News / Middle East

    Egypt's Sissi Asks for US Help in Fighting Terrorism

    In this image made from video broadcast on Egypt's State Television, Egypt's retired Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi listens to a question during an interview in a nationally televised program in Cairo, Egypt, May 5, 2014.
    In this image made from video broadcast on Egypt's State Television, Egypt's retired Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi listens to a question during an interview in a nationally televised program in Cairo, Egypt, May 5, 2014.
    Reuters
    Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, the general who ousted an elected Islamist president and is set to become Egypt's next head of state, called on the United States to help fight jihadi terrorism to avoid the creation of new Afghanistans in the  Middle East.
     
    In his first interview with an international news organization in the run-up to the May 26-27 vote, Sissi called for the resumption of U.S. military aid, worth $1.3 billion a year, which was partially frozen after a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

     
    In this image made from video broadcast on Egypt's State Television, Egypt's military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi speaks in a nationally televised speech, announcing that he will run for president, in Cairo, March 26, 2014.In this image made from video broadcast on Egypt's State Television, Egypt's military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi speaks in a nationally televised speech, announcing that he will run for president, in Cairo, March 26, 2014.
    Asked what message he has for U.S. President Barack Obama, Sissi said: “We are fighting a war against terrorism.”
     
    “The Egyptian army is undertaking major operations in the Sinai so it is not transformed into a base for terrorism that will threaten its neighbors and make Egypt unstable. If Egypt is unstable then the entire region is unstable,” said a quietly spoken Sisi, wearing a dark civilian suit.
     
    “We need American support to fight terrorism, we need American equipment to use to combat terrorism.”
     
    He said neighboring Libya, which has descended into chaos following the Western-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Gadhafi, was becoming a major security threat to Egypt with jihadis infiltrating across the border to fight security forces.
     
    Sissi said the West must understand that terrorism would reach its doorstep unless it helped eradicate it.
     
    “The West has to pay attention to what's going on in the world - the map of extremism and its expansion. This map will reach you inevitably,” he said.
     
    Syria new Afghanistan?
     
    In a sideswipe at Western policy on Syria, where U.S. and European support for rebels fighting for three years to bring down President Bashar al-Assad has seen a proliferation of jihadism and the fragmentation of the country, Sissi stressed the need to maintain the unity of Syria.
     
    “Otherwise we will see another Afghanistan,” he said. “I don't think you want to create another Afghanistan in the region.”
     
    Islamists and the Egyptian state are old enemies. Militants assassinated President Anwar al-Sadat in 1981 because of his Camp David 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Ousted president Hosni Mubarak also survived assassination attempts by jihadis.
     
    Some of the world's most radical militants are Egyptian, including al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri.
     
    Sissi said the army was forced to intervene by a popular uprising against the Brotherhood's partisan rule.
     
    “The more time passes the more the vision gets clearer to everyone. People and the world realize what happened in Egypt was the will of all of the Egyptian people,” said Sissi at a  hotel partly owned by the army.
     
    “The army could not have abandoned its people or there would have been a civil war and we don't know where that would have taken us. We understand the American position. We hope that they understand ours.”

     
    Video broadcast on Egyptian State Television shows ousted President Mohammed Morsi speaking from inside a mesh cage as he stands with other defendants during a court hearing at a police academy compound in Cairo, Egypt, Nov. 4, 2013.Video broadcast on Egyptian State Television shows ousted President Mohammed Morsi speaking from inside a mesh cage as he stands with other defendants during a court hearing at a police academy compound in Cairo, Egypt, Nov. 4, 2013.
    x
    Video broadcast on Egyptian State Television shows ousted President Mohammed Morsi speaking from inside a mesh cage as he stands with other defendants during a court hearing at a police academy compound in Cairo, Egypt, Nov. 4, 2013.
    Video broadcast on Egyptian State Television shows ousted President Mohammed Morsi speaking from inside a mesh cage as he stands with other defendants during a court hearing at a police academy compound in Cairo, Egypt, Nov. 4, 2013.
    The Brotherhood was banned as a terrorist organization in December. Former president Mohamed Morsi, ousted in July after mass protests, is facing capital charges, while the group's spiritual guide, Mohamed Badie, has been sentenced to death along with hundreds of supporters among the Brothers.
     
    Critical time
     
    The past nine months have also seen a rekindling of jihadi insurgency in the lawless Sinai peninsula with numerous lethal attacks on targets in Egypt's cities. Several hundred policemen and soldiers were killed in attacks last year after the government killed hundreds of Morsi's supporters in August in the bloodiest crackdown in Egypt's modern history.
     
    Sissi, treated as a savior in a personality cult that grew after his overthrow of Morsi last July, says he is conscious of the challenges facing Egypt after more than three years of turmoil since the overthrow of Mubarak.
     
    But he dismisses the idea of a U.S.-style 100 days policy blitz to give Egyptians the bread, freedom, security and social justice they yearn for.
     
    “The truth is one hundred days is not enough. The challenges present in Egypt are so many,” Sissi said. “I believe that within two years of serious, continuous work we can achieve the type of improvement Egyptians are looking for.”
     
    Political turmoil and violence have hammered Egypt's economy, which the government forecasts will grow only up to 2.5 percent in this fiscal year. The Egyptian pound has hit record lows, weakened by the absence of foreign investors and tourists.
     
    “We have to admit that the economic situation in Egypt is difficult, and not just over the last three years. Egyptians were aspiring to a more stable life than the reality we are living in. More than 50 percent of the Egyptian people suffer from poverty. There is a lot of unemployment,” said Sissi.
     
    Gulf states poured billions of dollars in aid into Egypt to prop up the economy after Sissi toppled the Brotherhood. Sissi would not predict when Egypt would no longer need that aid but said Egypt needed to stand on its own feet.
     
    “We don't see this as a good thing, frankly, and hope it ends as soon as possible.”
     
    He said relations between Egypt and Israel, which have a peace treaty together, have been stable for more than 30 years despite many challenges.
     
    “We respected it (the peace treaty) and we will respect it. The Israeli people know this ... The question of whether we would be committed to the peace treaty is over with,” he said.
     
    Egypt, which has mediated between Palestinians and Israelis, was ready to help revive deadlocked peace talks.
     
    “We need to see a Palestinian state. We need to move on peace, which has been frozen for many years. There will be a real chance for peace in the region. We are ready to play any role that will achieve peace and security in the region,” he added.
     
    Election victory seen
     
    Sissi is expected to easily win the election this month. The only other candidate is leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi.
     
    If Sissi is elected president he will become the latest in a line of Egyptian rulers drawn from the military since the army toppled the monarchy in 1952 - a pattern briefly interrupted by Morsi's one year in office.
     
    Underscoring the military's longstanding hostility to the Brotherhood, Sissi said the group had become irrelevant in Egyptian society and ruled out any reconciliation with the oldest and most powerful Islamist movement in the Middle East.
     
    “They lost their connection with Egyptians,” Sissi said, accusing them of violence, which the group denies.
     
    “Unjustified violence towards Egyptians made them not only lose sympathy among Egyptians, but also meant they have no real chance of reconciliation with society.”
     
    An Islamist insurgency has been growing since Morsi's overthrow. Sissi says there have been two plots to kill him.
     
    Western help
     
    The world knew little of Sissi, Mubarak's head of military intelligence, before he appeared on TV on July 3 to announce the removal of Morsi after massive protests by those who accused him of exceeding his powers and mismanaging the economy.
     
    In a country where protests have helped oust two presidents in three years, Sissi must deliver quick results, especially for the economy, which suffers from a weak currency, high unemployment, a bloated public sector and a widening budget deficit.
     
    Aside from security cooperation with the West to fight Islamist extremism, Sissi said Washington's aspiration to usher in democracy to Egypt and elsewhere could be done through economic and educational cooperation, by granting scholarships and creating projects that could resolve youth unemployment.
     
    “You want to create democracy in many countries. This is a good thing but it won't succeed in the way it is needed except through good economic support and proper support for education.”
     
    “Are you ready to open your countries for us for more education that won't be expensive, to send the intelligent ones among our children to be educated in your countries, to see and learn. This is a way of developing and supporting democracy.”
     
    “Democracy is not only to educate the youth but to create an appropriate atmosphere to make this democracy work. Are you ready for this? Are you ready to provide opportunities in a country like Egypt for people to work so that poverty eases?”
     
    The 59-year-old field marshal also urged Western countries to ease restrictions they imposed on Egyptian and other Arab students following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States which were carried out by al Qaeda members who were mostly Arabs.
     
    “We will send... our best youths to go and see and learn and return to us with science and culture. We want the students who cannot pay to get an excellent education so they become the society's elite and can then lead it,” said Sissi, who comes from a poor family but studied in the U.S. and Britain as part of Egypt's military training program with the West.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Nihal El-Sayed from: Egypt
    May 22, 2014 10:46 AM
    I am a concerned Egyptian citizen who knows firsthand the challenges we face ahead. Sisi is the best option we have to help us move forward as a country and I wish that the west would understand that.
    Dealing with terrorism is a fight for life and Sisi is working to keep the violence down. Please understand the delicate nature of the Egyptian situation and have empathy for the process.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.