Though in many ways the Brotherhood's official political platform is a model of Islamist moderation and tolerance, it is less a window into the group's thinking than a reflection of its political tactics.Armed elements of the SMB assassinated government officials and carried out bombings of government buildings, Baath party offices, and other targets associated with the regime. In 1979, the SMB carried out a massacre of eighty-three unarmed Alawite cadets at an artillery school in Aleppo.With the election of Ali Sadr al-Din al-Bayanouni as general supervisor in 1996, the Brotherhood began secret negotiations with the government, which for its part felt more secure in offering greater accommodation of religious groups after its suppression of the Islamist uprising of the early 1980s. After the ascension of Bashar al-Assad, the regime released several hundred Brotherhood members from prison. Some SMB figures were allowed to return to Syria (most notably Bayanouni's brother, Abu al-Fatih), and the regime also allowed the publication and sale of some previously blacklisted books by SMB founder and ideologue Mustafa as-Sibai.The demonstrations, they claim, are not led by the SMB but by the newly formed Syrian National Council, which proposes to unite all opposition groups including SMB members.In June 1980, it is said to have made an assassination attempt against the president, who allegedly retaliated by ordering hundreds of captured SMB prisoners gunned down in their cells.Unlike its parent organization, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which often kept its ideological opponents at arm's length, the SMB has repeatedly forged alliances with secular dissident groups even as it secretly tried to negotiate a deal with the Assad regime to allow its return from exile.It firmly renounced violence, implicitly recognizing the legitimacy of Assad's rule. However, Assad refused to grant Bayanouni's three core demands: the release of all SMB members from prison, permission for all exiles to return home, and a lifting of the government's ban on the Brotherhood.After these gestures, the SMB began to rapidly shift its political platform.In March 1982, it joined with the pro-Iraqi wing of the Baath party and other militant, secular opposition groups to form the National Alliance for the Liberation of Syria. This alliance called for a constitutional, multiparty democracy with Shari'a (Islamic law) as the basis of legislation. In 1990, the SMB and a broader array of opposition groups met in Paris and formed the National Front for the Salvation of Syria with similar declared objectives.Meanwhile, the SMB continued its outreach to other opposition groups.
As its influence in the country diminished, SMB leaders increasingly sought alliances with secular opponents of the Assad regime.Though favoring the establishment of an Islamic state in Syria, it participated in parliamentary elections after the country gained independence in 1946 (winning 4 seats in 1947, 3 seats in 1949, 5 seats in 1954, and 10 seats in 1961) and even had ministers in two governments. When the secular, nationalist Baath party took power in 1963, it quickly moved to weaken the SMB and the urban, Sunni merchant class that supported the movement.The SMB was established in 1945-46 by Mustafa as-Sibai as a branch of Hassan al-Banna's Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.Although the SMB has always maintained that it had no connection to underground, armed factions responsible for violence, few take the claim seriously. 49, making membership in or association with the SMB a crime punishable by death. In December 1980, the SMB issued a manifesto that included a detailed program for the future Islamic state in Syria. It continued to work clandestinely in predominantly Sunni, urban centers outside of Damascus, particularly in the city of Hama, and it was there that the Assad regime is reported to have notoriously massacred tens of thousands of people in February 1982, effectively bringing armed resistance to a halt. The SMB was no longer able to work openly inside Syria, and its leadership was dispersed in exile.That same year, a revolt led by the SMB erupted in the city of Hama and was quelled by force. During the 1970s, relations between the SMB and President Hafez Assad (r. Although the Brotherhood's opposition to Baathist rule was expressed ideologically in polite company, there was a deep sectarian undercurrent, as the Assad regime was dominated by Alawites, a schismatic Islamic sect viewed as heretical by religious Sunnis.