The following notes come from a very important conversation with General Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi, which were not allowed to appear in Egyptian newspapers that normally publish interviews with presidents and world leaders. The only fault to this interview appears to be that it was published by Reuters on Saturday, May 17th. Below are some examples of the interview questions and their answers.
Q: Is there a leader in the past in Egypt or anywhere around the world who you are trying to model yourself after? Do you see a Nasser, do you see a Sadat do you see somebody you have in your mind that would be a good model for what you want to be?
A: Every era and every stage has a leader to lead and succeed. The current time we are in now the situation is very different than other eras. We need to work with seriousness to serve Egyptians.
Q: The U.S. has been a strategic partner of Egypt for a long time. What is your current assessment of the state of the relations with the United States? What areas would you like to improve?
A: Our relationship with the United States of America is a strategic, stable and steady relationship. It does not mean that during certain times, a state of confusion, that we cannot continue that. Of course not. These ties are stable and the world now is interrelated. There is no room for one state to form relationships at the expense of the other. In Egypt we need to cooperate with all states as the amount of challenges in Egypt are very huge that need support and the participation of all.
Q: There has been a partial freeze on military aid do you anticipate that lifting once you become president?
A: Let’s be clear, I understand the European, Western and America standards concerning the freezing and suspension of equipment. Although this had a very negative reaction from the Egyptian people. The more time that passes the more the vision gets clearer to everyone. People and the world realize what happened in Egypt was the will of all of the Egyptian people. The army could not have abandoned its people or there would have been a civil war and we don’t know where that would have taken us. We understand the American position. We hope that they understand ours.
Q: Is there anything in particular you would like to say to President Obama about the direction of Egypt that might be helpful in shifting the views there?
A: We are fighting a war against terrorism. The Egyptian army is undertaking major operations in the Sinai so that it is not transformed into a base for terrorism that will threaten its neighbors and make Egypt unstable. If Egypt is unstable then the region is unstable. I don’t think this is in the interest of security and peace in the entire world. We need American support to fight terrorism, we need American equipment to combat terrorism. Not just in Sinai. Today we are present and working to secure our borders which are long and stretch from the start of the Mediterranean Sea until 1,200 kilometers on the Libyan border, and similarly with Sudan. Aside from sea borders that stretch more than 3,000 kilometers. That needs real security. You see how unstable the region is.
Q: On Libya, there is a tremendous amount of instability in Libya. Do you see Libya as a threat?
A: The situation is not just Libya. We have to be wary of the spread of the terrorist map in the region. I imagine there is a role from the West on that. They have not continued their mission in Libya. There should have been a collection of weapons that are present everywhere until the country stabilizes and has a government. Because there wasn’t sufficient soldiers or police so that this country would stabilize and enter a process of real democracy. We have another situation that will take a long time if it is left like that. The international community, headed by the West, has to take part in this operation. I see that it has to resume its mission to achieve stability in Libya. Collect the weapons and enhance security before they abandon it.
Q: You have talked about a peaceful solution in Syria. Do you think Syria would be better off with President Assad remaining in office?
A: The peaceful solution is the appropriate solution. The unity of Syria is in the interest of the security of the region. Syria should not turn into an attractive spot for extremist terrorist elements. That will threaten the entire region. When I sit with my European friends, I tell them there are European citizens fighting in Syria. Their numbers are more than 1,000 to 2,000. I imagine after the situation ends in Syria, regardless of how it will end, they will return to Europe. What will they do? What will the situation in Syria turn into? Will they attack us, will they attack Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Israel? We have to be aware of this radical ideology and activity and its effect on security and stability in the Middle East region.
Q: Do you think of a solution that will resolve the problem that would not involve Assad?
A: This matter requires a dialogue and extensive talks because it is more dangerous than just expressing an opinion on it. We have to see the full picture and have in front of us the issue of the unity of Syrian lands. A peaceful solution so that region does not get more complicated. The issue of dealing with extremist elements what will we do? Otherwise we will see another Afghanistan. I don’t think you want to create another Afghanistan in the region.
Q: How are relations between Egypt and Israel now? How do you see that progressing under your presidency?
A: Let me tell you that our relationship with Israel and the peace treaty has been stable for more than 30 years and had faced a lot of challenges yet it remained stable. We respected it and we will respect it. The Israeli people know this. We see there a real opportunity for peace that will prepare the region for an era of peace and cooperation between states. This is what I see. The question of whether we would be committed to the peace treaty is over. The issue is stable among all leaders and the public opinion in Egypt. What we need is to build on it. We need to see a Palestinian state. We need to move on peace, which has been frozen for many years. There will be a real chance for peace in the region. We are ready to play any role that will achieve peace and security in the region.
Q: Do you have any plans to reduce the influence of businessmen who dominated under President Mubarak?
A: We are a country that always works in the framework of law and the constitution. We want to work within this framework now and in the future. We never want measures that would scare anyone. We also need to have measures that would provide equal opportunities for everyone.
Q: You have spoken about eradicating the Brotherhood. Do you think you are making progress?
A: We feel very sorry about how these people express or introduced or presented our Islam. Very ugly face. Look at the global map of extremism and terrorism in the world. You will find that this issue has become rejected and unacceptable for most countries of the world. This form, the idea of killing, destruction that is present in many countries, I believe you understand that humanity and civilization does not accept this. And logic does not accept this.
Q: Can I just ask you about the trial of the Muslim Brotherhood members. There has been a large number of executions ordered in courts. Do you feel that the judicial process was a fair one, do you support these decisions?
A: I know the Western culture and I know the humanitarian logic you have and I understand it. First of all I am an Egyptian citizen now and I am not an Egyptian official and I hope that you accept this as I say it and trust me. Secondly, I am not going to talk about this case in particular but I want to say that we are founding a state based on the rule of law. We respect the judiciary and its independence and we do not interfere in it. This is very important … and that is something I appreciate and understand, but also I hoped that we were concerned about the number of victims from the other side.
-End of excerpt-
Upon reading this interview, one will find that Al-Sisi has falsified all of the claims that have been broadcast by the Egyptian media, which supposedly come from legitimate sources. These claims range from reiterating the Nasser experience and the alleged tensions between Washington and Cairo to the so-called conspiracies taken out by the American administration to restore the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in government, as well as the dangers of what is known as the Free Egyptian Army. Al-Sisi falsified the Egyptian media’s claims that Western countries were working together to abort the Egyptian dream born on the 3rd July. One will also notice that Al-Sisi’s comments in regards to Israel and the United States are calm and collected and that any of the current authority’s conflicts or confrontations are being waged against terror and against the Muslim Brotherhood at home. The issue that raises many questions in regards to matters of security and reviving tourism are virtually absent from this dialogue. Moreover, Al-Sisi failed to mention anything related to public freedoms or any of the issues that prompted the January 25th Revolution.
Translated from Shorouk newspaper, 18 May, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.