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Trump’s ‘favorite dictator’ is now a burden on President Biden

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi sits at the head of the splendid chamber. on a chair that looks a little bigger than the others resembling a throne even through the mask to prevent covid It was clear that he was not smiling.

His visitor, the first ambassador from the new Biden administration. was relegated to sit in a side chair with the other members of the US and Egyptian delegations

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has called on this strong man, a soldier whom former President Trump once called him. “Favorite dictator”

; to thank him for helping to stop the war between Israel and Hamas.

It was an awkward position for Blinken, he said over and over that human rights were the core of Biden-era foreign policy. And human rights are not a priority for Sisi. He has jailed and tortured dissidents, journalists and others, activists said, and has been accused of firing on several peaceful protesters.

But Sisi, the Egyptian leader before him, Helped to defuse violence between Israeli and Palestinians, so Blinken made a high-level visit to show his appreciation, where the Sisi would try to exploit Washington’s influence and criticize it cynically. During his campaign President Biden promised But Egypt has long shown a stance of accepting Israel as an ally. which US officials Always look the other way when it comes to harassment.

“Egypt plays an important role in brokering the ceasefire,” Blinken said later in discussions about his meeting with Sisi, insisting he had raised human rights issues with the Egyptian leader. “We have exchanged views with President Al. sisi for a long time to reflect the fact that it remains an important issue with Egypt.”

before the meeting at the end of last month Reports circulated among diplomats that Sisi would release a handful of detained American citizens as a gesture of good faith. that didn’t happen

Blinken and Sisi met for an hour and 45 minutes, with Sisi speaking for more than an hour without interruption, according to people familiar with the encounter. He praised his own achievements in what he considered a true human right: making everyday life better for ordinary Egyptians. Political rights or the right to objection were not present in his narrative.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi.

Foreign Minister Antony J. Blinken (left) sits sideways during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi at the Heliopolis Palace in Cairo on May 26.

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Journalists who accompanied Blinken on his journey were given approximately 30 seconds to look at the meeting’s starting seats. but no more than that Once during a previous visit Vice President Mike Pence answered questions from participating journalists and invited CC to participate. The Egyptians were shocked by the revelation. refuse to join and later fired several palace aides, whom he accused of allowing such insults. according to the diplomat

This time, Sisi supporters in the state-controlled Egyptian media celebrated Blinken’s visit and two calls from Biden to reaffirm the government’s strategy and restore its focus on regional diplomacy.

Critics say diplomatic etiquette conceals the brutality of the government.

Sisi, 66, former defense minister and head of military intelligence. It began to come to power in a July 2013 coup against democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi. and eventually won the 2014 presidential election.

After gaining power, Sisi renounced the Egyptian constitution. Unleash a massacre of security forces in a massive civil protest in Cairo. and maintain power through a vote in 2018 that was seen as a fraud.

In a broad report by Human Rights Watch, Sisi is at least partially blamed for the massacre of hundreds of government critics. This includes several members of the Muslim Brotherhood. in July and August 2013

“His greatest concern is the sustainability of the regime. He was at the peak of that regime. And he is ready to do whatever he can to ensure the sustainability of the regime,” said Bahay Eldin Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights. which urged the Sisi government to end peaceful crackdown on dissent.

Hassan and other human rights experts said, especially from Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. that supports Morcy and activists who will hold him accountable for the repeated killings of the dissenters. Sisi does not tolerate internal discussions. Much less public criticism people who know him said

Hassan fled to France after a Sisi court charged him twice for what he said was his work for human rights. The activist blamed Decades of “political support and conspiracy” have been used to strengthen the hands of authoritarian Egyptian rulers. Egypt receives about $1.3 billion in military aid annually. after Israel only And Biden’s management is asking for the same amount for the next fiscal year.

“I want President Biden to keep his promises from the campaign,” Hassan said in a phone interview. It cited Biden’s pledge to work to free tens of thousands of political prisoners it said were held under the CCC.

Egypt has a unique point in US foreign policy. and geopolitics of the Middle East for decades.

Washington Supports Egyptian Strongholds Through U.S. Administration continuously From Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak to CC now until last year Egypt and Jordan are two Arab countries that recognize Israel. Such a pivotal role has led Washington to ignore several of the Cairo government’s abuses while seeking help to protect Israel.

The role returned to the spotlight last month, when Sisi and Egypt had to persuade the Gaza-based Hamas organization to agree to halt rocket launches into Israeli cities and towns, Israel responded. Heavy air bombing that destroyed parts of the Gaza Strip including residential buildings and schools Because the United States regards Hamas as an official terrorist group. therefore unable to negotiate directly with the leader

For Sisi, it was a welcome opportunity to prove his courage to the Biden administration and to counter a change in US interests. to countries in the Persian Gulf After many parties agreed to certify Israel as part of the 2020 Abraham Accords brokered by the Trump administration.

Mirette Mabrouk, founder of Project Egypt at the Washington-based Middle East Institute in Washington, said: “Egypt is working hard to reclaim and cement its role as a key international player who can be an ally. instead of responsibility” analysis

This included Sisi’s intervention in Libya, where he tried to mediate among the warring factions. and in discussions about large dams on the Nile that penetrate Egypt with Ethiopia and Sudan.

Sisi unsure of Biden’s administration, experts say after four years of latitude under Trump

For example, Blinken’s predecessor called Sisi in January 2019, and instead of raising human rights issues, Trump’s Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo praised Sisi for what he called embracing religious freedom because he allowed Christ. Coptic Christian Church Built on the outskirts of Cairo (shortly after Egypt also built a mosque nearby.)

Under pressure from the Trump administration and supporters Last year, Sisi released an American art teacher in prison for 300 days, Reem Desouky, but another US citizen, Mustafa Kassem, died in Egyptian custody. The United Nations estimates that there are half a dozen Americans among the tens of thousands of political prisoners in Egypt.

Sisi hopes his ability to influence Hamas will save Washington from attack, says Israeli foreign policy analyst Nimrod Novic. who worked for the late Prime Minister Shimon Peres. And it maintains close ties with Egyptian intelligence officials, it said.

“He was deeply concerned about the dual phenomena of the Biden administration and the Democratic Congress,” Novic, a senior friend of the US-based advocacy group Israel Policy Forum, said in an interview. “There is a lot of concern about that score: America is back. and human rights have returned.”

Administration officials rejected the idea that Sisi would be able to leverage his advantage in the Hamas talks to deter their concerns about human rights. They are able to deal with problems in a divided manner.

“President Biden takes human rights issues and our commitment to human rights very seriously,” Blinken said at a news conference. “Indeed, he asked us to put it at the heart of our foreign policy. And that’s what we’re doing. And that was reflected in the conversation we had” with Sisi.

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