Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi met with President Donald Trump Monday morning ,in his first trip to the White House since seizing power in a 2013 military coup d’état.
The former Egyptian military general and defense minister was shunned by the Obama administration – while his coup forced the Muslim Brotherhood out of power in Egypt, el-Sisi’s questionable human rights record placed the White House in a difficult position.
A report from Time Magazine theorizes the underlying motivation the Trump administration may have in extending an olive branch to President el-Sisi. By inviting him to the White House for a meeting with President Trump, the new administration appears to be signaling a desire to prioritize stability in the region over human rights violations.
El-Sisi cemented his grip on power in the North African nation through harsh crackdowns on supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi. In the wake of el-Sisi’s coup, Egyptian courts made countless controversial rulings – including a “mass death sentence” for 183 defendants.
While President Obama’s decision to largely shun el-Sisi may have been rooted in a tough moral stance, the United States’ longstanding relationship with Egypt suffered as a result. The consequences of the Obama administration’s policy underscored the complexity of international relations, where the best moral position is not always the most beneficial one.
Egyptian military crackdowns on protests in favor of ousted President Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected leader, left scores of people dead:Image Credit: Getty Images/Ed Giles
In an August 2013 interview following el-Sisi’s successful coup, Obama explained his stance on the controversial leaders harsh rule:
“I think what most Americans would say is that we have to be very careful about being seen as aiding and abetting actions that we think run contrary to our values and our ideals.”
Obama’s hardline stance against el-Sisi would not last for the duration of his presidency. After briefly withholding aid to Egypt, Obama would capitulate to el-Sisi in March of 2015 by fulfilling a shipment of F-16 and other military assets as part of the United State’s $1.3 billion aid package to the country.
In a posting titled, “Sisi-Trump Meeting Shows Mutual Contempt for Rights,” Human Rights Watch condemned President Trump’s invitation to President el-Sisi on Sunday, writing:
“Al-Sisi’s meeting with Trump is the first visit by an Egyptian head of state to the White House since 2009. Al-Sisi, as defense minister, overthrew the country’s first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsy, in July 2013, and oversaw the brutal dispersal of opposition protests that left more than 1,150 people dead in the following weeks.
Under al-Sisi’s presidency, his security forces have arrested tens of thousands of Egyptians and committed flagrant rights abuses, including torture, enforced disappearances, and likely extrajudicial executions.”
Sarah Margon, Human Rights Watch’s Washington director, strongly condemned the move by the Trump administration in a statement on Sunday.
“Inviting al-Sisi for an official visit to Washington as tens of thousands of Egyptians rot in jail and when torture is again the order of the day is a strange way to build a stable strategic relationship,” said Margon.