- Amer Sultan
- BBC News Arabic – London
Exactly seventy years ago, the most important British intelligence service in the Middle East made the following assessment about the Muslim Brotherhood: The organization is extremely popular, especially in the army, and is best placed to win any elections.
Nevertheless, the intelligence warned of the consequences of the army enabling the organization to reach the rule of Egypt, according to British documents, which I obtained.
After the Free Officers Movement, which documents indicate that Britain was surprised by, on July 23, 1952, figures from the ousted royal government warned that “the coup led by General Naguib is the result of a movement inspired by the communists and the Muslim Brotherhood aimed at creating a revolutionary anti-capitalist regime.” .
The British Cabinet, headed by Winston Churchill, learned of the warning from the Foreign Minister during a meeting held the day after the movement announced the overthrow of King Farouk’s regime, according to the minutes of the meeting.
The British Security Intelligence in the Middle East “SIME” considered the movement a coup and followed the Egyptian situation in its shadow day by day.
The follow-up resulted in a report on August 1, 1952, entitled “The Current Situation in Egypt After the Last Coup”, prepared by the “Egyptian Affairs Coordination Division” at the intelligence headquarters in Cairo.
The importance of the report is that it was issued by a body that includes representatives of a number of British intelligence agencies and the collection of various information, which were supporting the British war government during World War II. It was also the primary source of information for British policy makers towards the Middle East.
Commenting on the report, the British Navy representative in the SIME office cautioned that there was no basis for warning the former regime of communists or Islamists as an alleged “bogeyman”.
“It seems that, finally, we have calmed the ghost of the communist bogeyman, and the feeling now is that the most important thing is that we must not allow the bogeyman of the Muslim Brotherhood to have a significant impact on the current issue,” he said.
“The membership of six of the ten members (of the Free Officers who announced that they started the officers’ movement) in the Muslim Brotherhood is not evidence that the Brotherhood was behind the order,” he added.
“It appears that they (the Brotherhood) had prior knowledge of the coup, but what can be seen is that they, as an organization, had no hand in establishing and promoting it. Six of the ten officers are known to be members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and it has also been reliably confirmed,” the report said. To be a member.
He concluded that the intelligence information confirmed that “if the Muslim Brotherhood decides to enter the political fray, they will sweep everyone in the upcoming elections, and the Wafd Party will not have a chance in the scene.”
After the officers succeeded in seizing power, they chose Ali Maher as prime minister under the leadership of Major General Naguib, head of the Leadership Council, whose name was changed to the “Revolution Command Council” after the great popular support for the officers’ coup, and was later led by Gamal Abdel Nasser after his overthrow of Najib.
However, Maher was not the first choice, as the British intelligence report reveals.
He said that Najib offered the prime ministership to Hassan al-Hudaybi, the general guide of the Muslim Brotherhood at that time.
In his memoirs, “I Was President of Egypt,” Major General Naguib, the first president of Egypt after its transition from the monarchy to the republic, did not refer to this offer at all, although he spoke in detail about lengthy and intense deliberations to choose a non-military prime minister. He stressed that the Brotherhood had rejected an offer to participate in a new government, after Maher’s resignation, with three ministers.
However, the British report says that one of the intelligence sources confirms the “sincerity” of Hassan al-Hudaybi’s words at the time, about Najib’s offer to head the first government after the revolution.
He said that the “accuracy, honesty, and prestige of the source” indicated that “the Brotherhood’s guide was indeed offered this position by Naguib.”
This was why the intelligence was concerned about what might come. She warned that “the ability of the ten young officers to carry out extremist actions to achieve their goals is certainly possible.”
The following reasons were given:
Six of them are members of the Muslim Brotherhood. One of these six, Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat, has a long history as a terrorist.
• Many of the young officers were accomplices of Mustafa Kamel Sedky, a well-known terrorist.
•They have proven that they can act ruthlessly, such as arresting police officers, certain civil officials and insisting that the king abdicate.
Besides the army and its revolutionary officers, the British considered the Brotherhood and the Wafd to be the other two sides of a triumvirate that would dominate the political scene in Egypt after July 23, 1952.
In the face of the Brotherhood’s influence and influence, the Wafd Party enjoyed great popularity thanks to its reputation for resisting British occupation.
However, the comparison, according to the intelligence report, was in the Brotherhood’s interest. “Once again, it can be judged that the Wafdian influence in the army is not as strong as that of the Brotherhood,” he said.
The authors of the report referred the leadership in London to a previous assessment prepared by the Coordination Department for Egyptian Affairs, and stressed that “20 percent of the army are members of the Muslim Brotherhood, compared to only 4 percent who are members of the Wafd Party.”
The question that preoccupied everyone inside and outside Egypt was related to Naguib’s ability to control any disputes that might arise between the military leaders of the revolution over the direction of the country after the overthrow of the monarchy.
The intelligence assessment was summed up in that if Naguib was unable to maintain control over and discipline the young officers, “there is a serious risk that the Brotherhood or Wafd faction will gain the upper hand.” Intelligence suggested that “the Brotherhood’s hand is the upper hand.”
Intelligence had learned that the Brotherhood had decided to abandon the role of observer and enter political life. I sent a report on this to the headquarters in London.
This report included a warning that “if Ali Maher does not succeed in achieving coherence in the political situation within a reasonable period, the army will push the Brotherhood and al-Hudaybi to power.”
Intelligence expressed its belief that this is a matter of “great importance”.
And she warned of the consequences of enabling the Brotherhood to rule, especially for the British forces, advising “the need not to neglect this matter.”
He said, “If the army put the Brotherhood in power, they would have a priceless weapon represented in their battalions, which, as is known, have never been disbanded, and still possess large quantities of weapons, which have not been fully used in the Canal area.”
The warning was not only related to the status of the occupying forces in Egypt, but also warned of the danger of the Brotherhood’s power in any potential political conflict.
The report described the aforementioned brigades as “an element that can easily tip the scales in any power struggle in the interest of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
This was a dangerous omen in the opinion of British intelligence, whose report confirmed that Najib and Maher were “aware of it”.
What about the Wafd Party, which has a proven history of resisting the occupation?
“His (party) terrorist activities are less dangerous,” the report said. He explained this that “the liberation units of al-Wafd have been disbanded to a large extent, and moreover, these units have never had the level of organization that the Muslim Brotherhood has.”
In addition, the Wafdian influence in the army “is not as strong as that enjoyed by the Muslim Brotherhood.”
What preoccupied the new rulers, and Britain, in that critical period was the political stability in Egypt. This is what prompted British intelligence not to rule out that the army would push the Brotherhood to power to achieve this end.
And she said, in her report, that the army’s taking this step “would be a matter of great importance.” He added that if al-Hudaybi led the army, “there would be a reasonable opportunity for them to act with dignity, restraint and control, and try to achieve their goals on the ground.”
The report raised the issue of the Brotherhood’s eligibility, nearly a quarter of a century after its founding, to rule Egypt, especially in the stage of the revolutionary transition from monarchy to republic.
At this time, British intelligence monitored Al-Hudaybi’s achievements and succeeded in “strengthening the organization to the point where it was able to emerge as a truly great political force.”
He noted that among these achievements:
• Reviving the group and reorganizing it, so it has become a respected vibrant force in the country
• This led to the recovery of the Brotherhood’s assets and funds
• Achieving the goal of meeting the king, which was not the case with Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the group himself.
• The two prime ministers, Ali Maher (the first prime minister after the revolution) and Ahmed Naguib Al-Hilali (the last prime minister before it) consulted with the Brotherhood’s guide on several occasions.
• Involved the Brotherhood in the liberation period without officially involving the organization, thus satisfying the reckless and violent elements (in the group) by allowing some of them to fight in the Canal Zone.
However, the intelligence report argued that if the military empowered the Brotherhood, it “must wait to see if they have the men who have the ability, but without prior political experience, to run the government apparatus.”
The report’s authors raised a question about the Islamic Brotherhood’s concept of the state, which he described as an inapplicable utopia in the mid-twentieth century.
He said: “It must be admitted, of course, that the ideal state model of the Brotherhood based on the principles of the Qur’an is untimely and correct in the current stage of world development.”
About two years and three months after the British intelligence report in the Middle East was written, Nasser managed to get rid of Najib and his supporters in the army to gain power. Then the regime launched the first largest campaign of repression against the Muslim Brotherhood, which returned to political life again after the assumption of the presidency, Anwar Sadat, in October 1970, after the death of Nasser.
Another 41 years passed. The first free, democratic presidential elections in Egypt’s history were held after the January 25, 2011 revolution that toppled the Hosni Mubarak regime, and the army expressed its support for it. The presidency was won by Dr. Mohamed Morsi, head of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Despite London’s stated objection to the army’s intervention in principle, it considered that this intervention was a response to a growing popular demand after the failure of Morsi’s rule.
After his overthrow, Morsi was tried in more than one case and died in custody on June 17, 2019. A large number of the group’s leaders and members were arrested, and many of them fled to Britain, the headquarters of the international organization of the group, which the regime of current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi classified as a terrorist organization. . Britain did not respond to Egypt’s repeated requests to take a similar step.
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