A leading European counter-terrorism official is facing criticism after claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, are not terrorist groups.
Peter Neumann, an Austrian counter-terrorism official charged with working to combat violent extremism under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) attracted criticism this week after stating that both the Brotherhood and IRGC are not terrorist groups and should not be formally designated as such.
Neumann's stance elicited criticism from U.S. terror experts who told the Washington Free Beacon that this line of thinking would not help European officials combat a rising threat from radical terrorists, many of whom have become radicalized through extremist doctrines promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood and the theocratic regime in Iran. The position also runs counter to views held by the Trump administration, which has vowed tougher action on radical organizations.
A senior White House official who spoke to the Free Beacon about the matter disclosed that the Trump administration is keeping a keen eye on all of these groups and will not hesitate to take action as the administration works to combat radical groups.
"Like with Muslim Brotherhood, the main argument against designating them as terrorist organisation is that they aren't one," Neumann stated on Twitter Tuesday, a day before he was appointed as a special representative on radicalization for the OSCE.
Neumann, who also serves as director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence based in London, is tasked with helping the OSCE combat the rise of Islamic terrorism amid reports of growing threats across the continent. An estimated 10,000 individuals from OSCE member countries are reported to have traveled to Syria to wage jihad.
Neumann's stance appears to clash with the national security vision backed by the Trump administration and many U.S. lawmakers, who view both groups as terror agents and have sought to formally designate them as terror outfits.
The White House is already considering a designation for the Brotherhood and could pursue similar designations for the IRGC.
"It is no secret that President Trump is deeply concerned about the threat of radical Islamic terrorism, and he's made clear that while he's prioritizing defeating ISIS, he knows the issue doesn't end there," one senior White House official told the Free Beacon. "We're going to have to look at the root causes if we're actually going to fight this enemy."
The Muslim Brotherhood is already designated as a terror outfit by Egypt, Israel, and other nations due to its efforts to foment unrest and violence. The IRGC is a primary backer of Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terror groups that have wreaked violence across the Middle East.
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert on rogue regimes, said that the IRGC, in particular, represents the type of terrorism gripping the Middle East and other regions.
"The IRGC sees the world in black-and-white terms, and so it's ironic that Western diplomats and academics want to read nuance into the group," Rubin said after reviewing Neumann's comments. "They can slap themselves on the back and believe they are sophisticated but, in reality, they are becoming useful idiots and legitimizing the bureaucracy of terror."
The IRGC not only directly supports terrorism forces but also runs a massive propaganda effort meant to indoctrinate new recruits.
"Some analysts say the IRGC isn't monolithic, and some Iranians only join for the privileges," Rubin said. "Well, a designation would put these opportunists on notice that the short-term gain in gasoline rations isn't worth a lifetime blacklist from seeing relatives abroad or visiting beaches without burqas."
One U.S.-based terrorism expert who liaises with many in Congress told the Free Beacon that efforts to downplay these organizations harm the global response to terrorism.
"Neumann's equivocation on the IRGC's role in Iran's state sponsorship of terrorism is precisely why many don't take the ‘experts' so seriously," said the expert, who requested anonymity to speak freely. "But what makes Neumann so dangerous is not that he is some fringe crackpot academic, but at the very pinnacle of the international ‘countering violent extremism' effort. We already have these so-called ‘experts' talking about ‘moderate al Qaeda'. What's next in this effort to define down terrorism, ‘moderate' ISIS?"