Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2013

Struggling to Adapt: The Muslim Brotherhood in a New Syria

Aron Lund

May 2013

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Since the start of the Syrian revolution in March 2011, no opposition group has received more attention than the Syrian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet, little is known about this secretive movement. In the early 1980s, the Brotherhood was almost entirely purged from Syria. It remained the country’s most important dissident faction through-out its thirty-year exile, but it was often preoccupied with internal conflicts along personal and regional lines. During this period, it failed to replenish its ranks with a new generation of members or reestablish itself inside Syria, and its internal conflicts have never been entirely resolved. The group’s current leader, Mohammad Riad al-Shaqfeh, seems unable to fully control the adherents of his predecessor, Ali Sadreddine al-Bayanouni. The Brotherhood has acted as a kingmaker of the exile opposition through - out the Syrian uprising. It has made its influence felt through the Syrian National Council (SNC), which was established in October 2011 in Istanbul. The SNC remained the most significant exile opposition group until November 2012, when it joined the broader National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.