012, after another round of talks in Doha, the Syrian opposition reorganized, with the support of Muslim Arab and Western states, and established the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (the Syrian National Coalition). The main stimulus for the change was the feeling of the Western powers, especially the United States, as well as of the Arab states that supported the Syrian opposition in exile, that the National Council had lost its way and been marginalized. It was also felt that the National Council was overly influenced and controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood.49 The Brotherhood did not look kindly upon the formation of the Syrian National Coalition. It denounced the new entity as foreign, chiefly Western, intervention aimed at weakening it and minimizing its dominance.
Indeed, even though the Brotherhood was represented in the Syrian National Coalition both through its membership in the SNC and through independent members of the Coalition itself (such as Bayanouni), the reorganization achieved its purpose. There were fewer "Muslim Brothers" in the Syrian National Coalition than on the Council, and the Brotherhood did not have its own man in the Coalition leadership. Clearly its political power in the Coalition was less than it had been on the Council. Nevertheless, although the Coalition was presented as a new organization, in practice it included representatives of the Syrian National Council, and many members of the Council received positions in the Coalition. The Council became the dominant force within the Coalition.50
The election of Moaz al-Khatib as president of the Coalition is a good example of this and exemplifies the Islamists' power in the Coalition. Khatib, a Sunni Muslim who had been an imam at the huge Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, was initially identified with the Brotherhood and close to its Damascus wing, even though he was never a member of the organization. The Brotherhood supported him because it thought that his religious background and connections with the movement would allow it to steer both the Coalition's activity in general and his activity in particular. But, when Khatib attempted to launch negotiations with the Syrian regime in January 2013, the Brotherhood acted to thwart the initiative and even formed a bloc with the support of Sabra, the SNC representative and a Brotherhood ally, against Khatib.51 After vicious attacks against him, Khatib announced that the Syrian National Coalition would not attend the Friends of Syria conference scheduled for late February 2013 in Rome; nor would it take part in talks in Moscow that were essential to advancing the initiative for negotiations with the Syrian regime.
Khatib also turned down an official invitation by William Burns, the American deputy secretary of state, to visit Washington. His refusal was seen as an attempt to keep the fragile coalition intact, but it also demonstrated the Brotherhood's strength and influence within the opposition in exile, especially its hawkish camp.52 In the end, Khatib grew tired of the internal power struggles and Qatar's and Saudi Arabia's meddling in the Coalition. On March 24, 2013, he wrote on his Facebook page, "I announce my resignation from the National Coalition, so that I can work with a freedom that cannot possibly be had in an official institution."53
Another example of the Brotherhood's political clout in the Syrian opposition was provided by the elections for prime minister of the Syrian National Coalition's "interim government" in March 2013. The winner was Ghassan Hitto, a Kurd who emigrated to the United States in the early 1980s, acquired American citizenship and lived in Texas. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he founded the Muslim Legal Fund of America. In late 2012, as the Syrian civil war heated up, he moved to Turkey. Before his election, Hitto was not a prominent politician or a well-known opposition figure; his slender victory caught many by surprise. Some claimed that he won thanks to the support of the Brotherhood, its allies and Qatar, because of his opposition to negotiations with Assad and his sympathetic attitude toward the Brotherhood.54
Hitto's election as prime minister of the interim government created a major rift in both the Syrian opposition, in general, and the National Coalition, in particular. Twelve people suspended their membership, including Suheir al-Atassi, its vice-president, and Walid al-Bunni, its spokesman.55 The reasons for dissatisfaction within the opposition were many and varied. Some saw the elections for an interim government as illegitimate, because the Syrian National Coalition itself is not an elected body. Others highlighted the fact that the organization operates outside Syria, and most of its members have been living in exile for years, thus are not really representative of the Syrian people or their will. Other members of the opposition opposed the election of an interim government because they feared that its political activity in areas controlled by rebel forces, primarily in northern Syria, would lead to a de facto division of the country. Finally, it was claimed that Hitto was a puppet of Qatar and the Brotherhood (though both denied this), impugning the legitimacy of his election as well as the Brotherhood's standing within the opposition.56
Clearly, these negative factors did not bode well for Hitto's success, and indeed his efforts to unite all the opposition groups proved fruitless. He did not enjoy the support of the various rebel groups inside Syria; some of them, notably the Free Syrian Army, refused to recognize his position.57 On July 8, 2013, about four months after winning the election, he resigned. To a certain extent, his resignation reflected not only the power struggles within the Syrian National Coalition but also the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, given the claim that the Brotherhood and Qatar supported him and Sabra. Sabra, too, resigned on July 6, about two months after his election. Ahmad Jarba, a Kurd from Qamishli who enjoys Saudi patronage, was elected to replace him.58
The resignations of Hitto and Sabra were indeed a hard blow to the Brotherhood and its Qatari supporters, but they soon regained the upper hand. In September 2013, their candidate, Ahmad Tumah of Deir al-Zaour, a moderate Islamist, was elected prime minister of the interim government in place of Hitto. Tumah had long been an opponent of the Assad regime and spent three years (2007-10) in prison along with other opposition figures. On July 22, 2014, about 10 months after Tumah took up his post, the Syrian National Coalition announced the dissolution of the government and called for new elections. Tumah was reelected by a slim majority, but the attempt to create an effective government in exile failed. This can be seen as an example of the broader failure of the Syrian National Coalition's efforts to be the umbrella over all the opposition groups both inside and outside Syria. These efforts were hampered by internal rivalries, factionalism and ideological disputes; the Coalition also failed to establish itself as a legitimate opposition group within Syria.59
Like the Syrian National Council, the Muslim Brotherhood found itself in an untenable situation. The rise of radical Islamist groups in Iraq and Syria posed a challenge to the movement in both ideological and practical terms. The military successes of the Nusra Front and ISIS overshadowed those of the Syrian National Coalition and the Free Syrian Army; moreover, these two groups had effectively implemented the Brotherhood's motto, "Islam Is the Solution." At first it seemed that the Brotherhood found it hard to grasp the immensity of the challenge posed by these groups that were outflanking it from the right. In a news conference in Istanbul in April 2013, al-Shaqfeh, the Brotherhood's supreme guide, surprisingly denied the presence of radical Islamist groups in Syria, claiming that the victories on the ground (against Assad's forces) had been achieved by the moderate opposition forces.60 Eighteen months passed, during which ISIS swiftly and mercilessly expanded its control and conquered broad swaths of territory in Syria, before the Brotherhood — far too late — recognized the threat and its consequences for the official opposition and for the Syrian people.
In a reaction to the spread of ISIS, published on the Brotherhood website in September 2014, al-Shaqfeh praised the Syrian people's determination to free themselves from the yoke of dictatorship, as well as their moderate and tolerant nature, adding that these characteristics made him optimistic about the future victory. The latter clause was important in light of the appearance of ISIS in Syria, a phenomenon, that, according to al-Shaqfeh, was a source of perplexity among the revolutionaries and threatened the attainment of the war's overarching goal: the overthrow of the Assad regime. Al-Shaqfeh went on to complain that ISIS had begun its campaign in areas that the rebels had liberated from the regime, without any coordination or cooperation with them, which caused the military campaign to drag on far longer than would otherwise have been the case. He noted that the Muslim Brotherhood rejected ISIS, "first for its extremist ideas, and second, for its violent action approach," and accused ISIS of extremism and for straying so far from Islam that it treated most Muslims as apostates.61
The Brotherhood, however, found itself helpless to alleviate the catastrophe in Syria. Many young Islamists were attracted by the propaganda, mystical aura and success of the extremist groups, which they saw as the appropriate alternative to the Brotherhood's dysfunction, anachronism and appeasement. Moreover, the movement found itself in a bind vis-à-vis the other Islamist groups. On the one hand, it could not adopt the extreme militancy of the Salafi-jihadist groups after it had publicly declared its abandonment of armed struggle and focused on the political path. On the other hand, it needed a presence on the ground in order to win support and chalk up points. So, despite its success in influencing various rebel groups inside Syria, through both patronage and weak alliances, the Brotherhood's influence waned over time.
With the beginning of the U.S.-led Western campaign against ISIS and the Nusra Front, the Brotherhood faced another dilemma. Although the airstrikes were meant to aid the moderate rebel groups, its senior figures could not stand by while the targets of the strikes, Islamist groups, were defined as terrorist organizations. Some claimed an American/Western double standard: Assad continued to attack civilians, with the support of Iran, Russia and Hezbollah, and remained immune, but the rebel groups were defined as terrorists and targeted for aerial assault. The implicit identification of terrorism with Islam angered elements in the Brotherhood and led them to denounce the United States and the West, in general. As they posted on the Brotherhood website, "Any attempt to label or discredit individuals or groups as terrorists on a cultural or ideological basis is based on a double standard. … [Terrorism] is an action and a behavior, not an identity and not a culture."62
In addition to this duality in the Brotherhood's behavior, which did not strengthen its position, other factors weakened it. First, as mentioned above, the formation of the Syrian National Coalition trimmed the Brotherhood's influence on the political organs of the opposition. Second, the inter-Arab tussle between, on the one hand, Saudi Arabia, and on the other, Qatar (with Turkey) — the providers of economic and political patronage to the rival opposition factions — has not promoted the success of the rebels, in general, or the Brotherhood, in particular, in their war against Assad. Third, the toppling of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt by social protests and a military coup detracted from the movement's regional influence and image. Nevertheless, among the components of the Syrian National Coalition, the Muslim Brotherhood remains the force with the organizational capacity, political experience and resources to stand at the center of the opposition to the Assad regime.63
The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has experienced many changes since its founding in the 1940s, one of its prominent characteristics being the pragmatism that allows it to adapt in order to survive. Unlike its counterpart in Egypt, the Syrian Brotherhood saw itself as part of the establishment, attempting to bring about reforms from inside the system. But the decision by its extremist factions to launch an insurgency against the Baath regime in 1976 all but destroyed the movement and banished it from the circle of influence for many years. The crumbling Brotherhood leadership internalized the rebellion's failure and the damage it had caused. Facing the harsh reality that it had lost its base of support inside Syria, the Brotherhood acted to maintain its relevance through a three-decade process of reconstruction.
First, it attempted to cooperate with other factions of the opposition, at the price of ideological concessions; it understood that moderation was the key to inclusion in any steps against Assad. Second, senior Brotherhood figures went even further and initiated a process of dialogue and reconciliation with the regime. In this context, it is worth stressing that, because the movement's center of activity remains outside the country, it is difficult for it to enlist new supporters within Syria. The Brotherhood has no military wing (at least officially) that is an active participant in the civil war, at a time when so many rebel groups with a religious ideology are engaged in combat on the ground. Finally, although the Brotherhood's ideology has become more moderate than it was at the time of the revolt against the Baath regime, its platform still incorporates religious tenets that are incompatible with the preferences of many members of the Syrian National Coalition, especially the minority groups.
Despite these weaknesses, the Muslim Brotherhood remains the most prominent and most influential of all the actors in the opposition. It is true that it cannot take the lead, as Arab, European and American intervention seeks to keep it in check. It is also possible that the Brotherhood does not want to take the lead, out of concern that the opposition would then be seen as having a religious or ideological line and be viewed with hostility. Nevertheless, the Brotherhood's involvement is felt strongly in the internal power dynamic, both in the election of Syrian National Coalition leaders and the activities of its various organs, and in the election of prime minister of the interim government. It would be impossible to exclude the Brotherhood from the opposition, despite various attempts to do so. Any political solution ending the Syrian civil war and installing the Syrian National Coalition at the head of a new regime will also place the Muslim Brotherhood in a position of leadership.
1 See, for example, the interview with Bashar al-Assad in Foreign Affairs, in which he said that the Brotherhood "was the first political Islamic organization that promoted violent political Islam in the early twentieth century." ("Syria's President Speaks," Foreign Affairs, March-April 2015, at https://www.foreignaffairs.com/interviews/2015-01-25/syrias-president-s….
2 Eyal Zisser, Faces of Syria: Society, Regime and State (Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2003), 252-253 [Hebrew]; Derek Hopwood, Syria 1945-1986 (Unwin Hyman, 1988), 46; and Raymond Hinnebusch, Syria: Revolution from Above (Routledge, 2001), 35.
3 Hanna Batatu, "Syria's Muslim Brethren," Middle East Research and Information Project 12 (1982), http://www.merip.org/mer/mer110/syrias-muslim-brethren#_32_, accessed May 26, 2016.
4 Hinnebusch, Syria: Revolution from Above, 49-51; and Zisser, Faces of Syria, 247-249.
5 Moshe Ma'oz, Assad: The Sphinx of Damascus (Dvir, 1988), 84-92 [Hebrew]; and Eyal Zisser, Assad's Syria at a Crossroads (Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1999), 35-49 [Hebrew].
6 Hopwood, Syria 1945-1986, 63, 98-100; and Batatu, "Syria's Muslim Brethren."
7 Hinnebusch, Syria: Revolution from Above, 94; and Abd-Allah, The Islamic Struggle in Syria, 125-126.
8 Thomas Pierret, Religion and State in Syria: The Sunni Ulama from Coup to Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2013), 65-66; and Raphael Lefèvre, Ashes of Hama (Hurst, 2013), 105, 109-115.
9 Abd-Allah, The Islamic Struggle in Syria, 114-143.
10 Ibid., 128-187; and Lefèvre, Ashes of Hama, 119-120.
11 Pierret, Religion and State in Syria, 65-66; Lefèvre, Ashes of Hama, 113-115; Batatu, "Syria's Muslim Brethren."
12 Hopwood, Syria 1945-1986, 66-67.
13 Pierret, Religion and State in Syria, 188-191; Liad Porat, "The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and the Asad Regime," Middle East Brief 47 (December 2010), http://www.brandeis.edu/crown/publications/meb/MEB47.pdf; Eyal Zisser, "The Muslim Brotherhood Movement in Syria: Reconciliation and Struggle," in Islam and Democracy in the Arab World, ed. Meir Litvak (Tel Aviv University and Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1997), 118 [Hebrew].
14 Eyal Zisser, "Syria – Stronghold of Arabism: The Challenge of Secularism and the Response of Islam," Nationalism, Secularism, and Religion in the Middle East, ed. Daniel Zissenwine (Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, 2012), 27-28 [Hebrew], http://www.dayan.org/sites/default/files/Hilun-book.pdf, accessed May 31, 2016.
15 Muhammad Ali Atassi, "The Veiling of the City," Al-Jadid 16, no. 62, http://www.aljadid.com/content/veiling-city, accessed May 31, 2016; Itzchak Weismann, "Fundamentalism and Democracy in the Discourse of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria," in The Muslim Brothers: A Religious Vision in a Changing Reality, eds. Meir Hatina and Uri M. Kupferschmidt (Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2012), 129-130 [Hebrew]; and Shaikh Abdulfattah Aboghodda's biography at http://www.aboghodda.com/Biography-Eng.htm#Political, accessed July 4, 2016.
16 In this context, Bashar al-Assad said in his inaugural address (July 17, 2000): "Democratic thinking is the building and the structure. We all know that when the foundation of a building is weak the building will be threatened to fall for the slightest reason," http://al-bab.com/documents-section/president-bashar-al-assad-inaugural….
17 Atassi, "The Veiling of the City"; and Weismann, "Fundamentalism and Democracy," 129-130.
18 "The Manifesto of the 99: 2000-2011," Al-Akhbar, http://www.al-akhbar.com/node/7848, accessed May 10, 2016 [Arabic].
19 For the text of the pact, see http://altagamoh.adimocraty.free.fr/9-1.htm, accessed May 10 2016 [Arabic]; and Salam Kawakibi, "Political Islam in Syria," CEPS Working Document No. 270 (Centre for European Policy Studies, June 2007), http://aei.pitt.edu/11726/1/1511.pdf.
20 Scott Wilson, "Religious Surge Alarms Secular Syrians," Washington Post, January 23, 2005, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A29401-2005Jan22.html.
21 Zisser, Faces of Syria, 267-269; "Syria Reverses Ban on Islamic Face Veil in Schools," Al Arabiya, April 6, 2011, https://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/04/06/144466.html; and "The Reasons and Implications of the Decision to Ban the Niqab in Syrian Universities," Al Jazeera, July 23, 2010," http://bit.ly/2urOUeD [Arabic].
22 See Dr. Wafa Sultan, "Syrian Expatriate Asks: Who Are the Muslim Brotherhood Trying to Fool?" Memri, August 3, 2005, http://www.memri.org/report/en/print1430.htm.
23 "A Vision of the Muslim Brotherhood Group in Syria," IkhwanWeb, November 1, 2005, http://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=5804, accessed May 10, 2016.
26 "Damascus Declaration," SyriaComment.com, November 1, 2005, http://joshualandis.oucreate.com/syriablog/2005/11/damascus-declaration….
27 "Statement of National Salvation Front on Syria's Election Farce," IkhwanWeb, April 14, 2007, http://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=1836.
28 Roula Khalaf, "Muslim Brotherhood Leader Offers Support to Syrian Defector," Financial Times, January 7, 2007, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/11fb115a-7f22-11da-a6a2-0000779e2340.html#axz…; and "Interview with Former Syrian Vice-President Abdul Halim Khaddam," Asharq Al-Awsat, January 6, 2006, http://english.aawsat.com/2006/01/article55268299/interview-with-former….
29 Mahan Abedin, "The Battle within Syria: An Interview with Muslim Brotherhood Leader Ali Bayanouni," Terrorism Monitor 3, no. 16 (August 11, 2005), http://www.jamestown.org/programs/tm/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=551….
30 "Bayanouni Interview," Syria Monitor, June 8, 2006, http://syriamonitor.typepad.com/news/2006/06/bayanouni_inter.html, accessed June 5, 2016.
31 "Bayanouni: We Withdraw from Front because We Back Palestinian Resistance," IkhwanWeb, April 10, 2009, http://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=19858, accessed June 5, 2016.
32 Glenn Kessler, "Hillary Clinton's Uncredible Statement on Syria," April 4, 2011, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/hillary-clintons-…, accessed June 5, 2016; K. Sanders, "Chris Wallace: Hillary Clinton Defended Syria's Assad as a 'Possible Reformer,'" June 1, 2014, http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2014/jun/01/chris-walla….
33 Abedin, "The Battle within Syria."
34 "Bayanouni: We Withdraw from Front because We Back Palestinian Resistance," IkhwanWeb, April 6, 2009, http://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=19858, accessed June 5, 2016.
35 Wael Sawah, "The Muslim Brothers in Syria in the Syrian Revolution: Power and Impact" (2013), https://www.academia.edu/10106069/The_Muslim_Brothers_in_Syria_in_the_S…, accessed May 10, 2016.
36 Lefèvre, Ashes of Hama, 182.
37 Nour Malas, "Brotherhood Raises Syria Profile," Wall Street Journal; and Hanna Hassan, "How the Muslim Brotherhood Hijacked Syria's Revolution," Foreign Policy (March 13, 2013), http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/03/13/how-the-muslim-brotherhood-hijacked….
38 Hassan, "How the Muslim Brotherhood Hijacked Syria's Revolution"; and Hassan Hassan, "How The Brotherhood Builds Power in Syria's Opposition," The National, November 12, 2012, http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/how-the-broth….
39 Paula Astih, "The Muslim Brotherhood to Asharq Al-Awsat: 'We Have Formed Armed Units for Self-Defense [and protection] of the Oppressed,'" Asharq Al-Awsat, August 5, 2012 [Arabic], http://archive.aawsat.com/details.asp?section=4&article=689527&issueno=….
40 "Founding Declaration of the Command of the Commission of the Revolution's Shields," [Arabic] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecldcfDTPOE, accessed May 4, 2016.
41 "Operations and Formations of the Commission of the Revolution's Shields," https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqAUKnssAn4, accessed May 4, 2016 [Arabic]; https://www.facebook.com/rsc.syria, accessed May 5 2016; Raphael Lefèvre, "The Syrian Brotherhood's Islamic State Challenge," Project on Middle East Political Science (February 11, 2015), http://pomeps.org/2015/02/11/the-syrian-brotherhoods-islamic-state-chal…; and "Public Post – Commission of the Revolution's Shields," October 3, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8x7Xhx7mKxw [Arabic].
42 Lefèvre, "The Syrian Brotherhood's Islamic State Challenge."
43 "Syria Opposition Leader Interview Transcript," Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2011, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970203833104577071960384240668; and Hassan, "How the Muslim Brotherhood Hijacked Syria's Revolution."
44 "'Contract and Charter' Document of the Muslim Brotherhood," Al Jazeera, March 26, 2012 [Arabic], https://goo.gl/FVZrM9.
45 The National Coordination Committee, an opposition body that is separate from the Syrian National Council, went so far as to denounce anyone who called for foreign intervention in Syria as a traitor. See Ernest Khoury, "Foreign Intervention: Debating the Taboo of the Syrian Opposition," Al-Akhbar, October 29, 2011, http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/1182, accessed June 7, 2016.
46 For the various positions, see "The Syrian Brotherhood Calls for Foreign Military Intervention Against Assad," Middle East Online, October 3, 2011, http://www.middle-east-online.com/?id=118346, accessed June 7, 2016 [Arabic]; Khoury, "Foreign Intervention: Debating the Taboo of the Syrian Opposition"; and Marc Champion, "Syria's Muslim Brotherhood Rejects Western Intervention," Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2011, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704530204576236570603843418.
47 Aya Batrawy and Ben Hubbard, "Rifts Split Syria's Opposition at Cairo Meeting," Associated Press, July 4, 2012, https://www.yahoo.com/news/rifts-split-syrias-opposition-cairo-meeting-…, accessed May 25, 2016.
48 "Guide to the Syrian Opposition," BBC News, October 17, 2013, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-15798218; "Syrian National Council Chooses George Sabra as Leader," BBC News, November 9, 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-20276252; and Hassan, "How The Brotherhood Builds Power in Syria's Opposition."
49 M. al-Sid al-Daim, "The Syrian Opposition: A Look at My Geographic Map Inside and Outside," Al-Hayat, February 22, 2013, http://www.alhayat.com/Details/485711, accessed May 25, 2016 [Arabic].
50 Members of the Syrian National Council held 22 of the 63 seats on the Syrian National Coalition. See Hassan, "How the Brotherhood Builds Power in Syria's Opposition."
51 Mohamed Balut, "Khatib Sacrifices His Political Position: The Cancellation of the Idea of Syrian Dialogue in Order to Survive," Al-Safir, February 25, 2013, http://assafir.com/Article/302578, accessed July 4, 2016 [Arabic]; and I. al-Tahar, "Why Does the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood Not Leave the Coalition like Bayanouni has Done?" Al-Quds Al-Arabi, July 10, 2014 [Arabic], http://www.alquds.co.uk/?p=190879, accessed July 4, 2016.
52 Balut, "Khatib Sacrifices his Political Position."
53 See his post of March 24, 2013: "Khatib Left his Post Definitively on April 22," https://www.facebook.com/ahmad.mouaz.alkhatib.alhasani/, accessed July 4, 2016 [Arabic]; "Moaz al-Khatib: The Priority Is to Save Syria," Al Jazeera, May 11, 2013, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/talktojazeera/2013/05/2013510141112….
54 Raphael Lefèvre, "Islamism within a Civil War: The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood's Struggle for Survival," Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World (August 2015), http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Research/Files/Reports/2015/07/rethink…; and Anne Barnard, "Syrian Rebels Pick U.S. Citizen to Lead Interim Government," New York Times, March 18, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/19/world/middleeast/syria-warplanes-hit-….
55 Noted that Moaz al-Khatib resigned, because, among other reasons, of Hitto's election as prime minister of the interim government.
56 "Syria's Assad Makes Surprise Public Appearance at Education Center," Al-Arabiya, March 20, 2013, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/2013/03/20/Syria-s-Assad-makes-surprise…; and Lama Shamas, "The Syrian [Muslim] Brotherhood: We Have No Connections with Hitto, and We Have No Veto Right," Zaman al-Wasl, April 15, 2013, https://www.zamanalwsl.net/news/37635.html [Arabic]; "Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood Appointed Ghassan Hitto [to form a government;] The Free Army: We Don't Recognize Him," Elaph, March 25, 2013, http://elaph.com/Web/news/2013/3/801518.html, accessed May 19, 2016 [Arabic].
57 "Syria Opposition Refuses Leader's Resignation," Al Jazeera, March 24, 2013, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/03/2013324114456241229.ht….
58 "Former Political Prisoner Ahmed al-Jarba President of the Coalition of Syrian," Al-Arabiya, July 6, 2013, https://goo.gl/8e87SU [Arabic]; and "Syria Opposition Government Head Ghassan Hitto Resigns," BBC News, July 8, 2013, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-23232189.
59 Khaled Yacoub Owies, "Syrian Opposition Elects Moderate Islamist as Prime Minister," Reuters, September 14, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-crisis-pm-idUSBRE98D08Z20130914; and "Syrian Opposition Coalition Dissolves Interim Government," Reuters, July 22, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-crisis-opposition-idUSKBN0FR124….
60 Shamas, "The Syrian [Muslim] Brotherhood: We Have No Connections with Hitto."
61 "Syria Muslim Brotherhood Leader: We Disagree with ISIS in Principle Approach," IkhwanWeb, September 4, 2014, http://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=31783, accessed May 18, 2016.
62 "Terrorism Is a Behavior and Not an Identity, and Bashar al-Assad Is the Only Terrorist on Syrian Soil," IkhwanSyria.com, December 12, 2012, accessed May 4, 2016 [Arabic]; and "Syria's Brotherhood: The West Wants the Conflict to Continue," Muslim Mirror, April 28, 2014, http://muslimmirror.com/eng/syrias-brotherhood-the-west-wants-the-confl….
63 Hassan Hassan, "In Syria, the Brotherhood's Influence Is on the Decline," The National, April 1, 2014, http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/in-syria-the-…. For more on how Mohammad Morsi's deposition influenced the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, see al-Shaqfeh's interview with Muslim Mirror, "Syria's Brotherhood: The West Wants the Conflict to Continue," April 28, 2014, http://muslimmirror.com/eng/syrias-brotherhood-the-west-wants-the-confl….
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