Cold War alliances and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in EgyptOn August 27, 2020 by Margarita Murphy
Robert Dreyfuss, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (New York: Henry Holt, 2006), pp. 147-149:
In the 1970s, guided by Kamal Adham, Saudi Arabia’s chief of intelligence, Anwar Sadat brought the Muslim Brotherhood back to Egypt. The United States, accustomed to working with Saudi Arabia, was untroubled by the rise of Islamism in Egypt. In fact, Washington was so eager to bring Egypt over the US side in the Cold War that policy makers, diplomats, and intelligence officers viewed Sadat’s restoration of the Islamic right benignly or tacitly encouraged it.
Concurrent with the growth of the Islamic right in Egypt, Sadat helped engineer a dramatic expansion of America’s power in the Middle East. Under Nasser, Egypt was a nation at odds with the United States. Twenty thousand Soviet troops, technicians, and advisers backed Egypt’s armed force; a war of attrition was under way along the Egypt-Israel border; and Egypt and the United States lacked even normal diplomatic ties. But Sadat established a covert relationship with Adham, the CIA, and Henry Kissinger, the US national security adviser. In 1971, within a year of assuming control, Sadat ousted the Egyptian left from the government, and in 1972 he stunned Moscow by expelling Soviet forces. After the 1973 Ramadan War–waged in concert with Saudi Arabia and organized around Islamic themes rather than Arab nationalism–Egypt and the United States reestablished ties. […] By 1980, Egypt was America’s leading Arab ally, engaged in supporting the US jihad in Afghanistan and providing a base for US influence in the oil-rich Persian Gulf. For even the most cynical US Middle East specialists, the change in Egypt, from foe to ally, was dizzying.
Sadat consolidated his shaky rule by unleashing the power of the Islamic right as a hammer against the left, with the generous financial assistance of Saudi Arabia. Though Nasser had suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood and fought to reduce the power of right-wing Islamism in Egypt, Sadat welcomes the exiled Muslim Brotherhood back to Egypt, reinvigorated the organization, and built its institutional presence within the universities, professional associations, and the media. Before Sadat, the Islamists were for the most part fringe-dwelling, marginalized radicals; after Sadat, the Muslim Brotherhood and its even more radical youth wing were part of mainstream discourse in Egypt.