JERUSALEM – An international "crisis management" group led by billionaire George Soros long has petitioned for the Algerian government to cease "excessive" military activities against al-Qaida-linked groups and to allow organizations seeking to create an Islamic state to participate in the Algerian government.
The organization, the International Crisis Group, also is tied strongly to the Egyptian opposition movement whose protests led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
Soros' own Open Society Institute has funded opposition groups across the Middle East and North Africa, including organizations involved in the current chaos.
Following protests that led to the resignations of Mubarak and Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali – both key U.S. allies – Algeria similarly has been engulfed in anti-regime riots.
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has ruled the country with a tough hand. And he has been an ally of the U.S. in fighting al-Qaida.
Islamist parties serve as Bouteflika's main opposition.
Yesterday, Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mourad Medelci said his country may lift a 19-year-old state of emergency in the next few days, indicating the country may be ready for reforms leading to a more representative democracy.
The National Coordination for Change and Democracy, one of the initiators of the recent Algerian protests, demanded an immediate shift to full democracy, the lifting the state of emergency laws, as well as "labor and social justice and liberation in political and media fields."
Algerian Islamic groups have joined in the protest coordination, including the outlawed Islamic Salvation Front and its leader, Ali Belhadj.
The International Crisis Group, or ICG, which includes Soros among its eight executive committee members, long has petitioned for the reformation of the Algerian government and for the inclusion of Islamist political parties, two groups that seek to turn Algeria into an Islamic state.
In a July 2004 ICG report obtained by WND, the ICG calls on the Algerian government to curb military action against al-Qaida-affiliated organizations, particularly the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, GSPC, which, like the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, aims to establish an Islamic state within Algeria, and an armed Islamic terrorist group known as Houmat Daawa Salafia, or HDS.
Soros' ICG names the two Islamic groups in its recommendations to the Algerian government.
"Give top priority to ending the remaining armed movements, mainly the GSPC and HDS, through a political, security, legal and diplomatic strategy," states the ICG report.
"Avoid excessive reliance on military means and do not allow these movements' purported links to al-Qaida to rule out a negotiated end to their campaigns," continued the ICG's recommendation to the Algerian government.
The ICG has issued at least six other reports recommending Algeria transition to a democracy that will allow the participation of the Islamic groups seeking to create a Muslim caliphate.
After Algeria's president, Bouteflika, won more than 80 percent of the vote against Islamic opposition groups in 2004, Robert Malley, an ICG associate, recommended, "Rather than exclude all his opponents from the policy making process, he could empower them."
The ICG's Malley is a former adviser to Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign. He resigned after it was exposed he had communicated with Hamas. WND reported Malley long had petitioned for dialogue with Hamas.
WND also reported previously the ICG also has petitioned for the Egyptian government to normalize ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and includes on its board Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, as well as other personalities who champion dialogue with Hamas, a violent offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The ICG also released a report urging the Egyptian regime to allow the Brotherhood to establish an Islamist political party.
In a June 2008 report entitled, "Egypt's Muslim Brothers Confrontation or Integration," Soros' ICG urges the Egyptian regime to allow the group to participate in political life.
The report dismisses Egypt's longstanding government crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood as "dangerously short-sighted."
The ICG report called on Mubarak's regime to "pave the way for the regularization of the Muslim Brothers' participation in political life," including by allowing for the "establishment of a political party with religious reference."
The ICG specifically stressed allowing the Brotherhood to serve as an Islamist party several times in its 2008 report.
The ICG and its personalities also long have petitioned for the Muslim Brotherhood to be allowed to join the Egyptian government.
ElBaradei suspended his board membership in the ICG two weeks ago, after he returned to Egypt to lead the anti-Mubarak protests.
U.S. board members include Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to Jimmy Carter; Samuel Berger, who was Bill Clinton's national security adviser; and retired U.S. ambassador Thomas Pickering, who made headlines in 2009 after meeting with Hamas leaders and calling for the U.S. to open ties to the Islamist group.
Another ICG member is Malley.
The ICG defines itself as an "independent, non-profit, multinational organization, with 100 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict."
Meanwhile, Soros also has other ties to opposition groups in the Middle East.
His Open Society Institute's Middle East and North Africa Initiative has provided numerous grants to a wide range of projects that promote so-called democratic issues across the region, including in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood stands to gain from any future election.
Soros' Open Society also funded the main opposition voice in Tunisia, Radio Kalima, which championed the riots there that led to the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
In September, Soros' group was looking to expand its operations in Egypt by hiring a new project manager for its Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which is run in partnership with the Open Society Justice Initiative. The group is seeking to develop a national network of legal empowerment actors for referral of public-interest law cases. Such organizations in the past have helped represent Muslim Brotherhood leaders seeking election or more authority in the country.
Soros himself earlier this month made public statements in support of the protests in Egypt, which the Mubarak government has warned will result in the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the country.
In a Washington Post editorial entitled, "Why Obama Has to Get Egypt Right," Soros recognized that if free elections were held in Egypt, "the Brotherhood is bound to emerge as a major political force, though it is far from assured of a majority."
He stated the U.S. has "much to gain by moving out in front and siding with the public demand for dignity and democracy" in Egypt.
He claimed the "Muslim Brotherhood's cooperation with Mohamed ElBaradei … is a hopeful sign that it intends to play a constructive role in a democratic political system."
Soros did not mention his ties to ElBaradei.
Soros did, however, single out Israel as "the main stumbling block" in paving the way toward transition in the Middle East.
"In reality, Israel has as much to gain from the spread of democracy in the Middle East as the United States has. But Israel is unlikely to recognize its own best interests because the change is too sudden and carries too many risks," he wrote.
With research by Brenda J. Elliott