- - Friday, March 29, 2013

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated government recently allowed members of the Brotherhood and hardline jihadists to join Egypt’s military academy for the first time as part of what U.S. officials say is a covert effort to impose Islamist rule in the key Middle East state.

According to U.S. officials with access to intelligence reports, the government of President Mohamed Morsi is covertly taking steps to take control over the pro-Western military and the police forces as part of a campaign to solidify Islamist control.

Egypt for decades had banned the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Islamist groups from both the military and police academies after Islamic terrorists in the military assassinated Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat in 1981.

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The Egyptian military also for decades has maintained close ties to the U.S. military. Analysts in the U.S. intelligence community and the military are viewing the introduction of Islamists into the national military academy, disclosed last week, with concern.

Muslim Brotherhood members and hardline Salafi groups are regarded as dedicated first to jihad, or holy war, and other Islamist principles rather than to the country.

“Any opening of the Egyptian military to Islamist elements would be a big and complicated change,” said one U.S. official. “It’s not clear how it would be managed or how well the rank and file would absorb it.”

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Disclosure that the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamists are now being admitted to the military academy was made public March 19 in Egyptian news reports.

The head of the military academy, Ismat Murad, told reporters the new batch of Islamist students included the nephew of Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials said intelligence agencies are investigating reports that Morsi recently concluded a secret agreement with the Palestinian terror group Hamas, another disturbing sign the Egyptian government is shifting away from its former pro-Western stance and toward radical Islam.

There are concerns the agreement involves collusion between the Muslim Brotherhood and a plan to settle Palestinians in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Hamas militants in recent days have attacked Egyptian troops engaged in demolishing tunnels from the Sinai into Israel. Hamas has asked the Egyptian government to halt the tunnel demolition. The tunnels are a major source of covert support into Gaza.

Morsi was elected president last year. His Freedom and Justice Party was founded by the Muslim Brotherhood, an anti-democratic Islamic political movement whose motto states, “Jihad is our way.” The group claims to be nonviolent but has spawned numerous Islamic terror organizations including al Qaeda.

Under Morsi, the Egyptian government has appointed hardline Islamists as presidential advisers and assistants, including members of the Salafist Al-Nour Party.

In addition to the military academy, Cairo also is taking steps to Islamicize the police forces.

According to recent reports, the Muslim Brotherhood is planning to restructure the Egyptian Interior Ministry. The restructuring is said to include plans to place Brotherhood members in key ministry positions.

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