CAIRO – Saudi Arabia formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization Friday, putting it on the same footing under Saudi law as al-Qaida and shaking what until recent months had been considered one of the Muslim world’s most established mainstream organizations.
The effect of the designation remained unclear. But it was likely to affect not just the way Saudi Arabia deals with Brotherhood members in its own country, but how it works with Brotherhood-affiliated organizations around the world.
Members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood have been a mainstay of the movement to topple the government of President Bashar Assad, and the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is closely allied with the Brotherhood.
The designation is also likely to have ramifications for Hamas, the Brotherhood-affiliated group that rules the Gaza Strip.
The U.S. State Department said it did not share Saudi Arabia’s view that the Brotherhood was a terrorist organization. But with the United States increasingly dependent on Saudi Arabia to pursue its stated goal of toppling Assad in Syria, U.S. policy – and its selection of partners – in that country seemed likely to be affected by the Saudi action.
Saudi Arabia has long been hostile toward the Brotherhood, whose doctrine opposes the kingdom’s dynastic rule.
Still, the announcement Friday caught the Brotherhood by surprise. Muslim Brotherhood members from Egypt, where the group was founded 86 years ago and where it was declared a terrorist organization in December, described themselves as “distressed” at the Saudi action.