Creating new perspectives since 2009

The embarrassing interview

January 8, 2019 at 5:05 am

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi at the House of Representatives in Cairo, Egypt on 2 June 2018 [Egyptian President Office/Apaimages]

For nearly a week, the international media and social media have been talking about an interview between Al-Sisi and the famous American corresponded, Scott Pelly, on CBS’s 60 Minutes. The interview was filmed three months ago when Al-Sisi was in the US attending the UN General Assembly meeting. It was not broadcasted at the time and remained in the television station’s archives until it suddenly decided to air it. As soon as CBS announced this, it provoked the authorities in Egypt and angered the presidency.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister urged the Egyptian ambassador to the US to ask the television station not to air the show. Of course, the television station rejected the request, as the American media is free and it does not take orders from anyone. It seems the Egyptian authorities forgot they were not speaking to the Egyptian press, which they created themselves to serve them and follow orders. The American television station went as far as to release a statement regarding the Egyptian government’s request not to air the interview and its rejection of the request. It also confirmed that the full interview would air on Sunday.

Egypt was humiliated on an international level, as no other country has made such a request, especially since this is show has been an important and unrivalled show in the US and perhaps the world since it aired about 50 years ago. It still holds its position and ranking at the top, and no other programme can compete. It is considered a rare model of visual media, followed by over 14 million viewers, while the average life of American shows is three years.

The programme has interviewed the world’s most prominent political leaders and international figures. It hosted heads of state, such as Cuban President Fidel Castro, Chinese President, Deng Xiaoping, leader of the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US presidents, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. These two American presidents chose this programme over the others in their first appearance after winning the elections in 2008 and 2016. The programme also hosted many Arab leaders, such as President Anwar Sadat, Hosni Mubarak, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Al-Gathafi, Yasser Arafat, Bashar Al-Assad, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Read: Egypt’s Sisi opens mega-mosque and Middle East’s largest cathedral in New Capital

After seeing some of the figures hosted by the programme, I am sure that someone played with Al-Sisi’s mind and suggested he follow in their footsteps and appear on the programme in order become internationally recognised. He did not know the investigative nature of this programme that doesn’t take his words at face value, as if it were divine words like his media usually does.

In Egyptian media, journalists conducting interviews with him sit before him like a frightened student, but in this programme, the tales were turned. Al-Sisi became the frightened student and seemed to be confused and frazzled as if he were sitting before an international detective asking him about his crimes against his people. He was even sweating as he tried to evade the presenter’s questions. This subjected him to further ridicule on social media even before the full programmed aired, so imagine what sort of mockery he will endure after.

Clips from the interview were slowly released to get the people excited, and the people waited eagerly for the interview. It was talked about on opposition channels located in Turkey and on social media sites, which discussed in the days leading up to the airing of the interview about what he said in the released clips. It was as if someone was expertly managing the electronic public opinion.

It was then time for the interview to air and people gathered around their television to watch a shaken and lying Sisi. He denied the presence of political prisoners in Egypt and asked where Human Rights Watch obtained their numbers. Mohammad Salah Soltan, one of those who were imprisoned and tortured in his prisons without committing a crime, faced him and talked about the psychological and physical torture prisoners suffer in the jails. Soltan remained in prison until his health completely deteriorated, especially after going on a hunger strike for over 200 days.

Two years after severe suffering in prison, he was released on because he is an American citizen and he left Egypt, the land of oppression and torture. He was also faced by former deputy speaker of parliament, Mohammed Al-Dardiri, who refuted his claim about the Rabaa protests being an armed sit-in. It also caught our attention when Former Director for Egypt and Israel Military Issues at National Security Council in the Obama administration, Andrew Miller spoke. He spoke as if he were Egyptian, and even better than the Egyptians themselves.

Read: Palestinian Authority pulls employees from Egypt-Gaza crossing

Aside from his lies and false claims mentioned above, he was truthful about one thing, i.e. his relationship with Israel. He described the relationship as being a deep relationship that is unprecedented between the two countries. He also said they were cooperating militarily in the Sinai to face terrorism there.

This is a major scandal that Egypt had denied in the past when The Washington Post reported the military cooperation between Egypt and Israel last year. Now, in this interview, Al-Sisi is confirming what the newspaper reported and it a scandal on every level. How can a country allow the army of another country, especially another country that the majority of its people see as a hostile country, to fly its planes over its skies and kill its people under the t pretext of fighting terrorism?

Al-Sisi has shifted his alliance with Israel from secret to public, and it seems that the purpose of the interview was to announce complete normalisation with Israel.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.