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Does Zawahiri's Attack on Hamas Signal Serious Rupture with the Muslim Brotherhood?
Ayman Zawahiri, al Qaeda's deputy leader, issued an unprecedented and blistering attack against Hamas over the weekend, perhaps signaling a permanent rupture between the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda-led _jihadist_ movements. The translation I am using was done by Laura Mansfield.

These words will not be easy to retract, and making the dispute public will likely find an echo on the Palestinian street, frustrated by the deepening Palestinian divide.

Not only did Zawahiri, and one has to interpret that he is speaking for bin Laden and the "old guard" al Qaeda as well, disagree with Hamas' decision to join the coalition government with Fatah, he taunted and ridiculed Hamas in some of the most insulting terms possible. He takes the unprecedented step of comparing Hamas's policies to those of the hated Anwar Sadat-who members of the Muslim Brotherhood gunned down. In the end he virtually declares Hamas to be the enemy:

_The HAMAS leadership has finally joined the train of Al Sadat for humiliation and capitulation. The HAMAS leadership has sold out Palestine, and earlier it had sold out referring to Shari'ah as the source of jurisdiction. It has sold all that to be allowed to maintain one-third of the government._

_And what kind of government is this that does not have control over entry or exit, and movement between its two parts without a permit from Israel? It is a government whose prime minister is not allowed to enter his homeland and is not allowed to do so unless the Egyptians mediate between him and the Israeli defense minister. He would stay outside in the cold in front of the Rafah crossing until the Israeli minister gives approval._

_For the sake of retaining one third of the seats in this ridiculous government, HAMAS leadership has abandoned the rule of Shar'iah. It has also ceded most of the Palestinian territories. For one-third of the seats of this ridiculous government, they abandoned the resistance movement and accepted the government of bargaining; they abandoned the movement of martyrdom operations and accepted the government of respect for international resolutions; they abandoned the heroic struggler movement and accepted the domesticated beggar government; they abandoned the movement of penetrating the enemy throngs with explosives and accepted the government of playing with words in the halls of palaces. For a third of the seats in t he government, they abandoned the rule of Shari'ah and bowed to the international legitimacy._

_I appeal to all my Muslim brothers to set themselves free from the shackles of the organizations leading them into the mazes of politics. They should know that their affiliation with Islam is higher, more sublime, and more worthy than their affiliation with any group or organization. The groups that have chosen to reconcile with the hireling governments and work in accordance with their constitutions and laws will continue to revolve in a closed circle, and will move from one concession to another. Despite all this, the wolves of the Crusader campaign will not be satisfied with them._

Given that Hamas is a direct offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and intimately tied to Brotherhood structure, it would seem that this harsh attack may have something to do with the moves by the United States to change its alliances in the Middle East due to Iraq, as outlined by Jonathan Winer on the Counterterrorism Blog.

I have also written earlier about the strains between the International Brotherhood in Europe and the _jihadi_ wing of the Islamist movement, over recruitment and tactics. Those strains have clearly been exacerbated in recent months.

It is also likely tied to the internal disputes covered in the Arab press recently within the International Muslim Brotherhood, largely between the Egyptian old guard and the more internationalist wing of the _Ikwan_.

The long-term ramifications are difficult to predict, as al Qaeda has not had a strong presence in the Palestinian territories. But it has used the Palestinian cause as a rallying point and justification for its existence. Zawahiri ominously warns against trying to keep the _mujahadeen_ out of Palestine.

It is not clear what Hamas' response will be. But this is a useful reminder, to myself in particular, that these groups are made up of human beings, and exceptionally intolerant ones at that. It is easy for me to lose sight of that fact that this is not a monolithic movement marching in lockstep, but a series of people.

In covering the Marxist revolutions in Latin America in the 1980s-1990s, I was always surprised by how vehemently different groups fighting for the same general goal, would denounce each other as traitors, sellouts, counter-revolutionaries, tools of imperialism etc.

Viewed in this context this fracturing between armed Islamist groups can produce potentially useful avenues for exploitation if policy and intelligence leaders prioritize such actions as important goals.

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