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Egypt’s Awkward Reset with the U.S.

April 10 2017

A week ago, the Egyptian president was being received warmly in Washington, where Donald Trump hosted him in the Oval Office and praised him publicly. But President Sisi obtained little of substance, and the recent American attack on Syria, Eric Trager writes, is a rejection of Sisi’s advice:

Sisi returned home on Thursday empty-handed and overshadowed as President Trump heeded the views of Jordan’s King Abdullah [with whom he met on Wednesday] on Syria and ordered strikes . . . despite Sisi’s misgivings.

To be sure, Sisi’s visit was all about receiving—and showcasing—the big Beltway hug. For the past four years, Cairo sulked as the Obama administration held the autocratic Sisi at arm’s length. . . . But the goodwill tour didn’t yield any immediate goods. Sisi received no new military or economic aid, nor did the Trump administration renew the financing mechanism that allows Egypt to order expensive weapons systems on credit.

Meanwhile, ministers in Sisi’s entourage pressed the American business community for more investments, but returned home without any new contracts. And despite Cairo’s persistent lobbying for Washington to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, the Trump administration took no such action.

Cairo, by contrast, responded coolly, expressing its “great concern” and urging the U.S. and Russia to cooperate in resolving the Syrian crisis. Egypt’s hedge isn’t surprising, of course: Sisi has deepened his country’s relationship with Russia in recent years through weapons purchases and joint military exercises, and he therefore can’t endorse an American attack on the Russian-backed Syrian regime. If tensions between the U.S. and Russia worsen over Syria, Sisi’s White House visit this past week might be the high point of his “new beginning” with Washington.

Read more at New York Daily News

More about: Egypt, General Sisi, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

Hamas Sets Its Sights on Taking over the PLO

Oct. 20 2017

Examining the recent reconciliation agreement between the rival Palestinian organizations Fatah and Hamas, Eyal Zisser argues that the latter sees the deal as a way to install its former leader, Khaled Meshal, as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and thereby the Palestinian Authority. It wouldn’t be the first time something like this happened:

Even the former Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat . . . took the PLO leadership by force. His first steps, incidentally, were with the Fatah organization, which he cofounded in January 1965 in Damascus, under Syrian patronage. Fatah was meant to serve as a counterweight to the rival PLO, which had come into existence [earlier] under Egyptian patronage. Arafat, however, was relegated to the sidelines in the Palestinian arena. It was only after the 1967 Six-Day War that he exploited the resounding defeat of the Arab armies to join the PLO as the leader of Fatah, which led to his gaining control over [the PLO itself].

Meshal [most likely] wants to follow in Arafat’s footsteps—a necessary maneuver for a man who aspires to lead the Palestinian national movement, particularly after realizing that military might and even a hostile takeover of [either Gaza or the West Bank] will not grant him the legitimacy he craves.

It is hard to believe that Fatah will willingly hand over the keys to leadership, and it is also safe to assume that Egypt does not want to see Hamas grow stronger. But quasi-democratic developments such as these have their own dynamics. In 2006, Israel was persuaded by Washington to allow Hamas to run in the general Palestinian elections, thinking the Islamist group had no chance of winning. But Hamas won those elections. We can assume Meshal will now look to repeat that political ploy by joining the PLO and vying for its leadership.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Fatah, Hamas, Khaled Meshal, Palestinian Authority, PLO, Politics & Current Affairs, Yasir Arafat