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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs