President Obama and his administration continue to support the global Islamist militant group known the Muslim Brotherhood.
A White House strategy document regards the group as a moderate alternative to more violent Islamist groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
The policy of backing the Muslim Brotherhood is outlined in a secret directive called Presidential Study Directive-11, or PSD-11. The directive was produced in 2011 and outlines administration support for political reform in the Middle East and North Africa, according to officials familiar with the classified study.
Efforts to force the administration to release the directive or portions of it under the Freedom of Information Act have been unsuccessful.
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan declined to comment on PSD-11. “We have nothing for you on this,” she said.
The directive outlines why the administration has chosen the Muslim Brotherhood, which last year was labeled a terrorist organization by the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates as a key vehicle of U.S. backing for so-called political reform in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia in recent months appears to be moderating its opposition to the Brotherhood in a bid to gain more regional support against pro-Iran rebels in Yemen.
The UAE government also has labeled two U.S. affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim American Society, as terrorist support groups. Both groups denied the UAE claims. Egypt is considering imposing a death sentence on Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed former president who was ousted in military coup in July 2013.
Critics of the administration’s strategy say the Brotherhood masks its goals and objectives despite advocating an extremist ideology similar to those espoused by al Qaeda and the Islamic State, but with less violence. The group’s motto includes the phrase “jihad is our way.” Jihad means holy war and is the Islamist battle cry.