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

Report: $60 Billion Leaves Africa Illegally Each Year

Report by joint UN and African Union panel says African countries need to take concrete measures to stop illegal money flow from continent each year More

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Some analysts say Russian Tu-95 bombers were flying near British airspace to warn Britain about an inquest into a murdered Russian spy More

Mugabe Defends Image Amid Controversy at Close of AU Summit

He rejects concerns about how the West might perceive his leadership, saying he's focused on African development More

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.
Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relationsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
January 31, 2015 10:50 PM
Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Neighborhood Divided Over Conflict

People in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk districts find themselves squarely in the path of advancing Russian-backed rebels, who want to take back the territory they held at the beginning of the conflict last year. Many local residents are afraid, but others would welcome the change, even when a rebel shell lands in their neighborhood. From the Luhansk district, 15 kilometers from where the Ukrainian government marks the front line, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid