New report on the Muslim Brotherhood

by Aron Lund for Syria Comment

Syrian Muslim Brotherhood Aron Lund

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which has a great Syria resource site, just released my new paper on the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. They’re also about to release a second report by Raphaël Lefèvre, a French scholar who recently published a well-received book on the Syrian Ikhwan, called Ashes of Hama. Keep your eyes open for that – I’ve had a look at an earlier draft, and it was great stuff.

My own paper can be downloaded in English or Arabic, or (if you’re the lazy kind of Syria watcher) you can just skim through the summary right here:

Struggling to Adapt: The Muslim Brotherhood in a New Syria

The Muslim Brotherhood was Syria’s strongest opposition faction when the uprising against Bashar al-Assad erupted in March 2011, but it was entirely based in exile. Its aging, exiled leadership is now struggling to influence Syria’s youthful revolt. Its efforts to exercise control are buoyed by the disorganized state of the opposition both abroad and in Syria, but the rise of militant Salafism has complicated its attempts to co-opt fighters on the ground.

Key Themes

  • The Brotherhood remains the most important Syrian opposition faction in exile, but it has largely failed to root itself in the insurgency in Syria.
  • The organization exerts influence inside Syria through a network of informal alliances with Islamist figures and rebel commanders, working through family connections and “independent” charitable organizations.
  • Internal divisions between the so-called Hama and Aleppo branches hobble the group and contributed to a split in early 2011.
  • The Brotherhood is threatened by the rise of militant Salafi groups that question its relatively moderate ideology and undercut its attempts to recruit disaffected Sunni youth.


The Syrian Brotherhood is not as strong as commonly believed. The incessant focus on the Brotherhood by the Assad regime, Western nations, and rival opposition groups has helped it build a fearsome reputation. Its actual political and organizational capability appears to be far more modest.

The failures of others have benefited the Brotherhood. The real reason for the group’s success in the exile community is the extreme disorganization of the rest of the opposition. As long as rival actors cannot get their act together, the Brotherhood will win by default.

The Brotherhood tries to distance itself from extremism. Despite its theocratic ambitions and a past history of sectarian violence, the Brotherhood now promotes a moderate Islamist approach and seeks to accommodate concerns about its ideology. Since 2011, it has consistently cooperated with secular groups, spoken in favor of multiparty democracy, and worked through mainstream opposition frameworks such as the Syrian National Council, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, and the Free Syrian Army.

Several armed groups linked to the Brotherhood fight in Syria. The leadership refuses to admit to having an armed branch, but Brotherhood exiles have been funding armed groups since late 2011. The organization now controls or sponsors dozens of small paramilitary units inside Syria.

— Aron Lund

Comments (586)

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551. Sami said:

Well to you had Mother Theresa spoken out against your hero’s handiwork you would’ve labeled her an 3ar3ouri Salafist.

It is absolutely sickening to read your adulation to a mass murderer. It is criminal.

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May 13th, 2013, 10:48 am


552. zoo said:

Obama’s month of truth

Obama faces tough decisions on Syria as pressure for intervention mounts

As the president prepares to meet the prime ministers of Britain and Turkey, what are his options on the Syrian civil war?

Even if a conference is held, there would be difficult problems. What rebel groups would be invited? Would rebels agree to a compromise government that left Assad involved?

Amid scepticism over whether a peace conference will work, the Obama administration’s next best option is to see Assad, above, and his immediate circle forced to leave Syria, leaving the rump of his government in place. This rump would provide, from a US viewpoint, a group that it could work with, preferred to rebel groups that are strongly Islamist.

Arab countries close to the US have maintained links with senior figures in the Assad government, encouraging them to stay in place. Assuming Assad was to leave, the rump government would still have to reach an accommodation with the rebels.

Erdogan supports a no-fly zone because it would at least protect civilians in rebel-controlled areas from air attack. But it would consolidate the rebel hold on parts of the country, making eventual fragmentation more likely. No-fly zones could also see US planes come under attack from Syrian air defences

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May 13th, 2013, 11:01 am


553. revenire said:

Sami every dead rat is a blow struck against the Zionist Entity.

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May 13th, 2013, 11:05 am


554. zoo said:

Syrian army takes villages near Qusayr

Military halts operations in town to allow civilians to leave safely
Published: 16:54 May 13, 2013
Gulf News

Western Dumayna, Syria: Government troops captured three villages in the strategic Qusayr area of Homs province on Monday, allowing them to cut supply lines to rebels inside Qusayr town, a military officer told AFP.

“The attack on the villages of Western Dumayna, Haidariyah and Esh Al Warwar began this morning,” the lieutenant colonel said on condition of anonymity. “The fighting lasted for three hours until we established control over these villages, which are considered strategic because they lie on the road between the cities of Homs and Qusayr and will allow us to block supplies to the militants in Qusayr.”

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May 13th, 2013, 11:06 am


555. zoo said:

‘Assad must go’: Western-Gulf intransigence bulwarks peace in Syria
By Nile Bowie

For anyone who has been critical of the Western narrative on Syria, the ongoing diplomatic circus begs a very basic question: How can the countries that have bankrolled and armed the insurgency honestly broker a meaningful peace deal? Well, they can’t.

The joint effort recently announced by Moscow and Washington to bring the government and insurgents to an international conference in line with the Geneva Communiqué is a welcoming development, but some major issues have already come to the fore.

There is an ongoing disagreement over who should represent the opposition in a Syrian peace process; in addition to the blatant Qatari proxies in the Syrian National Coalition, Russia has requested that the National Coordinating Body also be present. In stark contrast to the foreign-based SNC (lined with figures who have spent the past few decades in the West), the NCB is the internal opposition, and it has caught a lot of flak because it opposes the armed uprising and also talks to the Syrian government.

Let’s be clear – before this conflict started in 2011, Assad oversaw a political system that was certainly authoritarian. The economy was stagnant, the state poorly handled overpopulation issues, the agricultural sector was suffering from long periods of drought. When Bashar Assad took over from his father, he granted more political breathing space to dissidents, and then back-pedalled on reforms when popular movements fast took shape. In combating the insurgency, Syrian forces killed many of their own citizens in the crossfire. No matter what anybody thinks of Assad, it is not the place of Washington, London, or Doha to decide his political fate.

Bashar al-Assad, for better or for worse, heads the legitimate government of Syria, and excluding him from any peace talks or transitional government will simply negate the success of peace efforts. If Assad faces an opposition coalition in the scheduled 2014 elections, and international monitors confirm his victory with a fair democratic majority, can anyone expect those sharks and vultures of the NATO-GCC bloc to respect the people’s choice? But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

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May 13th, 2013, 11:14 am


556. revenire said:

Erdogan will find a way to blame Assad for this too. 🙂

HNN Homs News Network

Contact with a Turkish F-16 jet fighter that was flying over the Amanos Mountains in the southern province of Osmaniye near the Syrian border was lost at around 2.15 p.m. today.

“We have received information that the jet crashed in the Yarpuz region of the Amanos Mountains in the direction toward Hatay,” Osmaniye Gov. Celalettin Cerrah said, Anatolia news agency has reported.
Villagers living near the Yarpuz plateau confirmed that they had heard a big noise like an explosion, according to Doğan news agency.

The Yarpuz plateau is located 30 kilometers away from Osmaniye’s provincial center.

However, a military source said the jet might have crashed near the foot of the Amanos Mountains close to the İskenderun Radar Base.

The pilot sent a message saying “I’m jumping” before radio contact was lost, according to a written statement from the Turkish Armed Forces.

The jet, which is based at the 5th Main Jet Command in the northern province of Amasya, was performing a mission flight over the area.

A search and rescue mission to locate the pilot and the plane is continuing with difficulty due to heavy fog. Gov. Celalettin Cerrah also said a search to locate the ruins of the jet were continuing.

A Turkish military plane was shot down off of Syria’s Mediterranean coast by Syria in June 2012, leaving two soldiers dead …


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May 13th, 2013, 11:22 am


557. zoo said:

Is the SNC squeezed by international pressure and desperate to survive, preparing for a necessary survival flip by changing the ‘never’ to ‘maybe’?

Syria Opposition May Attend Talks Involving Assad Aides

Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center in Qatar, said the “natural conclusion” of the coalition statements is that the opposition may have been pressured by outside powers to start negotiating with the Assad regime.

“Up till now their legitimacy has come from the international community’s recognition of them as representatives of the Syrian people,” Shaikh said. “With that in mind, yes they can come under pressure because this is their main source of support.”

The “international community is scrambling now to find a way to deescalate the situation,” he added in a phone interview from Morocco.

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May 13th, 2013, 11:47 am


558. annie said:

Have we shared this already ? The super henchman of Banias ?
Damn him, his family, his ancestors and all his descendants

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May 13th, 2013, 11:52 am


559. zoo said:

#543 Sami

Go on worshiping Al Nusra and other criminals groups funded by kind-heart Qatar and KSA and who keep killing and displacing Syrians.

That may make you feel less sick.

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May 13th, 2013, 12:01 pm


560. revenire said:

Assad is holding all the cards: on the ground the army is decimating the rats, in the international arena the rats will never put forward anyone who they will all agree on. It is very much a matter of who would the government negotiate with. I am sure the government is smirking at the idea of Hitto or another hand-puppet of the West coming to negotiate. They must be laughing now that the opposition has dropped the idea Assad must leave. Anyone who thinks negotiations would entail a new government minus Assad is delusional in the extreme. The army didn’t lose 10s of 1000s of men to only surrender to the West in the end.

I am against negotiations. I believe the army has to crush the rats totally and finally.

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May 13th, 2013, 12:03 pm


561. zoo said:

Khirbet Ghazaleh is secure controlled

A Syrian rights group says government forces have ousted rebels from a southern town on a strategic highway connecting Damascus to the Jordanian border.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad secured control of Khirbet Ghazaleh on Monday. The Syrian government has been waging a counteroffensive against rebels in the southern province of Daraa in recent days, reversing some rebel gains made earlier this month.

Rebels have been trying to seize territory in Daraa to secure supply routes from Jordan, which opposes Assad, and to move closer to his seat of power in Damascus.

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May 13th, 2013, 12:09 pm


562. Juergen said:

Not only this Al Bahsin family will dance when the reign of the Assads and Al Bath will end in Syria

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May 13th, 2013, 12:17 pm


563. Juergen said:

John Stewart on Syria:

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May 13th, 2013, 12:20 pm


564. zoo said:

#552 Reve

Hitto is on his way back to his villa with swimming pool in Texas.
A new Islamist guy is going to be elected on the 23rd May.

“Among the strongest contenders to replace Hitto is Ahmad Tomaa Kheder, a 48-year-old independent Islamist opposition leader from the eastern province of Deir al-Zor.”

It is not clear elected to what job.: The PM of the moribund embryo “interim liberated areas government” in exile, or the new SNC leader as Sabra is holding an interim position.

Who is this guy? another Qatar’s MB candidate? or a ‘tamed’ one who would accept to negotiate with Bashar al Assad?

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May 13th, 2013, 12:26 pm


565. Mina said:

Since you’re in Germany, could you ask Haytham Maleh’s son in Berlin what happened to the 30 millions his father has received for the opposition? People say that the son ate almost half!

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May 13th, 2013, 12:27 pm


566. revenire said:

Ha ha. That’s a LOT of eating!

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May 13th, 2013, 12:32 pm


567. Juergen said:

I bet someone here will state that this is not religious hatred expressed by this lunatic sheikh…

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May 13th, 2013, 12:38 pm


568. majedkhaldoun said:

During a joint news conference with Cameron at the White House, the president just said that if talks can lead to Assad’s departure and an “intact” Syrian state that respects the rights of minorities, that’s “not just good for us, but good for everybody.”

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May 13th, 2013, 12:42 pm


569. Juergen said:


compared to the annual spending of the Mubarak clan, we talk about peanuts dont we?

Let me guess who gave you this information, an old angry arab men?

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May 13th, 2013, 12:43 pm


570. Tara said:


You are twisting what I said. I did not say geniuses have to be in good health. I said that epileptics are more likely to have cognitive dysfunction than to be geniuses. Now there are some who has epilepsy and are geniuses but AS A GENERAL RULE, they are more likely to have cognitive dysfunction. You dismissed my statement as hot air and asked for a proof. I provided you with 2 reviews.

So Batta is more likely to have learning difficulties than to be a genius.

Sorry Zoo but you need to concede when you are proven wrong.

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May 13th, 2013, 12:46 pm


571. apple_mini said:

I have not been expecting any major military development from SAA. The recent gains by SAA in Homs, Damascus suburban towns and Deraa came with no surprise.

SAA has been executing their strategies and plannings in a very rational way. The path of the war is taking its natural course in favor of those who are better equipped, trained and directed. And do not forget the political loss on the rebel and opposition side.

Yet, the SAA is not ready to take Aleppo back due to the sheer number of rebels and their entrenched position inside the city. Aleppo is better to be saved and freed on political front.

The mood of population in Lattakia is getting more relaxed. Every night, streets are packed by people, especially young people. It is quite a scene. You need to constantly maneuver your path in order not to literally bump into other people. Also a brisk walk demands constantly fighting against reckless drivers. Now it is in the peak of roasted fresh chickpeas season. It won’t last long so we better hurry to indulge ourselves.

People are still occupied by the war in their mind. But the fighting is getting more remotely in their lives and they are counting on SAA to do the job.

The opposition would better be hurry to participate national dialogue and take better position in negotiation before its better position is slipping away further.

Personally, I do not like to see the regime gets pumped with more confidence and dominance. The country needs a real change. The regime cannot be the only force to make it happen. I simply do not trust them that much and I want to see the opposition not only bringing in fresh air, but also real momentum.

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May 13th, 2013, 1:02 pm


572. majedkhaldoun said:

Juergen 556
Shiaa are weirdo, is that their religion teaching?,

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May 13th, 2013, 1:03 pm


573. Dawoud said:


This idiot Sheik or cleric is Shia or Shiitte. He is the most hateful anti-Sunni propagandist. Sometimes he says the truth when he clarifies that many Shia figures, including Hasan Nasr’al-Shytan of Lebanon’s Hizbas$, say conciliatory statements only to hide behind the “Taqiah,’ which is a Shia religious tradition of saying something in public while in reality you believe in something else. This filthy cleric is still less dangerous and filthy than Hasan Nasr’al-shytan and other Shias who lies about their real beliefs.

Your favorite Israel also believes in taqiah when its leaders say that they believe in “peace,” while in reality they intend to colonize and steal the small portion that’s left of Palestinians’ stolen homeland.

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May 13th, 2013, 1:07 pm


574. zoo said:

The expats-dominated SNC appears to have no choice other than to participate together with the local Syrian opposition groups including the NCB and face a delegation from the Syrian government nominated by Bashar Al Assad who will remain in power probably until future elections

Syria opposition: consult allies before peace push

Even so, it appears unlikely the largely exile-based SNC would refuse to take part, especially if its regional allies back the conference. U.S. diplomats have met with Arab leaders to ensure the opposition will get on board.

A smaller opposition coalition of 16 groups with roots in Syria will take part in peace talks, its leader, Hassan Abdul-Azim, told the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV on Monday. Speaking from Damascus, he said coalition members were invited by the Russian ambassador to Syria.

The National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria has been tolerated by the regime, though several of its senior figures are in jail. The group has long called for talks on a peaceful transition.

Work on logistics for the conference is underway.

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said over the weekend that Syria has given its list of attendees to its ally Russia. There was no immediate Syrian government comment.

Elaraby said the international envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is working on the setting up the conference, but no date has been set. Initially, the U.S. and Russia said it should be held by the end of the month.

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May 13th, 2013, 1:12 pm


575. Juergen said:


No as far as I know this fella represents a small despicable group, its definatly not mainstream. But some here always point out the hate towards the shia, I thought its time to see that also there is hate toward the sunni faith within some shia groups.

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May 13th, 2013, 1:22 pm


576. zoo said:

#562 Tara

Who cares about cognitive dysfunction? Of course it may happen occasionally but this is well controlled by medecine and it has nothing to do with being a genius.

The wide observation is that there is a proven correlation between genius and epilepsy.
I hope you are able to admit that instead of bringing side arguments like difficulties in learning that are irrelevant to the core of the issue.

I know you hate the idea that Bashar could be one of these geniuses but for me, learning that he suffers from that handicap, made him even more interesting.

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May 13th, 2013, 1:24 pm


577. majedkhaldoun said:

Zoo said
Bashar”who will remain in power probably until future elections”

Again Zoo twists what has been said,He has to relinquish power,does not mean he stay in power.

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May 13th, 2013, 1:26 pm


578. majedkhaldoun said:

Is that Shiaa shaikh ,he is the one who taught you to hate sunni?

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May 13th, 2013, 1:28 pm


579. Juergen said:

LOL Shias are more dangerous than naked women… Salafi thinking at its best

Shias are more dangerous than naked women: Salafist MPs
Nour Party MPs argue that Iranian tourism to Egypt threatens national security and will undermine the country’s ‘Sunni doctrine’

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May 13th, 2013, 1:28 pm


580. Tara said:


I don’t think we are speaking the same language here. I am not sure you understand what is meant by a “cognitive dysfunction”. There is no pills to be taken for that.

I suggest we stop discussing this subject. It is non- productive.

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May 13th, 2013, 1:42 pm


581. zoo said:

#577 Majed

You’re the one who opened my eyes on the existence of Syrian Sunni extremists like you. I never thought that educated Syrian could be so fanatical, hateful and narrow-minded

I certainly dislike them but more than that I pity them.

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May 13th, 2013, 1:44 pm


582. Dolly Buster said:

Shia are worse than kuffar, because a Kafir Asli (original disbeliever) can still be invited to islam.

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May 13th, 2013, 1:44 pm


583. Dolly Buster said:

565. Juergen said:

I bet someone here will state that this is not religious hatred expressed by this lunatic sheikh…

I listen to Yasser al Habib’s classes, because he has good Arabic which I’m trying to pick up. This is his channel

Of course I disagree with his Tashayyu’. Nonetheless I routinely sit through 3 hours of his class at a time. He is about exactly my age, so I feel comfortable around peers.

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May 13th, 2013, 2:05 pm


584. zoo said:

#579 Juergen

These Salafist sheikhs seem to find Shiism so attractive that they worry that many Egyptian Sunnis will promptly convert. Is Sunni faith so fragile?

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May 13th, 2013, 4:38 pm


585. GEORGES said:

581. ZOO

I don’t see much difference between you and extremist sunnis. You’re just like them. But you don’t see it.

What is the difference between extremist sunnis who behead people against them and the regime who jails, kills, slaughters, bombs, etc. anyone against it?

ZOO I am in disbelief that syrians like you exist. I never thought that educated Syrian could be so fanatical, hateful and narrow-minded. You’re evil and I would never want anything to do with you and your ilk.

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May 17th, 2013, 8:20 am


586. Visitor said:

Is there a cure for a delusional idiot like Zoo?

How many times do I have to tell you, idiot Zoo, that Sunnis find your Shiite heretic creed to be so inferior that it is not even worth pondering over? But you are delusional.

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May 17th, 2013, 8:38 am


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