The Biden Administration is currently withholding $130 million in security and counterterrorism assistance to the Egyptian government, unless 16 unnamed prisoners, among whom may be included a virulent anti-Semitic jihadist cleric, are released from Egyptian prisons.
That was the reveal in a recent floor speech by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) this week. Cruz has been locked in a rhetorical battle with the Biden Administration for weeks in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, centered around nominee Barbara Leaf, currently proposed for state department assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs. Cruz has sought to force answers to questions about the conditioning of Egyptian security aid on the release of the unnamed prisoners.
“Not a single name. None of them. Congress doesn’t get to know who those 16 people are,” Cruz said during the speech, which featured a large poster board blow up of Leaf’s 1000-word response to Cruz’s questionnaire, “The answer from Ms. Leaf to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is, not to put too fine a point on, go jump in a lake.”
Cruz called the Biden Administration’s action “extortion” and wondered aloud about the nature of the prisoner list, noting that the list of names is available to Congress in a classified form, but one that remains hidden from the public.
One possible clue as to the identity of these prisoners may be language buried within a recent Senate appropriation report, which calls on the secretary of state to consider conditioning aid on the treatment of Egyptian prisoners Ola al-Qaradawi, Hosam Khalaf, Salah Soltan, Abdelrahman Tarek, and Mohamed El-Baqer. Cruz noted that it is currently unknown who was responsible for the insertion of those names into the appropriations report.
Soltan’s is by far the most interesting name, as he is a well-known Muslim Brotherhood cleric and Hamas supporter. Soltan played a key role in leading U.S. Muslim Brotherhood organizations during his time in United States and has a long record of issuing blood-curdling anti-Semitic calls for violence. He is also known for praising Osama bin Laden, and even being an associate of the late Al Qaeda ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki.
Soltan is currently in an Egyptian prison convicted of incitement to murder. He was formerly a U.S. resident, but his application for naturalization was denied after Soltan appeared at a Hamas rally in Turkey.
Soltan’s son, Mohamed Soltan, also a known Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, was released from Egyptian prison where he faced charges of leading violence during the Rabia Square protests following the country’s ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government. The Muslim Brotherhood regularly recruits among families.
The younger Soltan currently runs the Freedom Initiative, which advocates for the release of those they identify as political prisoners, mostly Islamists, from Egyptian prison, and his cause has been championed by prominent Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, for whom the younger Soltan served as a campaign surrogate.
The other well-known name is that of Ola al-Qaradawi, whose husband is Hosam Khalaf, the daughter of well known Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Yusuf Qaradawi is best known for providing fatwas to justify Hamas suicide bombings and attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, and for his role in Hamas terrorist fundraising network known as the Union of the Good.
While the elder Qaradawi has long been banned from the United States due to his terrorism ties, Ola Al-Qaradawi’s children are American citizens and claim both Ola al-Qaradawi and Khalaf are legal U.S. permanent residents.
If Qaradawi and especially Salah Soltan are the names that Democrats are publicly comfortable supporting, one is forced to seriously wonder about the people whose names are currently being hidden behind a politicized classification. There is no reasonable justification for classifying the names of individuals held in Egyptian prison. One might even expect that the administration would be openly publicizing the list to apply the pressure of the bully pulpit to the Egyptian government were the request a legitimate one.
The most likely conclusion then must be that the Biden Administration knows that the list of individuals contains highly controversial Islamists who openly support terrorism and engage in horrific anti-Semitism. They surely are aware that the American public will not support holding Egypt, and a peaceful Middle East, hostage just so Progressive Democrats can advance their ideological obsession with befriending the Muslim Brotherhood.