A trip to New York leaves Egyptian MPs impressed by Donald Trump

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 24 Sep 2016

Egypt MPs who were in New York last week said they were impressed by US presidential candidate Donald Trump's views on terrorism and the Muslim Brotherhood

El-Sisi and Trump
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) looks meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi (R) at the Plaza Hotel on September 19, 2016 in New York (Photo: AFP)

An Egyptian parliamentary delegation who visited New York last week to rally support for Egypt's political and economic reforms told reporters that Donald Trump would be a "good friend" of Egypt in comparison with Hillary Clinton.

The 20-member delegation, comprising a mix of opposition and pro-government MPs, participated in the 71th round of UN General Assembly (UNGA)  meetings and also joined Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi who was in New York to deliver a speech before the UNGA on 20 September.

Tarek Radwan, deputy head of parliament's foreign relations committee, told reporters that Egyptian MPs held a very important meeting with Walid Phares, a foreign policy advisor to the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

"He briefed us on President El-Sisi's meeting with Trump on 19 September and he answered some of our questions on America's foreign policies in the Middle East under a Trump administration," said Radwan."

"In an hour-long meeting, Phares disclosed that Trump had told El-Sisi that Egypt and the US should be strategic partners again, with America doing everything possible to help Egypt in its war against terrorism and Islamist radicalism," said Radwan.

According to the MP, Phares answered a question on whether Muslim Brotherhood would be designated as a terrorist group under a Trump administration.

"Phares stressed that Trump in all of his foreign policy speeches was keen to describe the group as the radical Muslim Brotherhood," said Radwan, adding that "Phares also stressed that Trump's administration would do its best gather support among Congress people in favour of legislating the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation."

Solaf Darwish, a female MP from the Nile Delta governorate of Qalioubiya, told reporters that while President El-Sisi and Trump seized their meeting to explore the views of each other on important issues such as terrorism, Trump in particular used the meeting to respond to attacks in the mainstream US media that he does not have high regard for Muslims.

"Trump was keen to meet with El-Sisi not only because he admires him as the leader of a nation who revolted against the religious autocracy of the radical Muslim Brotherhood, but also to tell Muslims in America and everywhere that he has high regard for Muslims, especially those are in a war against Islamist extremism," said Darwish.

Phares, an American of Lebanese origin,  appeared on 20 September on Fox News channel to talk about his recent visit to Egypt and his meeting with members of its parliament in New York.

"They (Egyptians) have the tools of extreme vetting when it comes to screening people who want to either enter the country or become citizens and they know what the (radical) ideology is, something America needs to do in order to defeat Islamic terrorism," Phares said.

A Trump administration campaign also said in a statement after his meeting with El-Sisi that Trump thanked the president and the Egyptian people for what they have done in defence of their country and expressed support for Egypt's war on terrorism, and how under a Trump administration, the US will be a loyal friend, not simply an ally.

Most Egyptian MPs agree that there was a kind of "love chemistry" between Trump and El-Sisi.

"While Trump was keen to meet with El-Sisi and was clear in his support of anti-Islamist Egypt, there is no question that President El-Sisi also saw Trump as representing a new political trend which stands against Barack Obama's tolerance for political Islam and estrangement with Egypt under his rule," said Darwish.

Mohamed Abdel-Hadi, Al-Ahram's chief editor who covered El-Sisi's visit to New York last week, wrote on Friday that "El-Sisi and Trump agreed that Obama's policies had caused a lot of harm to Egypt's national security, and that there should be no tolerance in any way for political Islam."

In addition, most Egypt MPs in the delegation said they believe that US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton "is an extension of the Obama mentality."

Tarek El-Khouli, a leading member of parliament's foreign relations committee, told reporters that "it was good that Clinton sought to meet with El-Sisi."

"Although we know she is an extension of the Obama mentality, we believe that in light of the growing threats of terrorism, Clinton might choose to scrap her predecessor's tolerance of political Islam and correct many of his disastrous policies in the Middle East," said El-Khouli.

While Trump's meeting with El-Sisi focused on Islamist terrorism, Clinton discussed issues like human rights and civil society in Egypt. "And these are the issues which represent an extension of the Obama mentality and which President El-Sisi believes should not be of a top priority," said El-Khouli.

A large number of Egyptian MPs, politicians and policymakers believe that Clinton had a big hand in helping Muslim Brotherhood reach power in Egypt after the removal of former president Hosni Mubarak from office in 2011.

"Her tolerance towards such kind of groups also led to the killing of America's former ambassador in Libya, but she and the radical liberal community in America still do not want to learn the lessons of this disastrous policy," said Emad Gad, an Al-Ahram political analyst and a MP affiliated with the Free Egyptians Party.

According to a CNN report, Clinton addressed prickly topics with some world leaders she met in New York last week. "Clinton addressed the need for a more vibrant – and free – civil society with Egypt while she met with El-Sisi," said the report.

Salah Hassaballah, chairman of the Freedom Party and a member of the Egyptian parliamentary delegation in New York, told reporters "see how the two campaigns of Trump and Clinton described their meeting with El-Sisi."

"While Trump  focused on a new agenda – that is defeating political Islam – Clinton showed that she does not want to change Obama's radical liberal agenda which caused all the chaos we saw in the Arab world over the last five years under slogans of democracy, civil society and human rights," said Hassaballah.

Hassaballah notes that while Egyptian MPs were in America, mass protests erupted in the city of Charlotte in North Carolina after a policeman killed an African-American man.

"While Obama, Clinton and all of America's radical liberal community like to give Arab leaders lessons on human rights and tolerance of protests, they ignore that their country is by no means perfect or ideal on such issues," said Hassaballah, adding that "if you told the Americans that their country is rife with human rights abuses, they would simply answer you that they are a democracy, but you the Arabs are an autocracy."

According to Al-Ahram editor Mohamed Abdel-Hadi, El-Sisi told Clinton that he is against the reports issued by organisations with "radical liberal agendas" like Human Rights Watch.

"These organisations sometimes allege that there are 30,000 political prisoners in Egypt, and in other times they up the figure to reach 45,000," said Abdel-Hadi.

Nader Mostafa, deputy chairman of Al-Gomhouria Centre for Political and Strategic Studies and a member of Egypt's parliamentary delegation in New York, told reporters that "he was not shocked by the American mainstream liberal media's hostile attitude towards President El-Sisi."

"But this media gives a cover for political Islam movements – especially the Muslim Brotherhood - to infiltrate America and this is why we admire Donald Trump because he stands firm against this radical liberal community whose views only leads to chaos," said Mostafa, also wondering that "the American media and Human Rights Watc take Muslim Brotherhood prisoners as political prisoners."

"Members of this group are the same like Ahmad Khan Rahami, the man who was arrested for implementing a terrorist act in New York one day before we reach there," said Mostafa, wondering how the American media would react if the Egyptian media described Rahami as "a political prisoner."

The CNN report cited a Clinton advisor as cautioning that the meeting on Monday with El-Sisi did not augur any kind of policy change towards Egypt. But nevertheless, the official said, Clinton does understand the complexity and complications of US relations with Egypt, a nation that is pivotal to the balance of power in the Middle East, is facing its own terror threats and would be critical to any renewed effort at Israeli-Palestinian peace.


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