The White House is preparing to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization, a move that would impose economic and travel sanctions against the group.
“The president has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern, and this designation is working its way through the internal process,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi requested the U.S. make the designation during a meeting with Trump earlier this month, according to the New York Times, which first reported the effort. The Muslim Brotherhood won elections in Egypt after the Arab Spring uprising, but was ousted in 2013. Under Sisi, Egyptian forces killed hundreds of Brotherhood supporters and detained thousands more.
Organizations must be foreign and engage in terrorist activity that threatens the security of U.S. nationals or the defense, foreign relations, or economic interests of the country to earn the designation.
But the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which has independently operating chapters in different countries and was founded in 1928, could prove difficult to categorize. The group has a broad following in nations with large Muslim populations, and political parties in some countries consider themselves as having ties to the Brotherhood but denounce violent extremism.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a NATO ally, considers himself a supporter of the group.
Once designated, it becomes unlawful for Americans to provide support or resources to the group while US financial institutions are told to freeze their assets.
Analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency have warned that labeling the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists “may fuel extremism” and that allies in the region “probably worry that such a step could destabilize their internal politics, feed extremist narratives, and anger Muslims worldwide,” according to a 2017 memo obtained by Politico.