News / Middle East

Analysts: Obama in Bind Over Sissi Election

FILE - Egypt’s former military chief Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
FILE - Egypt’s former military chief Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
Mohamed Elshinnawi
The sweeping victory of former Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in the presidential election is part of a continuing diplomatic dilemma for the Obama administration and its Egypt policies, analysts say.
 
Sissi received more than 90 percent of the vote amid allegations of foul play and little independent monitoring of the low voter turnout last week. A crackdown on opposition forces notwithstanding, little dissent was voiced throughout Egypt.
 
Sissi’s election comes after the military ouster last year of Egypt's first democratically-elected civilian president Mohamed Morsi, who is in detention.
 
In his foreign policy address at West Point this week, U.S President Barack Obama walked a fine diplomatic line, analysts say.
 
“In Egypt, we acknowledge that our relationship is anchored in security interests – from the peace treaty with Israel, to shared efforts against violent extremism,” he said.
 
Despite an outcry from international human rights groups against the Egyptian military leadership, Presidents Obama said that the U.S. has not cut off cooperation with the new Egyptian government.
 
He said that his administration can and will persistently press for the reforms that the Egyptian people have demanded.

Amy Hawthorne, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East said the U.S. is caught between promoting American ideals and maintaining its national interests.

“The U.S. message is confused because it is pursuing a lot of different priorities in Egypt; it has been trying to say that the defense and security relationship is very important, but on the other hand the U.S. is very concerned about violence and political repression.” Hawthorne said.

If Washington moved forward with a large portion of U.S. military aid that was previously suspended, Hawthorne said the U.S. would give the impression that political violence and ongoing repression in Egypt were no longer as important to the U.S.

But Paul Salem, a policy analyst at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said that President Obama was clear about U.S. strategic priorities in the Middle East.

“One: combatting terrorism, two: Israel as a super ally, three: free flow of oil from the (Persian) Gulf and last: preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons,” he said.

Analysts say Sissi wants to ensure that the $1.5 billion in annual aid from the U.S. continues to arrive. Most of that aid goes to supporting the military.

His campaign remarks reflected a conciliatory tone to the U.S., stressing the importance of continued strategic relations between Washington and Cairo.

But analyst Hawthorne said he expects a lot of tensions between Egypt and the U.S. under Sissi’s leadership.

“Sissi indicated that he wants the relationship to be on his terms, which basically means that the U.S. should accept his narrative of Egypt’s political trajectory and his approach to governance,” she said. “I do not think the U.S. is ready to do that.”

Tamara Wittes, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, said that U.S.- Egyptian relations are at a moment of reflection.

“Both sides know closer relations are important, but the problem is that neither wants to engage with the other from a position of weakness,” she said. 

But former Egyptian presidential candidate and former Egyptian foreign minister Amr Moussa called for a new paradigm for U.S.–Egyptian relations.

“We should embark on an immediate consideration of what kind of relationship both sides wish to have as the U.S. can no longer tell the Egyptian president what she wants and expects he would simply oblige,” he said.

Moussa, who joined Sissi’s presidential campaign called on the U.S. to stop linking aid to Egypt with political developments in Cairo to avoid any further souring in bilateral relations.

Conspiracy theories prevalent in Egypt’s media have created another problem for the future of U.S.–Egyptian relations.  Egypt’s media has accused the U.S. conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to undermine Egyptian sovereignty in the Sinai for example.

“This is a real problem because such planted stories are being shared by the state media and government sources. The U.S. should speak out and directly contradict these reports; otherwise it gives the impression that they might be correct.” Michele Dunne, a senior associate in the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said.

Dunne says because the U.S. has invested tens of billions of dollars in economic and military assistance to Egypt over almost 40 years it does not want to walk away from a country that has a very important geostrategic location.

“The U.S. fears that Egypt is entering a period of ongoing and perhaps escalating instability which is not good for a security partner in the region,” said Dunne. She says American policy toward Egypt since the 2011 revolution has been indecisive at times, but it has been driven by one constant imperative; get along with whoever is in power in order to continue security cooperation.

Her recommendation: The U.S. should focus on supporting the Egyptian people and refrain from confining its support to the Egyptian government or the military.

“I think the U.S. should make the investment with the Egyptian people in education and other fields that can help them having better lives over the long run,” Dunne said.

You May Like

Italian Red Cross Chief: Don't Label Migrants 'Illegal'

Speaking at the United Nations headquarters in New York Wednesday Francesco Rocca says migrants are victims, not criminals More

US Intel Officials Cautious About New IS Threat

Threat, said to have been posted by alleged American member of Islamic State terror group, says Sunday’s attack in Texas ‘is only the beginning’ More

Eyes in Sky Monitor Weather, Predict Epidemics

Satellites track storms, population movements, ocean warming to predict disease conditions More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Tarek Fawzi from: Egypt
June 04, 2014 4:30 AM
This confusing message does not help also double standards adds insult to injury. THE USA position to kharazie forged elections support to Libya and unclear position on thailand projects double standards and lack of conviction in what the administration keep claiming to be USA values.
The clear incriminating marriage between the US administration and Muslim brotherhood is very clear to all supported by statements from USA officials in the Pentagon. To ask Sissi to deal with all of this to win acceptance of the administration position is fiction.The case against Mrs will result in additional facts which will make such repair impossible once an ouch which is expected very shortly to be unveiled. Obama needs to sort his issues fast as it was all his creation.

by: Curatica from: USA
June 02, 2014 8:02 AM
America has supported military coups and dictatorships in Egypt and elsewhere for decades. The external policy of this country is based on cynical interests. This is a disgrace.

by: Ali Papa from: USA
June 01, 2014 1:43 AM
“I think the U.S. should make the investment with the Egyptian people in education and other fields that can help them having better lives over the long run,” Dunne said.

by: Anonymous
May 31, 2014 3:47 PM
European union, African union and numerous other foreign agencies monitored the election. THIS WAS THE FIRST EGYPTIAN ELECTION WITH FOREIGN MONITORING.

by: meanbill from: USA
May 31, 2014 12:10 PM
The US interference in the politics of Egypt, greatly contributed to the Mubarak uprising that toppled the Egyptian government, (an to the chaos, violence, deaths, destruction and threat of a civil war), until the Egyptian military staged a coup, and directly told the US to shut up, and stay the hell away.

NOW the chaos, violence, deaths, and destruction will continue, but who knows after the US, EU, and NATO countries interference, if they'll have a civil war? -- NOBODY knows what'll happen next.... ?

by: Andrew from: Jackson
May 31, 2014 10:56 AM
Egyptians did not rise up against a dictator and suffered for all these years to get another one from the same junta who has terrorized and oppressed them for 60 years. And they did not!

US should treat the junta as it would treat any other unrepresentative, terrorist organization, who has taken over a nation at the force of gun. Just because they wear uniforms and have lots of US supplied weapons, it does not make their acts anything other than terrorism and repression.

Read the evidence....

The Bubble Has Burst in Egypt
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-hearst/no-show-in-egypt_b_5413515.html

"For three days, the Egyptian state pleaded with, demanded, threatened, cajoled, bribed voters to turn up at the polls. Egyptians were warned it was nothing less than a national duty to vote and they could be fined 500 Egyptian pounds for not doing so. They were told that Egypt would become Libya or Syria if they did not vote. The second day of voting was made a national holiday, and travel was made free to encourage voters to return to their constituencies. The TV anchors panicked and became hysterical. Voting was extended into a third day.
Still they did not show up. An AFP crew touring Cairo's polling stations found deserted halls. CNN reported likewise. Photos appeared on Twitter showing election officials asleep at their desks.
...

Hamdeen Sabahi, the only challenger in the race, said the claimed turnout figures (claimed by the police state) were an insult to the intelligence of the Egyptian people...

Estimates of the actual turnout ranged from figures as low as 10 percent, which would be 5.5 million votes, to 15 percent. The Arab Observatory for Rights and Freedoms put the turnout at 11.92 percent which equates to 6.425.989 voters. It reported numerous election violations and fraud...."
In Response

by: Egyptian from: USA\Egypt
May 31, 2014 4:06 PM
Do you believe everything thing you read, how many Egyptians do you know? This was the first Egyptian election with foreign monitoring, the numbers are real. CNN is full of lies about other countries. European union, African union and numerous other foreign monitoring groups supervised the election and published reports about it. Why people always try to delegitimize Egyptian majority by publishing lies is beyond me. President Sisi :) History in the making, Morsi got his chance and tried to monopolize power while he destabilized the economy more and released terrorist from jail, Morsi gave himself more power than any previous president in Egyptian history. Now its time for Sisi to get his chance, to see what he does as president and how effective he can be in helping Egypt. Egyptians have proven that we will not stand by while someone tries to take our country from us. We have term limits now. President Sisi :)

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailandi
X
May 05, 2015 5:50 PM
Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailand

Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Russia's 'Victory Day' Glory Over Nazis Overshadowed by Ukraine

ussia is preparing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, known since the Soviet era as “The Great Patriotic War,” with a massive parade on May 9th of military hardware and millions of medals handed out to veterans or their relatives. But critics say the Soviet-style display of power and nationalism overshadows tragic scars during and after the war that still influence politics and foreign policy, especially in the current Ukraine crisis.
Video

Video WWII Anniversary Brings Old Friends and New Worries

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has special significance, with Russia becoming more assertive in Ukraine and sending its military planes to the edges of western countries’ airspace. Changes in the geostrategic balance and the transatlantic relationship are felt across the continent, not least in German towns that have hosted U.S. military bases since the defeat of Nazi Germany. VOA’s Al Pessin visited Schweinfurt, Germany, where a large base closed last year.
Video

Video Abraham Lincoln Funeral Re-created for 150th Civil War Anniversary

Over the last four years, commemorative events to mark the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War have brought thousands of visitors to battlefields and historic landmarks across the country. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, the final event in the Civil War's sesquicentennial honors the final journey home of the slain American President, Abraham Lincoln.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

VOA Blogs