In DC Visit, Egypt's el-Sissi to Test 'Chemistry' With Trump - NBC New York
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

In DC Visit, Egypt's el-Sissi to Test 'Chemistry' With Trump

Admittedly, the Egyptian leader has reason to be optimistic about his relations with Trump



    Trump Welcomes Egypt’s El-Sissi to Washington

    President Donald Trump welcomed Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to the White House Monday and declared his support for Egypt and the Egyptian people in a short speech given in the Oval Office. (Published Monday, April 3, 2017)

    Making his first official visit to Washington, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's meeting this week with U.S. President Donald Trump would be a significant step in the international rehabilitation of the general-turned-politician who was kept out of the Obama White House.

    But, analysts caution, there may not be much more that Egypt's president could take from Monday's White House visit, branded as historic by pro-government media at home.

    There has been no official word on the specifics of the wish list el-Sissi is taking to Washington, but expectations include more military aid, designating el-Sissi's nemesis — the Muslim Brotherhood — as a terrorist group, and restoring the kind of strategic partnership Egypt enjoyed with the United States for more than 30 years.

    Another issue that may arise is the Arab League's territorial demands in exchange for peace with Israel, reaffirmed last week. El-Sissi, whose country already has peace with Israel, may be in a position to help Trump push for a broad deal and gain points in Washington — but there is potential for disagreement as well.

    Democrats and Republicans React to Government Shutdown

    [NATL] Democrats and Republicans React to Government Shutdown

    Leaders of both parties exchanged blows after a deal to keep the government running was not reached.

    (Published Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018)

    Admittedly, the Egyptian leader has reason to be optimistic about his relations with Trump.

    Former President Barak Obama kept el-Sissi at arm's length after the Egyptian leader rose to power in 2013 when, as defense minister, he led the military's ouster of the Islamist Mohammed Morsi. He was elected president a year later but has ruled with an iron grip.

    Obama never invited el-Sissi to the White House, allowed his administration to repeatedly admonish his government over its human rights record and briefly suspended some U.S. military aid, which normally runs at $1.3 billion a year.

    The Egyptian media responded by accusing Obama of supporting the Brotherhood and destabilizing the country through his administration's backing of a popular 2011 uprising that ousted long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak.

    In contrast, Trump and el-Sissi hit it off from their first encounter in September, when the Republican nominee spoke of "good chemistry" between them following a meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

    The same media that vilified Obama hailed Trump as a strong leader who will treat Egypt with respect and appreciated el-Sissi's leadership. Moreover, there is expectation that a Trump administration will be far more tolerant of human rights abuses in the name of stability and counter-terrorism.

    Women's March 2018: Resist, Vote, Take Action

    [NATL] Women's March 2018: Resist, Vote, Take Action

    People participated in women's marches nationally with a message of taking action. Last year the marchers voiced their discontent. This year, they are pledging to vote, run for office, and elect new politicians in the 2018 midterm elections.

    (Published Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018)

    A senior White House official was non-committal on what the administration was prepared to do on military aid and the Brotherhood. Briefing reporters, he spoke of Washington's wish to sustain a "strong security assistance relationship" with Egypt.

    Washington wants to use el-Sissi's visit to "reboot the bilateral relationship and build on the strong connection" the two leaders established when they met in New York, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    "Short-term, it is an important victory for el-Sissi," said Michael W. Hanna of New York's Century Foundation.

    The Egyptian leader, Hanna said, has steadily earned international respectability in large part due to a key Western shift in the perception of Egypt and the rest of the Middle East — emphasizing stability over human rights or democratic reform.

    El-Sissi has also recently won plaudits for some painful economic reforms.

    But a convergence of interests on Monday is far from guaranteed.

    What Happens in a Government Shutdown?

    [NATL] What Happens in a Government Shutdown?

    With a possible government shutdown looming, here is a look at how a shutdown would affect the country.

    (Published Friday, Jan. 19, 2018)

    "Probably too much has been made of the 'chemistry' between Trump and el-Sissi — there are convergences of interest, and there is the absence of tension that existed with the Obama administration, but that's about it," said H.A. Hellyer, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

    El-Sissi may find himself pushing back against some of the Middle East policies reportedly being considered by the Trump administration, like creating a military coalition of Sunni Arab U.S. allies against the perceived threat of non-Arab Shiite Iran. There has been talk of deeper U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led coalition's fight against Shiite rebels in Yemen, with Egypt possibly being urged to contribute forces.

    Egypt has never shared Saudi Arabia's view of Iran as a looming existential threat and has also resisted pressure from Riyadh to contribute troops to the war in Yemen. Trump's position on Tehran seems closer to the Saudi perspective.

    Egypt, however, does see an existential threat from the turmoil in Libya, with which it shares a porous desert border. Cairo would prefer Washington more involved in the search for a political settlement unifying the country's rival administrations, thus paving the way for crushing militant groups operating there.

    El-Sissi may find it difficult to afford, politically or financially, involvement in a foreign military adventure.

    His country is in the middle of a deep economic crisis, his army is engaged in a tough fight in Sinai against militants led by a local affiliate of the Islamic State group and his security forces are conducting a long-term crackdown on critics while watching for any signs of public unrest fueled by the soaring cost of living.

    Budget Director Blames 'Schumer Shutdown' on DACA

    [NATL] Budget Director Blames 'Schumer Shutdown' on Immigration Reform, Says DACA is Not Urgent

    The Office of Management and Budget director is calling it the "Schumer Shutdown" and blaming the deadlock on Democrats insistent on immediate immigration reform as the deadline for Congress to pass a new budget bill looms. Mick Mulvaney says some federal agencies will still be open, though workers will be expected to work without pay,

    (Published Friday, Jan. 19, 2018)

    "The weakness of the Egyptian economy and the continuing predicament over terrorism in Sinai don't leave in Egypt's hands many important cards," wrote Mohamed el-Menshawy, a U.S.-based analyst.

    Another possible source of differences between Trump and el-Sissi may be the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Egypt has for decades been a staunch supporter of the Palestinians' right to statehood. El-Sissi reasserted that position when he addressed an Arab summit in Jordan last week, saying a Saudi peace plan adopted by Arab leaders in 2002 remained the basis for a settlement.

    The plan provides Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for its withdrawal from lands occupied in 1967, allowing the creation of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.

    Veteran columnist Raghida Dergham wrote in the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat Friday that Trump could push el-Sissi to abandon this initiative and convince other Arab countries to de-emphasize the Palestinian issue.

    "What the American president wants from Egypt is to remove the Palestinian question from Arab priorities and marginalize the Arab initiative, which cannot be delivered by el-Sissi," she wrote.

    Ryan Begs Senate Dems to Not Shut Down Government

    [NATL] Ryan Begs Senate Dems to Not Shut Down Government

    Speaker Paul Ryan spoke briefly after the House passed a bill to continue funding the government. He implored Democratic senators to pass the bill to avoid a shutdown.  

    (Published Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018)