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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora