In mid-September, the Working Group on Egypt sent a letter to U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump ahead of their individual meetings with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi scheduled to take place on September 19, 2016. Below is the text of the letter.
We are distressed to learn that you are planning to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi next week at the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Since taking power via a military coup three years ago, President Sisi has overseen not only the complete reversal of Egypt’s nascent democratic transition but also unprecedented human rights abuses. With several thousand killed in demonstrations, 40,000 or more political prisoners currently held, hundreds of enforced disappearances, and hundreds of documented cases of torture and death in detention in the last two years, the Sisi era has been a nightmare for many Egyptians.
The Sisi government’s actions have been harmful to Egyptian interests, but just as importantly, from our point of view, they have been contrary to American interests. Sisi portrays himself as an ally in the region and the war on terror. He is not. Anti-Americanism is rampant in the state-controlled media. American and Egyptian NGOs have been harassed out of business. Sisi has played an unhelpful role in Libya, publicly supported the Russian intervention in Syria, and been unable to act as an effective mediator between Israel and Palestinians. At home, his repressive policies have led to an increase in terrorism. His prisons have become massive incubators for future terrorists, some of whom are likely to target the United States. Meanwhile, his inept economic policies, which have given the military an even larger role in the economy than under Mubarak, are destroying any promise of a better future for Egyptian youth. Taken together, Sisi’s policies are planting the seeds of future crises and instability. It is not in our interest to embrace him but to use our influence to press for beneficial change in Egypt.
Your meeting with Sisi at the UNGA will be taken in Egypt, and around the world, as an endorsement. To meet with him is a policy decision, which should await a later date after much study and assessment of U.S. policy toward Egypt. Therefore, we strongly urge you to readjust your schedule.
The Working Group on Egypt
Michele Dunne (co-chair), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Robert Kagan (co-chair), Brookings Institution
Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations
Reuel Gerecht, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
Neil Hicks, Human Rights First
Stephen McInerney, Project on Middle East Democracy
(Institutional affiliations are provided for purposes of identification only.)