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Steve Bannon Launches His Big Foreign Policy Crusade

Jonathan Schanzer
25th October 2017 - Quoted by Curt Mills - The National Interest

Stephen K. Bannon joined other Republican grandees such as Sen. Tom Cotton at a packed event in Washington on Monday.

The optics were almost too perfect. Minutes before Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, was due to speak in the highlight time slot at the Hudson Institute’s security summit on Monday, all went dark. Bannon, of course, knows who he is—someone who has stated that “darkness is good. . . . Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.” The outage, never explained by the conference’s organizers, left the preceding panel, including Rep. Brian Fitzgerald, awkwardly carrying on for several minutes with no light. The scene was downright goofy: Sebastian Gorka, Bannon’s former deputy in the White House and notorious cable-news personality, was spotted in the pitch crowd giving out autographs. Eventually a spotlight was installed. “Depending on your political perspective, you can interpret the absence of light in two ways,” joked moderator Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador.

The purpose of the day’s event—held in a packed ballroom in Penn Quarter—was “Countering Violent Extremism: Qatar, Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood.” Bannon didn’t hold back. “I think the single most important thing that’s happening in the world is the situation in Qatar,” Bannon told attendees, referencing the current standoff between Qatar and its ostensible allies, fellow Gulf Cooperation Council members Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others. He opened by quoting President Trump’s inaugural address, and bragged that president’s trip to Saudi Arabia in May gave the Saudis the gumption to lead a blockade against Doha. “I don’t think it was just by happenstance that two weeks after the summit that we saw the blockade by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and Egypt and the king of Saudi Arabia on Qatar,” said Bannon.

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“The Qataris are the ATM of the Muslim Brotherhood,” charged Jonathan Schanzer, executive vice president at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a think tank that has been consulting closely with the administration, in a phone call with me. “They are, without question, the top sponsor of the Muslim Brotherhood, both politically and financially.” Schanzer says, “There is a group of people who either have served in the White House, or continue to, who see the Muslim Brotherhood as a top issue. . . . I would say that Bannon’s views reflect that perspective.”

This puts Bannon and others in some contrast with others—namely Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, widely thought to be a marked man, but one who Bannon did go out of his way to officially back on Monday. “The White House and Tillerson are on different pages” vis-à-vis Qatar, says Schanzer. “Tillerson continues to push a relatively swift resolution,” while others in the cabinet and in Trump’s orbit, like Bannon, are more hawkish on the country. In theory, because Qatar is so extraordinarily wealthy, they could afford to wait out this current impasse as long as a decade, said Schanzer.

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Tags

muslim-brotherhood, qatar