The German government is currently funding research studies on the transformation of elites in the Arab world. One of them focuses on the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria.

The document highlights the difficulty of assessing their actual presence within the NATO-designated opposition, showing to extent to which they move in the shadows. Thus, if there are only 20 MB affiliates listed among the 320 members of the Syrian National Coalition, there are in fact 78 hiding behind the facade of civil society organizations. To which must be added the various groups having allied themselves with the Muslim Brotherhood, comprising islamists but also many other, including communist, factions.

After reiterating the widespread criticism to the effect that the Brotherhood promotes its own agenda at the expense of the expectations of the Syrian people, the study proceeds to list some of the initiatives aimed at catapulting the BM on to the political arena: the publication in March 2013 of its own newspaper Al-Ahd (the covenant), circulated in the "liberated zones", and the forthcoming creation of the National Party for Justice and Constitution.

However, the study remains noncommittal as to the real goal of the Brotherhood. Despite the heavy blow dealt to the credibility of "political Islam" in the wake of President Mohamed Morsi’s defeat in Egypt and notwithstanding the Syrian BM’s comparatively greater penchant for pragmatism, its goal nevertheless remains the creation of a "just Islamic society" in keeping with its founders. Therefore, one must be wary when seeing the leaders of religious minorities (notably Christian), but also atheist, participating in public affairs.

Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Still a Crucial Actor, by Petra Becker, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), October 2013, 8 p.