Archive for the ‘Trump and Egypt’ category

Egypt caught off guard

August 29, 2017

Egypt caught off guard, Israel Hayom, Dr. Shaul Shay, August 29, 2017

(The decision and its timing raise “questions as to whether everyone in the U.S. administration is in fact on the same page.” Are they even reading the same book? — DM)

The timing of the decision, on the eve of a meeting between a delegation of senior U.S. officials and el-Sissi in Cairo aimed at promoting a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and just weeks ahead of a large-scale joint military exercise between U.S. and Egyptian forces, raises questions as to whether everyone in the U.S. administration is in fact on the same page. Trump even called el-Sissi shortly after the cuts to financial aid were reported in the media to assure him that he would work to bolster U.S. relations with Egypt.

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Egypt was caught off guard by the United States’ decision this week to freeze $300 million in financial and military aid to the country. The U.S. administration took these steps following reports that Egypt was not doing enough to improve human rights in the state.

Ever since signing the peace treaty with Israel in 1978, Egypt has benefited from $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid and $250 million in annual civilian financial support. Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration expressed its disapproval of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s removal from office in 2013 by freezing weapons deliveries to Egypt. Although they have improved following Abdel- Fattah el-Sissi’s election in 2014, bilateral ties between the countries remain chilly. The freeze on weapons deliveries has convinced el-Sissi that Egypt must consolidate a strategy for diversifying its weapons resources and increase security ties with Russia and France.

The regime in Egypt faces a difficult struggle against an array of radical Islamic organizations that threaten that country’s security and stability, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State proxies that operate in the Sinai Peninsula and neighboring Libya as well as smaller Islamic terrorist groups. To contend with Islamic radicalization and terrorism, the Egyptian regime has been forced to take a series of operational, administrative and legal steps, some of which are perceived in the U.S. and Europe as infringing on human rights. Since the Arab Spring in 2011, Egypt has been subject to a financial crisis and ongoing terror attacks that make it difficult for that country to rehabilitate its economy. This is especially true for its tourism industry and foreign investments in the country.

The U.S. administration’s decision was a double surprise for Egypt: For one thing, Egypt had believed that with the election of Donald Trump, someone who is less sensitive to issues of human rights and prioritizes the war on Islamic terror, ties between the countries would improve and the U.S. would be more empathetic to the Egyptian regime’s troubles at home. For another thing, news of the decision was relayed to the Egyptians mere hours before it was reported in the American media.

The timing of the decision, on the eve of a meeting between a delegation of senior U.S. officials and el-Sissi in Cairo aimed at promoting a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and just weeks ahead of a large-scale joint military exercise between U.S. and Egyptian forces, raises questions as to whether everyone in the U.S. administration is in fact on the same page. Trump even called el-Sissi shortly after the cuts to financial aid were reported in the media to assure him that he would work to bolster U.S. relations with Egypt.

In a chaotic Middle East, Egypt is a vital ally to the U.S. and its moderate Sunni allies. Maintaining the 1979 peace deal with Egypt and the security ties forged with it in recent years are a vital strategic interest for Israel. Israel must therefore work to find a solution to the issues under dispute between the U.S. and Egypt so that they do not harm the stability of the regime in Cairo and ensure Egypt remains a fundamental component in the moderate Sunni coalition in the Middle East in light of all the threats the region faces, which in large part stem from Iran and the Shiite axis following Islamic State’s defeat in Iraq and Syria.

Dr. Shaul Shay is a lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

US Tomahawk cruise missiles for ISIS-Sinai HQ

April 18, 2017

US Tomahawk cruise missiles for ISIS-Sinai HQ, DEBKAfile, April 18, 2017

 

A final decision to go ahead with a US missile assault on central Sinai rests with Defense Secretary James Mattis. He is due to arrive in Cairo on Wednesday, April 19.

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The US Mediterranean fleet is moving into position ready for a decision to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles for a crushing assault on the Islamic State’s mountain strongholds in central Sinai, DEBKAfile’s military and counterterrorism sources report.

This would be the second American strike in a month against a Middle East target, after 59 cruise missiles destroyed one-fifth of the Syrian air force at the Shayrat air base on April 7 in response for Assad’s chemical attack on Syrian civilians.

The prospective American missile attack in Sinai would raise the war on ISIS in the Middle East to a new plane. It would have been discussed during the Egyptian President Abdul-Fatteh El-Sisi’s visit to the White House on April 3. He explained to his host, President Donald Trump, the immense difficulty of overcoming the Islamic State’s affiliate when its headquarters were dug into an interconnected web of tunnels and caves in the central Jabal (Mount) Halal of the peninsula. Nicknamed the “Tora Bora of Sinai,” approach roads to this mountain fastness are few and far between, in common with the Afghan cave network near the Pakistan border destroyed on April 13 by the biggest non-nuclear bomb, the GBU-43/B, in the American arsenal.

The last Egyptian assault on ISIS’ towering mountain stronghold took place on April 2, shortly before El-Sisi travelled to Washington. The Egyptian military announced that 31 terrorists had been killed and a number of caves holding arms and ammunition destroyed.

But the damage was not devastating enough to disrupt the Islamist terrorists’ operations, DEBKAfile’s military sources report. Most of the terrorists escaped with the help of allied Bedouin tribesmen who, familiar with every nook and cranny in the desert peninsula, guided them to safety in new caves in Jabal Halal that were even more inaccessible to Egyptian troops.

Their new headquarters can only be destroyed by cruise missiles capable of exploding underground.

The Egyptians and Americans believe that if the Jabal Halal cave system sheltering the ISIS-Sinai core command center is destroyed, its long campaign of terror will be curtailed. The flow of terrorist manpower, arms and explosives from the mountain to the networks which terrorize the population and Egyptian forces of northern Sinai will dry up.

Jabal Halal is also the hub of the ISIS smuggling networks, through which fighters and arms are moved from southern Libya into Sinai and Egypt. Knocking it out will also deliver a resounding blow to that traffic.

A final decision to go ahead with a US missile assault on central Sinai rests with Defense Secretary James Mattis. He is due to arrive in Cairo on Wednesday, April 19.

A new age of diplomacy

April 5, 2017

A new age of diplomacy, Israel Hayom, Prof. Abraham Ben-Zv, April 5, 2017

The character of the new American diplomacy is slowly becoming clear, both in terms of style and essence, and especially as it pertains to the Middle East. We are being given the impression that U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to adopt the management style of late U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who tended to bypass his secretary of state.

Preliminary signs indicate that Trump sees his current wandering adviser and envoy, Jared Kushner, as a confidant and trustworthy emissary for sensitive diplomatic missions. This is clear from his mission to Baghdad at the beginning of the week and in his ongoing involvement in advancing the peace process in the Palestinian arena. Kushner is also expected to take part in the U.S.-China summit (set to take place in Florida this week), reflecting his role as moderating figure in the charged relationship between Trump and the Chinese leadership and indicating his growing power.

While a young and energetic Kushner hops between continents as the president’s representative, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson lags behind him, excluded and disconnected from the big decision-makers.

This gives a good idea of style. As for the essence — when it comes to the Middle East in particular, we are seeing a sort of diplomacy that is radically different than former U.S. President Barack Obama’s approach. This is especially true regarding the Trump administration’s efforts to establish a Sunni anti-Iranian axis led by Cairo and Riyadh. While the Obama administration abandoned the United States’ traditional partners on this front, and instead, worked tirelessly to reconcile with Iran, the current White House is signalling unequivocally that it is determined to at least turn over a new leaf in its relationship with these regional powers and to upgrade strategic cooperation with them in order to uproot terrorism.

While Obama’s relationship with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was characterized by coldness (in contrast to the warmth he showed to Egypt’s previous leader, Muslim Brotherhood member and sworn Hamas supporter Mohammed Morsi), Trump’s approach is quite different. El-Sissi’s state visit to Washington this week was marked by extraordinary warmth and cordiality on the part of the American president. This was an effort to erase the remnants of the recent past — especially the memory of punitive and alienating policy led by Obama against the Egyptian leader — from the Egyptian consciousness.

A similarly dramatic improvement can be seen in U.S.-Saudi relations, wherein strategic cooperation has also been upgraded recently, especially (but not only) regarding fighting on the Syrian front and in the struggle against the Houthi militias operating in Yemen with Iran’s help and support (against al-Qaida forces in the field). This follows the deep ebb in their relationship due to Obama’s tireless efforts to appease the Ayatollah regime in Iran, the sworn enemy of the Saudi royalty. Regarding Syria, in 2013, Obama abandoned the civilian population there to its fate, remaining, despite his declarations, completely passive even after Syrian President Bashar Assad crossed all the red lines by using murderous chemical weapons against masses of civilians. On Tuesday, too, Assad’s forces carried out a major chemical attack, harming many civilians, in the country’s destroyed and divided north. Based on the growing military involvement and the Trump administration’s determination to deal with the “axis of evil” there too, we can assume that the White House will have a different response to this war crime.

Finally, regarding U.S.-Israeli relations, we are witnessing the expression of exceptional support and identification, reminiscent of the golden age of late U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson (during which time then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Arthur Goldberg’s speeches reflected the strength and resilience of the “special relationship”). While the Obama administration focused on efforts to settle the conflict, which it defined as a core issue of utmost local and regional importance, the Trump administration is demonstrating a much more relaxed and relevant approach to the complex situation. On this front too, there is real change in the form and style of American diplomacy in the Trump era.

Sisi as key to Arab anti-ISIS pact with Israel

April 3, 2017

Sisi as key to Arab anti-ISIS pact with Israel, DEBKAfile, April 3, 2017

(Please see also, Restore the U.S.-Egyptian Strategic Alliance, Designate the Muslim Brothers as Terrorists. — DM)

Our Washington sources report that President Trump aims to complete his plan for bringing together Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel on a new footing by September.

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US President Donald Trump’s first face to face with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi at the White House Monday, April 3, focuses on four main topics, DEBKAfile reports: The fight against Islamist State terror rampant in Egyptian Sinai and neighboring Libya; topping up US military assistance to Cairo, aid for easing Egypt’s dire economic straits and, finally, the effort to bolster normal relations between the Arab world (including the Palestinians) and Israel.

From the moment he assumed the Egyptian presidency in June 2014, El-Sisi has waged a never-ending war on Islamist terror against Ansar Beit-al Maqdis, which later pledged alliance to the Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. The Egyptian army has so far been worsted.  The Egyptian president is not deaf to the criticism of the Second and Third Armies’ failure to overcome a few thousand armed men, even though they can at a moment’s notice raise several thousand more fighters from the Bedouin tribes of Sinai. US intelligence has rated the Egyptian forces as slow-moving and unwieldy; but for limited forays, its contingents preferring to sit safely in their barracks rather than risk going out and pursuing the enemy across the Peninsula.

Shortly before President El-Sisi’s trip to Washington, the Egyptian air force conducted intense bombardments of ISIS concentrations around the northern town of El Arish, killing at least 14 terrorists, nabbing 22 and seizing large caches of roadside bombs. But they too long delayed bearding the Islamists in their main stronghold atop Mount Jabal Hala in central Sinai. ISIS is therefore free to move around the territory and strike at will, the while expanding its operations into Egypt proper.

The weekend air strikes came after months in which ISIS overran sections of El Arish, Sinai’s biggest town (pop: 100,000). Their grip is such that Egyptian forces no longer dared venture into those lawless neighborhoods, especially at night. Earlier this year, terrible persecution including executions forced the few thousand indigenous Christians, most of them Copts, to flee their homes in El Arish. Egyptian forces proved unequal to safeguarding the US-led international observer force (MFO) monitoring the 1972 Egyptian-Israel peace treaty at a nearby station.

American military aid to Egypt stands today at $1.3bn a year. Even though the US president means to slash foreign aid programs, he may make an exception in this case and expand military assistance -, possibly in the coin of advanced military hardware, given the country’s unending frontline battle against Islamist terror.

Its presence in El Arish, 130km from the Egyptian-Israeli border, plants the peril on the doorsteps of Egypt’s neighbors as well: Northern Sinai borders on Israel, its northwestern district shares a border with the Gaza Strip, abutting in the east on Jordan and in the southwest on Libya. The cities of western Sinai sit on the banks of the Suez Canal.

The Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate is closely allied with Salafi organizations in the Gaza Strip and works hand in glove with its Palestinian Hamas rulers, especially in the lucrative arms-smuggling business.

Al-Baghdadi last year posted a group of Iraqi officers in his service to the Sinai contingent. They travelled through southern Jordan to reach the peninsula. The Islamist cells in Libya have moreover made ISIS-held turf in Sinai their safe highway for traveling undetected to their other strongholds across the Middle East.

To stamp out this sprawling, multi-branched menace, the Trump administration needs to bring Egypt, Jordan and Israel into a coalition for a sustained, common campaign.

The Obama administration, which boycotted President El-Sisi for persecuting Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, tried unsuccessfully to build Turkey, Egypt and Israel into a counterterrorism pact. The Trump administration, for which the Brotherhood is anathema, has a better chance. But first, relations between the Arab world and Israel need to be placed on a regular footing. Some groundwork already exists in the informal bilateral military ties Egypt and Jordan maintain with Israel. DEBKAfile’s military sources have revealed in past reports the limited give-and-take relations for fighting terror Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi maintain with Israel.

The US President’s advisers recognize that before a broad, effective front against ISIS and Al Qaeda can be put together from these partial, often covert ties, progress is necessary towards normalizing relations between the Arab governments and the Jewish state, including the Israeli-Palestinian track.

Trump will certainly want to hear what role his Egyptian guest is willing to take for bringing this process forward. He will ask his next Middle East visitor, Jordan’s Abdullah II, the same question, when he arrives in Washington Tuesday. As for the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, he was promised an invitation to the White House this month, but not yet been given a date. He is clearly being left to wait until the senior players in the region have had their say. Our Washington sources report that President Trump aims to complete his plan for bringing together Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel on a new footing by September.

Egypt’s Sisi to Visit Washington in First Week of April: Newspaper

March 19, 2017

Egypt’s Sisi to Visit Washington in First Week of April: Newspaper, Breitbart, March 19, 2017

Adam Berry/Getty

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will make his first state visit to Washington during the first week of April at the invitation of U.S. President Donald Trump, Egyptian state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram reported on Sunday.

The trip will be Sisi’s first U.S. state visit since being elected president in 2014 as former U.S. President Barack Obama had never extended an invitation.

Sisi was elected a year after leading the military’s ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Mohamed Mursi after mass protests. Trump invited Sisi in January but the date of the visit had not been announced.

Read more here. (But there is no more there. — DM)

Revealed yesterday: The Muslim Brotherhood lost a good friend when Obama left office and gained a formidable opponent with Trump

January 24, 2017

Revealed yesterday: The Muslim Brotherhood lost a good friend when Obama left office and gained a formidable opponent with Trump, American ThinkerThomas Lifson, January 24, 2017

Yesterday saw a stunning contrast as it was revealed that the outgoing Barack Obama funded Palestinians as almost his last act in office, while Donald Trump’s first full workday saw him call Egypt’s President Al-Sisi to offer support in his battle against the Muslim Brotherhood, the Ikhwan, which seeks his overthrow.

It’s all about the Muslim Brotherhood, that octopus of Islamic supremacist jihad that seeks to use all methods — legal, violent, or deceptive – to advance the goal of a world ruled by Islam.

Former President Obama’s last few hours in office saw him override a Congressional “hold” placed on $221 million funding for the Palestinians, whose goal remains the destruction of Israel in line with the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy. Matthew Lee and Rick Lardner broke the story for the AP:

A State Department official and several congressional aides said the outgoing administration formally notified Congress it would spend the money Friday morning. The official said former Secretary of State John Kerry had informed some lawmakers of the move shortly before he left the State Department for the last time Thursday. The aides said written notification dated Jan. 20 was sent to Congress just hours before Donald Trump took the oath of office. (snip)

Congress had initially approved the Palestinian funding in budget years 2015 and 2016, but at least two GOP lawmakers — Ed Royce of California, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Kay Granger of Texas, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee — had placed holds on it over moves the Palestinian Authority had taken to seek membership in international organizations. Congressional holds are generally respected by the executive branch but are not legally binding after funds have been allocated.

That this move was a single digit salute to his opponents is evident in the other last minute beneficiaries of Obama’s granting of boons: the United Nations and climate change funding:

In addition to the $221 million for the Palestinians, the Obama administration also told Congress on Friday it was going ahead with the release of another $6 million in foreign affairs spending, including $4 million for climate change programs and $1.25 million for U.N. organizations

President Trump has come under fire for allegedly being anti-Muslim, when in fact his opposition is to violent jihad and those who promote world domination for Islam and the imposition of sharia law on every human being on the planet.  Oddly enough, the women marchers on Saturday were led by a fan of sharia, Linda Sarsour.

Actually, President Trump sees good relations with Muslims who oppose violent jihad and the Ikhwan, and acted dramatically on that yesterday, as Reuters reports:

 Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed ways to boost the fight against terrorism and extremism on Monday and the new American leader underscored his commitment to bilateral ties, the two countries said.

Trump told Sisi in a telephone call he appreciated the difficulties faced by Egypt in its “war on terror” and affirmed his administration’s commitment to supporting the country, Sisi’s spokesman Alaa Youssef said in a statement.

“The U.S. president also expressed during the call his looking forward to the president’s awaited visit to Washington which is being prepared for through diplomatic channels,” the statement said.

“The U.S. president also expressed during the call his looking forward to the president’s awaited visit to Washington which is being prepared for through diplomatic channels,” the statement said.

The people who want to inflict terror attacks on us support the Palestinians funded by Obama, while they want to force Sisi out of office. For the moment, I will leave it to historians to explain why Obama chose to align himself with the former group, and I thank God that president Obama [sic] is supporting President Al-Sisi, who has openly called for reform of Islam.

 

Trump stressed bilateral commitment when he talked to Egypt’s El-Sisi

January 24, 2017

Trump stressed bilateral commitment when he talked to Egypt’s El-Sisi , DEBKAfile. January 23, 2017

President Donald Trump assured Egypt’s Abdel El-Sisi that the US remains committed to bilateral relations with Cairo and is ready to offer Egypt economic assistance in the phone conversation they held Monday on economic issues and terrorism.

DEBKAfile: This was Trump’s second phone conversation with a Middle East leader after he talked to Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu Sunday.