Egypt’s War on Sunni Supremacism Goes to Libya

American defense secretary James Mattis and Egyptian president Abdul Fatah Sisi stand to attention outside the Pentagon in Washington DC, April 5
American defense secretary James Mattis and Egyptian president Abdul Fatah Sisi stand to attention outside the Pentagon in Washington DC, April 5 (DoD/Amber I. Smith)

From Reuters:

Egyptian airstrikes destroyed twelve vehicles loaded with arms, ammunition and explosive material trying to cross the border from Libya, the army spokesman said on Tuesday.

The airforce acted after hearing that “criminal elements” had gathered to try and cross the western boundary, the army statement said, without giving details on exactly where or when the strikes took place.

Despite the paucity of the initial report, it’s clear the Abdul Fatah al-Sisi is trying to look like he’s getting revenge for attacks on Egyptian Christians by Sunni supremacists, who are trying the same old terror tricks of the 1990s to destabilize the regime. Read more

Donald Trump is Going to Love Egypt’s Dictator

Egyptian president Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi answers questions from reporters in Cairo, September 19, 2015
Egyptian president Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi answers questions from reporters in Cairo, September 19, 2015 (European Council)

Call a spade a spade: Abdul Fatah al-Sisi is as much a president, with its democratic connotations, as Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Egypt now rates a dismal 26 from 100 on Freedom House’s Freedom Index, just behind Qatar and barely above dysfunctional Iraq.

Some may quibble that Sisi is more a “strongman” than a dictator; in terms of political outcomes, that’s the difference between holding rigged elections and having no elections at all.

And now al-Sisi is coming to kiss the Trump ring. Read more

America Has No Deep State. Egypt Helps Prove It

View of Washington DC with the United States Capitol in the distance, September 28, 2017
View of Washington DC with the United States Capitol in the distance, September 28, 2017 (Ted Eytan)

It’s become the phrase of the week: the deep state, a cabal of anti-Trump ideologues seeking a coup against a democratically-elected president hiding within the warrens of the CIA, State Department and any other agency that can be labeled as “shadowy”.

The reputed deep state is the boogeyman of the Trumpistas frustrated that their president is unable to enact his agenda instantly and without opposition. Read more

Sensing American Disinterest, Egypt and Turkey Reach Out to Russia

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey talk at an energy conference in Istanbul, October 10
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey talk at an energy conference in Istanbul, October 10 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

Russian president Vladimir Putin appears to have pulled off two geopolitical coups in one week.

On Monday, he was in Istanbul to sign an agreement with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, for the construction of a Black Sea gas pipeline that would bypass Ukraine (a longstanding Russian foreign-policy goal).

The two strongmen also vowed to seek common ground on the war in Syria. That seems a long way off, given that they back opposing sides in the civil war, but it’s an improvement from calling each other the “accomplices of terrorism,” as they did in November.

Then on Tuesday, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that its forces would hold joint military exercises with Egypt’s at some point later this month.

Egypt and Turkey are supposed to be American allies. What’s going on? Read more

Egyptians Suffer as Sisi Consolidates Power

Egyptian president Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 22, 2015
Egyptian president Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 22, 2015 (WEF)

Even autocrats can’t have it all. Egypt’s Abdul Fatah Sisi has been president for nearly two years, but he is still in the process of consolidating power.

Caught up in the power struggles are ordinary Egyptians who are suffering what rights groups describe as the harshest crackdown on dissent since Sisi legitimized his putsch in 2014.

The European Parliament on Thursday expressed concern about what it said was a pattern of “torture, death in custody and enforced disappearances across Egypt in recent years.”

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Steven A. Cook writes that the situation is the result of struggles among the major players in Egypt who are seeking to protect their interests and turf. Read more

Egypt’s Election Contest Between Generals, Tycoons

Egyptian president Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi answers questions from reporters in Cairo, September 19
Egyptian president Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi answers questions from reporters in Cairo, September 19 (European Council)

Egyptians returned to the polls on Saturday for parliamentary elections that will stretch into December of this year. But this first democratic exercise since army chief Abdul Fatah Sisi legitimized his coup in 2014 is little more than a competition between the only two constituencies in the Arab country that have any real power: the military and big business.

Many genuine opposition parties are boycotting the first legislative elections since 2011-2012 when the Muslim Brotherhood won a plurality of the seats in Egypt’s parliament.

Running are retired army officers and businessmen hoping for influence in the military-led government as well as an assortment of leftist and Islamist parties that are likely to split the anti-Sisi vote (assuming the elections are fair).

Sisi has ruled by decree since parliament was dissolved by the nation’s highest court in late 2012. The justices’ decision came after the Muslim Brotherhood of President Mohamed Morsi had tried to reinstate parliament and was followed the next year by Morsi’s removal in a coup. Read more

France to Sell Helicopter Carriers to Egypt

The French helicopter carrier Mistral is seen in Toulon, May 5, 2009
The French helicopter carrier Mistral is seen in Toulon, May 5, 2009 (Wikimedia Commons/Rama)

France announced on Wednesday it would sell Egypt the two helicopter carriers it refused to deliver to Russia earlier this year.

The deal cements France’s growing role as the arms supplier of Western-allied Arab states.

In the last year, the European country has sold fighter jets, helicopters, satellites and warships to Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates worth $15 billion.

In February, Egypt became the first country in three decades to order Rafale fighter aircraft from Dassault — with the help of French financing.

The two Mistral helicopter carriers were originally slated to be sold to Russia for €1.2 billion. France suspended their delivery after Russia occupied and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine last year, triggering the worst crisis in East-West relations since the end of the Cold War.

In May, Russia said it was no longer interested in acquiring the ships. A Defense Ministry official also said it could not accept the vessels being sold to a third nation, though. “This is a matter of state security,” he said.

The ships can carry up to sixteen helicopters and sixty armored vehicles each. France operates three of its own.

Since the military retook power in Egypt under Abdul Fatah Sisi in 2014, the country has played a more active role across the Arab world. Egyptian jets struck Islamists in neighboring Libya in February, a country that has been at civil war since Arab and NATO powers dethroned its dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011.

Egyptian forces have also joined a Saudi-led intervention in Yemen and Sisi has spoken of plans to form a joint Arab military force. Those ambitions appear to have gone nowhere yet.