Many things have already been said about the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency. In this piece, I want to focus on the reactions of Middle Eastern leaders to the outcome of the US election.
Although it would not be completely surprising if Trump’s positions on the Middle East will change from the campaign trail to the presidency, they are still worth considering. As summarized by Paul Salem, these positions are:
- he favors cooperation with Russia and the Assad regime in Syria against ISIS and has little regard for the Syrian opposition;
- he has promised either to tear up the nuclear agreement with Iran or to monitor it very aggressively; either way the tone of détente will be replaced by hostility;
- he has spoken fondly of authoritarianism and authoritarian leaders, and argued that human rights and democracy should not be US foreign policy priorities;
- he has said he will ratchet up the war on ISIS without revealing how that would happen;
- he has vilified Muslims and called for a ban on their entry to the United States;
- he has questioned America’s alliances and commitments, and argued instead that US protection should be in exchange for payment.
Egypt President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi called Mr. Trump and expressed hope his election will “inject a new spirit into the trajectory of Egyptian-American relations.”
Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi praised the president-elect for continuing to prioritize the war against the extremists: “We are looking forward to seeing the world and the United States of America standing by Iraq in facing terrorism.”
Saudi King Salman expressed hope that Trump would bring stability to the Middle East. “We wish your excellency success in your mission to achieve security and stability in the Middle East and worldwide,” he said, praising US-Saudi relations, which are “historic and tight between the two friendly countries, that all parties aspire to develop and reinforce”.
A spokesman for the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbassaid: “We will deal with any president elected by the American people on the principle of achieving permanent peace in the Middle East based on the two state solution on June 4 1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital.”
A recent report by Amnesty International collected testimonies about alleged cases of serious human rights violations carried out by state authorities in Egypt. The report depicts a very bleak and worrisome picture.
Here is an excerpt:
“Despite the mounting evidence of abuse, the Egyptian government continues to deny that its forces commit enforced disappearances, torture and other serious human rights violations. Instead of acknowledging and addressing these violations, the government prefers to dismiss the evidence as propaganda put out by the MB and its supporters. The government’s denials, however, do not stand up to scrutiny, as the case examples cited in the report illustrate. Given the number, range and diversity of victims; the broad consistency of their testimonies and of their families’ accounts of their efforts to obtain official acknowledgement of detainees’ arrests and learn where they were held, there can be no doubt that enforced disappearances are now being used as an element of state policy in Egypt, irrespective of the government’s denials. The repeated failure of prosecutors to investigate detainees’ allegations of torture together with their ready acceptance of allegedly coerced “confessions” and their failure to address the falsification of arrest dates by NSA officers to conceal the duration of detention indicates too that Egypt’s judicial authorities are complicit in these serious human rights violations.”
The full report can be accessed here
Egypt ranks sixth in the list of the most powerful militaries in the Middle East. Here are some data.
$4.4 billion defense budget
468,500 active frontline personnel
The Egyptian Armed Forces is one of the oldest and largest militaries in the Middle East. The Egyptian military has existed in its current iteration since 1952, and the military has played a direct role in Egyptian politics since the country’s founding — current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is the military’s former commander in chief.
The US has provided Egypt with over $70 billion in aid since 1948, most of which came in the form of an annual $1.3 billion military assistance fund established after Egypt and Israel signed a peace deal in 1979. Because of this assistance, Egypt has replaced a mostly Soviet-provided arsenal with US-produced arms.
Egypt has over 1,000 M1A1 Abrams tanks, many of which sit in storage and have never been used. Egypt also coproduces M1A1 tanks domestically. The Egyptian Air Force has 221 F-16 fighter jets, alongside a range of other US-provided aircraft.
But the military’s operational abilities are highly suspect, and it has had trouble fighting terrorists and insurgents in the Sinai. It has discussed future arms purchases with Russia but only because of a falling-out with Washington over the summer 2013 military coup that put Sisi in power.
Key allies: The US and Saudi Arabia — although security cooperation between Israel and Egypt has picked up since the summer 2013 coup in Cairo.
Source Business Insider UK 2014
Check my new book out New Beginning in US-Muslim Relations: President Obama and the Arab Awakening at Palgrave Macmillan official website.
This book carries out a comparative study of the US response to popular uprisings in the Middle East as an evaluation of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy commitments. In 2009, Obama publicly pledged “a new beginning in US-Muslim relations,” causing eager expectation of a clear shift in US foreign policy after the election of the 44th president of the United States. However, the achievement of such a shift was made particularly difficult by the existence of multiple, and sometimes conflicting, US interests in the region which influenced the Obama administration’s response to the popular uprisings in five Muslim-majority countries: Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Syria. After providing a detailed analysis of the traditional features of both US foreign policy rhetoric and practice, this book turns its focus to the Obama administration’s response to the 2011 Arab Awakening to determine whether Obama’s foreign policy has indeed brought about a new beginning in US-Muslim relations.
Enjoy your reading!
Egypt’s government seems to have decisively opted for repressive measures in order to guarantee stability in the country. The gamble “repression” for “stability” is a very risky one. In fact, if indiscriminate repression of dissent is one of the root causes of terrorism, then Egypt is likely heading toward a bleak future.
In this post, Maged Mandour confronts the numbers during the late Mubarak’s years and incumbent president Sisi’s. This excerpt is particularly revealing:
“Since July 2013, Egyptian authorities have undertaken a campaign of repression against dissidents. Over the past two years, the scope and severity of this campaign has surpassed any that Egypt saw under Hosni Mubarak. Most notably, security forces attacked mostly peaceful Muslim Brotherhood protesters in Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque and al-Nahda Square in 2013, killing at least 817 people; initiated a campaign of mass arrests of over 40,000 political prisoners (compared to 5,000-10,000 political prisoners near the end of Mubarak’s rule); and issued 509 mass execution sentences in 2014, an increase of 400 sentences compared to 2013. In addition, the nature of repression shifted from a measured, calculated approach under Mubarak to an unrestricted and systematic campaign under Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The authorities have killed unarmed civilians; used sexual violence against women, men, and children with greater impunity; and conducted forced disappearances at unprecedented levels.”
The full post can be read here.
Follow me on Twitter @eugeniolilli
These are two excerpts from a particularly informative piece by Jeff Goodson on the Obama administration’s recent decision to lift the freeze on US assistance to Egypt:
“In October 2013, the Obama administration froze hundreds of millions in cash assistance, loan guarantees, Apache helicopters, M1A1 tank kits, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and F-16 fighter jets, and ended joint military exercises. President Obama explained that the freeze was an attempt to encourage the military to seek political reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood. The quid pro quo for lifting the freeze was movement towards free and fair elections, and progress on “… inclusive, nonviolent sustainable democracy … one of our core interests in Egypt.”
“Seventeen months later, the Obama administration reversed itself. The decision was made because of bipartisan political pressure, new urgency over events in Yemen and Iraq, and the fact that the freeze simply didn’t work. The administration recognized that the al-Sisi regime “is in place, it’s not going anywhere, it’s stable, and our previous policy hasn’t gotten us very far … Clearly, this is not about democratization.” In ending the freeze, the White House did not claim that Egypt had made progress towards democracy, instead certifying that the move was “in U.S. national security interests.” Common security interests cited in the May 2015 certifying Memorandum to Congress included “countering transnational threats … Egyptian adherence to its peace treaty with Israel, counterterrorism and counter-proliferation cooperation, support for U.S. military operations and international peacekeeping, and the security of the Suez Canal.”
The whole article can be read here.
Follow me on Twitter @eugeniolilli