Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dr. Jacques Neriah: Sisi Fever: Will the General be the Next President of Egypt?

At the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Dr. Jacques Neriah asks the question: Sisi Fever: Will the General be the Next President of Egypt?.

Here is a synopsis of Neriah's article:


  • General Abd el Fattah el-Sisi, the man who led the overthrow of President Morsi on July 3, 2013, holds the combined titles of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, first Deputy of the Prime Minister, and Minister of Defense and Military Production. Unlike his predecessors, Sisi is waging a merciless campaign against jihadi fighters in Sinai Peninsula in order to restore Egypt's sovereignty there while drastically reducing Hamas' power in Gaza.
  • el-Sisi
    General Abd el Fattah el-Sisi, possibly the next President of Egypt --
    getting his creds based on rebuffing Obama.
    Credit: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

  • Sisi may be "called to the flag" as a savior in order to salvage Egypt from its enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood. Talk shows and newspaper columns have been advocating the idea of the general running for president in order to fight the terrorist threat they say the country is facing. Most of the other potential candidates have declared that if Sisi would run for president, they would retract their candidacies.

  • There is a concentrated effort to picture Sisi as the political heir of the iconic President Gamal Abd el Nasser. Sisi himself participated in the 43rd memorial ceremony of Nasser's death. There were posters with his picture adjacent to Nasser's. Egyptians see Nasser as the Egyptian leader who fought the Muslim Brotherhood domestically and led Egypt to the leadership of the Arab World and the non-aligned community.

  • In fact, Sisi was presenting his legitimacy as the rightful leader of Egypt not only to his Egyptian compatriots but also toward the U.S. administration, which is questioning his legitimacy and presenting him as the leader of a coup and a usurper of power. This creates an opening for a possible Russian comeback in Egypt and through it to a reinforced Russian position in the region.

  • By deciding to cut its financial aid to Egypt and postpone the delivery of weapon systems already ordered, the U.S. has overturned the longstanding correlation between financial assistance and Egypt's honoring of the peace treaty with Israel. The $14 billion that Saudi Arabia and the UAE transferred to Egypt immediately after Sisi's takeover, and the $40 billion promised in economic aid, are a reminder that Egypt may not be in need of such conditional financial assistance.

  • Observers of the Egyptian scene are repeatedly stressing the change in the mood of the Egyptians towards the United States, from friendship and admiration to open hostility. In fact, the crisis with the Obama Administration and Sisi's reaction to it has helped build up his leadership credentials as a daring Egyptian nationalist who does not retreat before a superpower - particularly one that so openly supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.
On the issue of Egypt's fallout with Obama leading to the opportunity it creates for Russia increasing its influence in the region, Neriah writes:
Moscow has also been paying attention to the unexpected Saudi-Egyptian alliance, as shown, for example, by the recent visit of the director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency, Prince Bandar, to Moscow and his exhaustive four-hour conversation with Russian President Putin. It is interesting that Prince Bandar did not respond to a similar invitation from Washington, which speaks indirectly of Riyadh’s dissatisfaction with U.S. policy in the Middle East.

President Obama prefers not to publicly support the Egyptian military regime. After the events of August 14, he attempted to call General Sisi. However, according to some sources, Sisi did not take Obama’s call. Instead, the Egyptians suggested that the White House call the interim president, Adly Mansour, which the Americans, in turn, declined to do.

Observers who follow the Egyptian scene are repeatedly stressing the change in the mood of the Egyptians towards the United States, from friendship and admiration to open hostility. Israel also has been suffering from this change in the mood towards the United States. The U.S. attitude (described by Sisi himself as turning its back on the Egyptians) is fueling his leadership exactly as occurred decades ago, when Nasser used CIA money to build a radio tower in Cairo that became the beacon of anti-Americanism in the region. In fact, the crisis with the Obama Administration and Sisi’s reaction to it has helped build up his leadership credentials as a daring Egyptian nationalist who does not retreat before a superpower – particularly one that so openly supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Read the whole thing.

Contrast this with the article by Daniel P. Goldman on China's increasing influence in Iran: A Pax Sinica in the Middle East?:
American commentators have regarded China as a spoiler, the source of Pakistan's nuclear weapons technology, Iran's ballistic missiles, and other alarming instances of proliferation. It is worth considering a radically different view of China's interests in the lands between the Himalayas and the Mediterranean: no world power has more to lose from instability than does China.

...China's capacity to exert pressure on the Iranian regime is considerable. Apart from its interest in avoiding nuclear proliferation in the Persian Gulf, China has a number of points of conflict with Iran, well summarized in an October 17 survey by Zachary Keck in The Diplomat. [2] The one that should keep Tehran on its toes is the Islamic Republic's border with Pakistan. Iran announced October 26 that it had hanged 16 alleged Sunni rebels in Baluchistan province on the Pakistani border, the latest in a long series of violent incidents.
Read the whole thing.

How this will play out is anyone's guess -- but it does not appear to be a major concern of the Obama Administration, an attitude increasingly matched by a Middle East equally nonchalant about US concerns.

Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.

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