Posted tagged ‘Trump and Sisi’

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.

************************

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.

Egypt’s Battle Against Islamic Extremism

June 3, 2017

Egypt’s Battle Against Islamic Extremism, Gatestone InstituteShireen Qudosi, June 3, 2017

Sisi faces more than just militant and political extremists within Egypt’s borders; he is also walking a theological tightrope. Egypt is home to the regressive theocratic influence of the most revered Islamic institution in the Sunni world, Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, which openly views freedom as a “ticking time-bomb.”

Being held hostage intellectually by the grip of Al-Azhar University ensures that there is a constant supply when it comes to producing the next generation of militant and political Islamists.

President Sisi’s response to the brutal slaughter of peaceful Christian worshippers is being called rare but should not be surprising, considering the aggressive measures that need to be taken to hold extremism at bay, and to eradicate the threat that local groups pose to the Egyptian people. Coming out of the Riyadh Summit, where President Trump and a host of Muslim nations, including Egypt, agreed to drive out extremism, Sisi’s reaction was necessary.

 

*********************************

When it comes to regional interests in the Middle East, the priority is the most dominant and violent force.

Egypt stands out as a primary target, given the cocktail of challenges that position it as a center of radical Islam. Egypt faces political, violent, and theological militancy within its borders.

For a nation to do what it must to survive, it needs the steadfast support of world powers. Step one is annihilating all sources of violent Islam.

 

For a Western audience, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is a complex figure, who was shunned by the Obama administration. There appear truly pressing, immediate priorities in Egypt, such as developing the economy and combating the avalanche of extremist attempts to overthrow him. Among Middle East and North African territories, Egypt stands out as a primary target, given the cocktail of challenges that position it as a center of radical Islam.

President Sisi faces violent extremist hotbeds in the Sinai Peninsula, and the still-destabilizing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood (a political arm of violent radicals). Most notably, Sisi brought a reality check to the Arab Spring when he led the military overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, ushering a spiritual and cultural Islamic reformation with widespread popular support from Egyptians on a grass-roots level.

Sisi faces more than just militant and political extremists within Egypt’s borders; he is also walking a theological tightrope. Egypt is home to the regressive theocratic influence of the most revered Islamic institution in the Sunni world, Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, which openly views freedom as a “ticking time-bomb.”

Being held hostage intellectually by the grip of Al-Azhar University ensures that there is a constant supply when it comes to producing the next generation of militant and political Islamists.

Egypt also faces extremist infiltration from neighboring Libya, a nation caught in a power vacuum after the murder of its leader, Col. Muammar Gaddafi. This vacuum has been readily filled by Islamic militants, including ISIS.

Upon returning home in April from his first visit to the U.S. since 2013, Sisi faced a series of domestic terror attacks that once again put Egypt in a global spotlight. On Palm Sunday, in April, two suicide bombings in Coptic Christian churches killed more than 45 people and injured another 120. For Egypt, one of the last regional strongholds that still has a vibrant non-Muslim minority population, violent eruptions on major Christian holidays have become routine.

In England, just days after the May 22 Manchester suicide bombing, attention was once again on Egypt where 29 Coptic Christians were gunned down on a bus traveling to a monastery near the city of Minya. The attack was launched by masked terrorists who arrived in three pick-up trucks and opened fire on the passengers, many of whom were children. Egyptian intelligence believes the Minya attack was led by ISIS jihadists based in Libya. In February, the aspiring terrorist caliphate also launched a campaign against Egypt’s Christian population. The Egyptian military responded swiftly with air strikes against terrorist camps, along with a televised warning against sponsored terrorism.

President Sisi’s response to the brutal slaughter of peaceful Christian worshippers is being called rare but should not be surprising, considering the aggressive measures that need to be taken to hold extremism at bay, and to eradicate the threat that local groups pose to the Egyptian people. Coming out of the Riyadh Summit, where President Trump and a host of Muslim nations, including Egypt, agreed to drive out extremism, Sisi’s reaction was necessary.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (front row, far-right) attended the May 21 Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, along with U.S. President Donald Trump (front-center). The problems of Islamic extremism and terrorism were much-discussed at the summit. (Photo by Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images)

In a war that is equally ideological and kinetic, Muslim nations and others trying to survive the plague of Islamic terrorism will need to be as ruthless as their extremist counterparts. That is something that the warring political factions in the U.S. quickly need to understand. When it comes to regional interests in the Middle East, the priority is combating the most dominant and violent force. If that force wins, human rights are completely off the table. Beyond Egypt, President Trump has received considerable backlash in the U.S. for siding with what are seen as repressive regimes, whether it was hosting Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the White House or engaging with dictators and monarchs during the Riyadh Summit.

In order to bring security to the region, alliances need to look at the real instigators and agents of chaos. There is a metastasizing threat that requires a new coalition of the willing. For a nation to do what it must to survive, it needs the steadfast support of world powers. Step one is annihilating all sources of violent Islam.

Shireen Qudosi is the Director of Muslim Matters, with America Matters.

Muslim Brotherhood in Desperate Campaign in US

May 4, 2017

Muslim Brotherhood in Desperate Campaign in US, Clarion ProjectRan Meir, May 4, 2017

U.S. Capitol building (Photo: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Lectures, discussions and events are being held in prominent American universities, including Harvard and Georgetown, about the “constructive contribution” the Brotherhood has made to Egypt since the Arab Spring began.

****************************

CLICK HERE to Tell Your Members of Congress to Designate the Brotherhood as a Terror Organization

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is mounting a desperate campaign in the U.S. to avoid being designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, according to The Seventh Day, one of Egypt’s largest news outlets.

The political winds have changed in Washington and the Brotherhood is running scared. U.S. President Donald Trump has made clear his support of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announcing he stands with the Egyptian president in his fight against terror and extremist groups that are threatening one of American’s key allies in the Middle East.

After tens of millions of Egyptians took to the streets to protest the abuse and power grabs of former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi (a member of the Brotherhood’s political party) in the summer of 2013, El-Sisi and the military took control of Egypt. He was elected president in 2014.

El-Sisi’s recently successful meeting with Trump in Washington set a Brotherhood plan in motion to gain support of members of Congress and academia to block a move to designate the organization as terrorists.

See Clarion Project’s Fact Sheet about the Muslim Brotherhood and its links to terrorism.

Lectures, discussions and events are being held in prominent American universities, including Harvard and Georgetown, about the “constructive contribution” the Brotherhood has made to Egypt since the Arab Spring began.

For example, speaking under the title “The Nobility in Justice,” Mahmoud a-Sharkawi, a Brotherhood official in Washington, lectured about the “positive” role the Brotherhood has played in Egypt since January 25, 2011 (the date marking the beginning of the Arab Spring in Egypt) in a conference at St. John’s University in New York.

The group is also reaching out to members of Congress, trying to re-brand the way it is perceived in Washington after al-Sisi’s successful visit.

Testifying in Congress, Tarek a-Zimer, head of the Building and Development Party, the political party of the Egyptian Brotherhood, urged Americans to change their views about the organization. Other officials of the Brotherhood who attended the hearing used their presence to incite against el-Sisi and the current Egyptian government.

Writing in a blog, A-Zimer asked, “Have the Americans internalized the lesson and fully understood the danger of the current situation to their interests?”

Sources close to the Brotherhood say the purpose of the campaign being waged on American university campuses is to put pressure on Trump in light of the negative opinions about the Brotherhood that are now prevalent in Washington due to the change in administrations.

What they fear most is a decision by the administration to designate the Brotherhood as a terror organization.

Hisham a-Naggar, an Islamic scholar, agreed. He said the purpose of the Brotherhood campaign is to confront the new negative shift in American opinions toward the Brotherhood. These opinions include support for el-Sisi and allying with him against terror – positions that include a crackdown on Brotherhood activities.

Formerly, having the support of the West (and the American president) was the Brotherhood’s “ace in the hole” – the most important card the group could play in its multi-faceted moves to take over Arab countries and their current regimes. Now that support has been taken away, and the group is reeling.

Tarek al-Bashabishi, a former Brotherhhood official who now works against the organization, commented that ever since the Brotherhood lost power in June 2013, it’s been been inciting various Arab countries and international institutions against Egypt to weaken el-Sisi so the Brotherhood can return to power.

Al-Bashabishi added that after Trump was elected, a huge political shift occurred. The U.S. administration is now against the Brotherhood and in support of el-Sisi’s fight against them. Now, he says, the Brotherhood’s only option is to try to bribe Trump’s rivals in Congress so they can be used as mouthpieces for the Brotherhood.

He said the Brotherhood is engaged in a fight for its life, playing all its cards – including using financial support from Turkey and Qatar and the Brotherhood lobby in America – to avoid being designated as a terror organization.

Al-Bashabishi also noted the same phenomenon in the UK, where he said the Brotherhood is trying to bribe members of the House of Commons to support the anti-Egypt opinions of the Brotherhood.

Sisi, Trump, and the Politics of Designating the Muslim Brotherhood

April 6, 2017

Sisi, Trump, and the Politics of Designating the Muslim Brotherhood, National Review, Clifford Smith, April 6, 2017

President Trump welcomes Egyptian President El-Sisi to the White House, April 3, 2017. (Reuters photo: Carlos Barria)

Hopes that the Trump administration will designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization have hit rough waters, with anonymous officials citing concerns about diplomatic blowback and frayed relationships with Muslims at home and abroad. The leaks come on the eve of a historic visit to Washington by Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a key Arab ally and devoted Muslim who is locked in a life-or-death struggle with the Brotherhood.

The irony is hard to miss, particularly given that Egypt and several other Arab countries have already designated the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

Whatever the truth behind the leaks, they underscore that the inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom — that the Brotherhood is “moderate” and so popular that designation would be seen as “a declaration of war against . . . Islam itself” — will not die as easily as many hoped.

This thinking is rooted in a failure to understand the difference between Islamists — a sizable but distinct minority of Muslims who adhere to a totalitarian religious ideology — and the moderate majority of Muslims, who are our friends and allies. President el-Sisi, who has publicly called out extremism to clerics in Egypt, understands this. After all, Egypt is not the only state in which the Brotherhood engaged in attempts to kill its way to power. It did the same in Syria in the early 1980s.

Despite the Brotherhood’s long history of bloodshed, claims that it is “moderate,” or opposes violence, are still prominent. While above-ground Brotherhood organizations use peaceful means when effective, they are “prepared to countenance violence . . . where gradualism is ineffective,” as a 2015 report by the British government noted with significant understatement.

Claims that designation will complicate U.S. relationships with certain Arab allies are overblown. While it is true that some allies, such as Jordan, have Muslim Brotherhood–affiliated parties represented in their parliaments, this is easy enough to finesse. Members of Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, have long served in Lebanon’s parliament, but American diplomats manage to avoid contact with them and still do business with the Lebanese.

Moreover, failure to designate the Brotherhood complicates some alliances. The Egyptian public has grown deeply suspicious of the U.S. government precisely because under Obama the U.S. came to be seen as overly sympathetic to the Brotherhood. When Senator Ted Cruz introduced the Muslim Brotherhood Terror Designation Act, many Egyptians saw it as a sign the U.S. may be waking from its long slumber. A tweet introducing the bill was the subject of a segment by popular Egyptian talk-show host Amr Adib and was retweeted 17,000+ times.

Domestically, in the wake of Trump’s admittedly troubling comments suggesting a “Muslim ban” during his presidential campaign last year, some fear that designation will fuel anti-Muslim bigotry and pave the way for “a legal assault on the institutions of American Muslim life.” After all, several organizations claiming to represent U.S. Muslims, particularly the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), have deep Muslim Brotherhood ties.

But groups such as CAIR are hardly “institutions of American Muslim life” — they’re just pretending to be. A 2011 Gallup poll found support for CAIR among U.S. Muslims to be just under 12 percent. Britain’s inquiry into the Brotherhood found that its activists in the U.K. “appear to be unable to generate any grassroots support.”

Frankly, however, if public support for CAIR were higher, that would be all the more reason to be concerned. Notwithstanding its carefully crafted public image, CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2007–09 Holy Land Foundation terror-finance case, and was blacklisted by the FBI as a result. Unfortunately, the Obama administration failed to aggressively continue an FBI investigation into CAIR after it conspired to fund terrorist-designated organization Hamas, the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, the United Arab Emirates has declared CAIR itself a terrorist organization.

Trump’s rhetorical excesses cannot be understood without recalling the Obama administration’s refusal to name the problem. Using euphemisms such as “violent extremism” and feigning puzzlement as to the motives of obvious jihadists made the administration’s rhetoric concerning terrorism a national joke. In both the U.S. and Europe, when elites insist that voters must believe them, rather than their own “lying eyes,” the voters turn sharply in the opposite direction. The cure for Trump’s rhetorical excesses is increased security, not denial.

Trump laid out a number of smart proposals on radical Islam during his campaign. His administration should now use President el-Sisi’s visit to move forward with these ideas. In particular, it should follow up designation of the Brotherhood with the formation of a congressionally authorized commission on radical Islam tasked with developing a strategy for winning the war against Islamic extremists and explaining the threat of Islamism to the American people. Both are badly needed. Wrongheaded conventional wisdom won’t keep Americans, or our Muslim allies, safe.

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.

*********************************

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.