Trump’s Confused Embrace of Egypt’s Sisi

Exclusive: President Trump’s tolerance of Egypt’s Saudi-backed crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and other political opposition groups is sending more mixed signals in the Middle East, writes Jonathan Marshall.

By Jonathan Marshall

Confusion and bad timing aren’t exactly news when it comes to the Trump administration. But even by its low standards, Washington’s policy toward the most populous Arab country, Egypt, is a mess.

President Donald Trump touches lighted globe with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi King Salman and Donald Trump at the opening of Saudi Arabia’s Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology on May 21, 2017. (Photo from Saudi TV)

Last month, for example, just before First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner was scheduled to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the State Department announced that it was cutting or holding up nearly $300 million in aid out of concern for human rights.

Then, in an apparent reversal this week, Pentagon officials confirmed that the U.S. military will participate for the first time in years in “Operation Bright Star” military exercises in Egypt, beginning on September 10.

Although the U.S. contingent will be relatively small — just 200 soldiers — they send a message of support from Washington for the military regime, whose slaughter of nearly 1,000 peaceful demonstrators in 2013 led President Obama to cancel America’s participation.

The regime heard an even louder and more definitive message of support back in April, when President Trump invited Sisi to the White House for a private meeting. He was the first Arab leader so honored by the new administration. “We are very much behind President al-Sisi,” Trump declared, praising his counterpart for doing “a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.”

Human Rights Abuses

Even as news was breaking this week about the upcoming military exercises, Human Rights Watch was releasing a damning new report on regime abuses, based on extensive interviews with former detainees.

Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Morsi (now in prison).

The organization charged that “Since July 2013, when Egypt’s military overthrew the…

Read more