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.