Egypt coup leader and President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is going to have his second talk with U.S. President Trump today. Their first talks took place in September 2016 in New York. Trump used this opportunity to chide Obama's policy on Egypt. Obama and then Secretary of State John Kerry could not psych themselves up to call a coup a coup. However, the mass killings during the protests and the imprisonment of 40,000 people into jails, and the outlawing of the Muslim Brotherhood, a peaceful organization, without paying attention to the international and regional human rights NGO reports, was too much for Obama's taste, and consequently, he put some restrictions on the $1.3 billion military assistance Egypt gets from the U.S.
El-Sisi is a clever man: He said in September to Trump that the freezing of the military assistance program hinders his country's fight with al-Qaida and Daesh terrorists in the Sinai. This not only endangers Egypt's security but also Israel's. He calls the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and says he is fighting the "Islamist insurgency," which, of course, is music to Trump's ears. Not only that, but there is also el-Sissi's idea that Islam needs its own reformation that will result in the moderation in Islamic discourse. In his first encounter with el-Sisi, Trump asked him to be patient and described el-Sisi as "a fantastic guy" after the meeting. El-Sissi looked so happy that his photographs could be used in toothpaste ads.
The Egyptian coup leader is now going to meet a sobered up Trump who proposed a military budget that seeks a $54-billion increase in spending, and a 30 percent cut in foreign assistance programs. Yes, the Israeli security card on the table will raise the stakes and probably the freeze on Egypt's $1.3 billion will be partially lifted, but the Trump White House cannot afford a fight because of Egypt with Democrats and liberals, who say the country has a terrible human rights record. Also there is the problem of Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American human rights activist who works with street children and was arrested in May 2014. She has been in jail for 33 months in violation of the law, which says nobody can be held in detention more than two years. The White House says they will raise the issue during the visit.
However, the alt-right conservatives at the White House seek to "establish trust" between el-Sisi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a crucial step to open the peace process between Israel and Palestinians. El-Sissi, or his coup, is actually considered by the neocons as the only way to further increase the security situation in Israel and control Iranian influence in the Gaza Strip. They will do their best to minimize the impact of human rights reports on Egypt-U.S. relations. The Washington Institute's David Schenker is doing just that: Trying to limn U.S.-Egypt relations in terms of cooperation against terror and the only thing the U.S. president should talk about is terror. He must convince el-Sisi that they need equipment necessary for counterterrorism, not tanks, nor F16s.
El-Sisi will leave the White House not empty handed, but the alms are going to be far from satisfactory.