Trump, Egypt’s el-Sissi pledge joint ef­fort in Is­lamic State fight.

Egypt leader says he ad­mires pres­i­dent’s ‘unique per­son­al­ity’

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY S.A. MILLER

Pres­i­dent Trump ce­mented a strong part­ner­ship Mon­day with Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah el-Sissi, pledg­ing the U.S.’ full back­ing in the fight against ter­ror­ism but putting aside — at least pub­licly — con­cerns about the dis­mal hu­man rights record of the au­thor­i­tar­ian regime in Cairo.

At a se­ries of White House meet­ings and a work­ing lunch, the two lead­ers ap­peared on the friendli­est of terms and in com­plete agree­ment that their top pri­or­ity was the de­struc­tion of the Is­lamic State and other ter­ror­ist groups.

“I just want to let ev­ery­body know that we are very much be­hind Pres­i­dent Sissi; he has done a fan­tas­tic job in a very dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion,” Mr. Trump said as the two men sat in front of the Oval Of­fice fire­place for a photo op.

“You have a great friend and ally in the United States — and in me,” he said.

Mr. Trump told the Egyp­tian pres­i­dent that the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary was un­der­go­ing a mas­sive buildup and promised the full “back­ing” of Egypt, which re­ceives about $1.5 bil­lion in U.S. mil­i­tary aid, the sec­ond-largest amount be­hind Is­rael.

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said mil­i­tary aid was ex­pected to con­tinue, de­spite Mr. Trump’s use of Egypt dur­ing the cam­paign as an ex­am­ple of ex­ces­sive U.S. aid that would be bet­ter spent do­mes­ti­cally.

The meet­ing with Mr. el-Sissi, who seized power in a mil­i­tary coup in 2013, put a sharp fo­cus on Cairo’s hu­man rights abuses car­ried out in the name of anti-ter­ror­ism, in­clud­ing the im­pris­on­ment of at least seven U.S. cit­i­zens.

Mr. el-Sissi vowed to work with the U.S. on a plan to de­feat ra­dial Is­lamic ter­ror­ism.

“We will do that to­gether,” said Mr. Trump. “We will fight ter­ror­ism and other things, and we are go­ing to be friends for a long, long pe­riod of time.”

Mr. Trump weath­ered crit­i­cism in the past for em­brac­ing Mr. el-Sissi. Dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial race, Mr. Trump de­scribed him as a “fan­tas­tic guy.”

For­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama sus­pended U.S. mil­i­tary aid to Egypt for nearly two years af­ter Mr. el-Sissi came to power in a mil­i­tary coup. Mr. el-Sissi seized power from demo­crat­i­cally elected Mo­hammed Morsi, a mem­ber of the Mus­lim Brother­hood who came to power fol­low­ing Arab Spring up­ris­ings. Shortly af­ter tak­ing of­fice in 2012, Mr. Morsi im­ple­mented Is­lamist re­forms that pro­voked civil protest and the mil­i­tary coup.

Mr. el-Sissi later won election as pres­i­dent, but the election was tainted by the gov­ern­ment’s crack­down on his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents.

Mr. el-Sissi noted that it was his first visit to the White House since his in­au­gu­ra­tion in 2014, and the first time an Egyp­tian pres­i­dent vis­ited the White House in eight years. Mr. Obama never in­vited an Egyp­tian leader to the White House.

Mr. Trump was ex­pected to bring up hu­man rights is­sues — such as a lack of a free press, harsh prison con­di­tions and ar­bi­trary ar­rests and ex­e­cu­tions — when the lead­ers met be­hind closed doors.

White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer de­clined to con­firm those talks took place.

“I’m not go­ing to get into what they dis­cussed pri­vately, but I will tell you that we un­der­stand the con­cern, and I think those are the kinds of things [where] I be­lieve progress is made pri­vately,” he said at the daily White House brief­ing.

In the Oval Of­fice, Mr. el-Sissi told Mr. Trump through an in­ter­preter that he had “deep ap­pre­ci­a­tion and ad­mi­ra­tion for your unique per­son­al­ity, es­pe­cially as you’re ex­pand­ing [the] mil­i­tary to counter ter­ror­ism and fear.”

Mr. el-Sissi’s ag­gres­sive moves against the Mus­lim Brother­hood won fans among the coun­try’s re­li­gious mi­nori­ties that suf­fered at the hands of Is­lamists.

Dozens of Egyp­tian ex­pats, many of them mem­bers of the Cop­tic Chris­tian com­mu­nity that was per­se­cuted un­der Mus­lim rule in their for­mer coun­try, ral­lied in sup­port of Mr. el-Sissi out­side the White House.

Wav­ing Egyp­tian flags, they chanted, “Egypt. Egypt. We love Egypt!” and “We sup­port el-Sissi!”

The Cop­tic Chris­tians viewed Mr. el-Sissi as a sav­ior.

“Be­fore it was not safe. Now it is safe,” said Magda Ab­delt­wab, 57, who came from her home in New York City for the rally. “The Mus­lim Brother­hood is very dan­ger­ous. Ev­ery day peo­ple are killed.”

Cop­tic Chris­tians, the largest Chris­tian mi­nor­ity in the Mid­dle East, con­tinue to suf­fer vi­o­lence and op­pres­sion in Egypt and across the re­gion.

Nail Me­galla, an Egyp­tian ex­pat who lives in New Jer­sey, or­ga­nized the demon­stra­tion.

He said Mr. el-Sissi had cre­ated “Egypt for all Egyp­tians,” re­gard­less of one’s faith or pol­i­tics.

Mr. Me­galla or­ga­nized a sim­i­lar rally for Mr. el-Sissi when the pres­i­dent led an Egyp­tian del­e­ga­tion vis­it­ing New York in Septem­ber.

The New York demon­stra­tion met with crit­i­cism in Egypt over Mr. Me­galla, a Cop­tic Chris­tian, mix­ing pol­i­tics with re­li­gion.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Trump met with Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah al-Sissi at the White House Mon­day to dis­cuss on­go­ing joint ef­forts to com­bat the Is­lamic State.

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