tv Hudson Institute Hosts Forum on U.S.- Egypt Relations CSPAN April 14, 2017 7:00pm-8:01pm EDT
tv and sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. on american history tv on c-span three. working with our cable affiliates and visiting cities across the country. >> the hudson institute for center for religious freedom hosted a discussion about us egypt relations the same day egyptian president visited. >> [inaudible]
good afternoon. i direct the center for religious freedom here and i'm a senior fellow at the hudson institute. we have a very exciting and timely program today because at this very moment, president donald trump is sitting with the president of egypt and on topic today, just going to ask you all to turn off your cell phones. i forgot to say that. but we are going to be talking about the age of isis which is a close ally of the united states, the most populous arab country. a quarter of the world's speakers are from egypt. it also has the largest
non-muslim population in the world, the largest christian population. there are more in egypt than there are in israel so it is a significant non-muslim population. it's been at the heart of the interest of egypt. president trump has announced the visit as an occasion to reboot the relationship and we are going to be discussing what that would look like. there is a new initiative speech
which was a significant was intended to be a turning point when he said he helped to have a new beginning for the relationship. this is a new reboot and we are going to begin. we'll talk about what is going on in the oval office of the white house so i would like to start with sam. on the quest for modernity he has mapped egypt and has written
for the media including "the wall street journal" in the ideology and the atlantic and many other publications and he is egyptian. alberto fernandez is the vice president of the middle east research institute. he was also the coordinator for the counterterror prism communications at the department for three years during the obama administration. serving in latin america and other countries. we will begin with sam. we are going to discuss what was at the meeting today and what
you think is in the egyptian portfolio, what are their interests? >> thank you for the introduction. i think that in a sense this visit has already been achieved. the most important thing was the invitation to washington for the past three years since he came to power, the world has not seen him as legitimate. there's comments versus the popular uprising and comments about the oppression in the country and the obama administration's lack of interest has made him very key. being seen as an equal partner as an ally of the united states, so that is in and of itself has been the first goal.
it also comes with a lot. the obama administration puts certain restrictions concert concerning the ability and its attack for many years being able to buy weapons. certain limits on the kind of weapons they would be able to buy and they created the specific restrictions on the kind of military government that would be a loud or would be encouraged so the first thing is to remove those restrictions as
it is identified and the second portfolio is economic aid compounding the economic problems. it's been able to secure funding and the international monetary fund that they would like more assistance. in general they viewed the peace treaty with israel since the united states was committed to and they have diminished in terms of value over the years. from this perspective they would like more money for weapons and economic aid and more symbolic support for egypt.
since they are still the leader of the middle east of the era arab world it is likely to come with suggestions in the role that he can play in the peace process that egypt can be there as a partner, a broker in the process but it's one of the most important allies in the middle east. >> well, the visit comes at an inflection point when the isis seems to be a stumbling itself to be -- establishing itself in sinai producing a number of statements which is of course an interest of the trump administration as they vowed to in the face of the earth but y
yet, the administration is opposed to nationbuilding and wants to reduce foreign aid. what is going to be the american portfolio? >> samuel describe very well as the government came in gaining something from the initial meeting i think that the administration uses this to also put down a marker in the interest that is overwhelmingly security-related and there will not be distracted from that kind of background story of that previous obama years and that the dissidents that existed about dealing with egypt on certain things that it's basically putting a marker down that we are going to engage with
egypt with the government to get progress on the issues that we care about the most. the number one issue for the administration is obviously the counterterror prism issue. they have a role to play in egypt itself when it comes to islamist terrorism of the islamic state itself the danger that is growing for morphing
into the direct action terrorism groups it comes in from the neighboring states for places like libya so looking at it through the lens of terrorism and the kinetic part of the administration will be looking for something which they are marked but have yet to flesh it out sflush itout so that is thel challenge.
on the republican side of the ledger it is about confronting it for the challenge that is received very positively. looking at how you respond what can the administration do to be more effective in counterinsurgency and special operations and the smart way is to go beyond. it's for the creative, smart
aggressive ways to challenge the appeal of the default ideology and the middle east today. it is some type of islamism. the idea yes the administration is interested in the arab israeli peace in here and there. it's more about counterterrorism and combating the threat of islamism in the region and the sense that yes egypt is a partner, an important partner but also, i commend those of you that haven't read it yet, egypt
is also the battlefield and the playing ground. a bat in the end is what makes egypt most important aside from it its image of itself. >> it sounds like the ambassador is saying they could get their money after all if we could deliver and accept its new counterterrorism. can you tell us about what isis is doing right now that's popped up with a video on threatening
the cop saying there is a number one targets that they're favorite is the phrase they use and also for the first time the islamic state. can you tell us more about what is happening with isis? >> the islamic state or the problem of terrorism goes back to the year 2,000 or 99 where the group conducted a number of operations. then we had a period in the sense of why.
they are going through where they mixed and have been fighting at the time and created a new group after that and allow them an opportunity to operate and they created what they termed. they gave the allegiance to the state that came to the most appealing attracting supporters within egypt and nigeria and other areas where they see the model to follow. however, the group that's been a
finite group they are spectacular in cairo and other such facts but it's limited by the fact they drove their network for the supporters and protection comes from the reality that there is a breeding ground that has been completely alienated by the egyptian state that sees them against an oppressive state. as a result, initially they were based in a small border area. now we are seeing them able to operate in the capital for a quarter of a million people.
they are walking in the street with rocket launchers and that ability to protect the presence and power at the center is a reflection. >> this is where they were being driven out. >> perhaps this is a reflection of the extraordinary number but played an instrumental role in the formation of the ideology. my homeland has been important in that regard so that has been
translated into a significant present in the literature in the universe even outside of egypt. in 2010 asking for the relief of a woman they claimed was being held by the church, this significance has always been there. we also had been receiving in the 80s and 90s basically the rules don't apply to them any longer so if they are protected in the role of islam, the cops were no longer safe. they wouldn't receive any form of protection.
it has now basically all of them should be treated under the rule of the islamic state. they lead the territory and it seemed a very alarming instance of the costs being massacred in the last two or three months. the islamic state hasn't claimed these attacks but it's the same method that has been repeated. how much of this is a reflection of the supporters in these areas that is something that we will
continue to see in the future. >> ambassador, you've also written another video that was released last week about the beheadings of many sources and sinai. what is that all about? >> is what they do in other places. we have to remember that while the propaganda is tailored to the reality that it's focused on, it has certain patterns everywhere that if the stew present the rule of governance and reality. so the last video from a week
ago by the way has elements that lead you to believe when you look at the propaganda the reality is what they want you to believe so it presents a skew reality that shows that it's much more ubiquitous and powerful even though it is put out under the brand it was actually a lot of editing and work done outside of egypt weather in those goes wherever it was that it seeks to present an idea form of the governance. all too often the debate is sisi
is good or bad or better. it basically says all of the egyptian ruling class past and present, all of them must be rejected. it doesn't matter. they are all servants of the fears him and they have to be eliminated. and then in this video that ends as they usually do being beheaded as sorcerers, the whole video is basically showing this is a righteous islamist government. this is what it looks like and shows the plans being torn up
being brainwashed were forced having to sign repentance documents. it's basically about presenting an idealized stylized form of the righteous governance under the flags and this message would resonate with part of the egyptian population beyond its enclave and sinai. >> i want to get to that with you because you have mapped the islamist groups in egypt, and i want to hear about what's your view is a on whether that kind of messaging is going to be as popular as it was in iraq and
syria where they presented itself as a purifier driving out in sleeping and using these methods filming it in very professional means and also, resurrecting these rejected practices of slavery and genocide by the government it's also a type of ethnic religious cleansing of purification. is this going to resonate?
>> it connects heaven and earth to return to the previous practices to the point of time when islam was great in the military and cultural terms, and that is until today no one has been successful finding an actual methodology for achieving it so at a certain point in time it says to achieve the dream is to the stages that are articulated. we will work on the families of the societies until we reach the end state.
then we need to purify it and bring the new generations of muslims to purified form of regulation plus the groups say they need to fight the government's that do not apply sharia and what has been revealed. that continuation is basically the result of the previous ideologies and each one claiming we will achieve that dream. it's been a reason for the appeal of the islamic state. if you buy into the basic framework of the idea, it is
underground escaping to turkey. it's not a successful model and it was so successful why does it collapse so easily after coming to power to talk about actually achieving any of the islamist demand in power. you look at where is he today, hiding in a cave in afghanistan or pakistan, whichever the end result is after 40 years of fighting for his dream come he's nowhere closer to it. >> but it isn't a secular at least the polls show over 70% of
there has been some movement into there've been some efforts, but there is a tremendous amount of space in the media and broadcast media you still have the secularist and liberals by the establishment and the cases like that. it's been implemented around the edges but they have begun something that has never happened in the arab world which is how the government on the level of ideology on the level
of textbooks and religious establishments in the liberal interpretation of the problematic text and concepts that are used. they had the nature to the question of governance. there is a loss that can be do done. there is a lot of work that hasn't even begun yet. >> the point is the roman catholic pope frances is going to visit at the end of this month picking up a relationship by benedict 16 who denounced the
bombing of a church at christmas time in egypt and then asked for protection and he said that was unacceptable and that this was a definition of islam. after the outreach saying we want to repair this in the fall, there were reports of god does it saying we can do the visit of the criticism of islam that is going to be kind of tricky conversation when the pope goes. >> one thing that struck me when i went there in 1984 as a young
diplomat is that every church in egypt, and there's a lot at a police guardian and why was that because they have policemen guarding ihad a policemanguardis was 1984 and everything that you see today that was much that bue been put into place against religious minorities iraq had its beginnings for the targeting of christians and robbing them and the whole question they were the ground for all this stuff that we follow you around with al qaeda and the islamic state.
>> what are some of the benchmark sandals so, you've written about anti-semitism would that be another benchmark i suppose? >> on to call i think he left his prepared remarks and started speaking in the dialect but there never was a plan of this reform is going to happen. once you begin to see the voices outside of the establishment they began attacking the text
and once you begin to have thought that calls for the swapping of this, the program is canceled and thrown in jail for a here for blasphemy. >> it's to target the religious minorities questions to stop any serious conversation examination or call four different interpretations. we've seen the use of these
suggest he would like to see the reform of the religious discourse plus he has to deal with the reality. you've connected with the high number of divorce an in the couy with the limit and there was the humiliation we don't talk about these issues or you will be humiliated in public. when washington has welcomed this there's a lot of limits to what he can offer in this regard. the egyptian system remain.
it simply teaches nothing about the outside world and in that vacuum, my favorite story is about an egyptian journalist who was being asked by a colleague of hers where her husband had been. she didn't get the question. what do you mean we are not sure where we spent the honeymoon. though, where will he be when he is with you. it turns out many believed that christian girls the first night goes to the priest. where do they get that idea from, the movie braveheart. the absence of any information about people in the sense.
there's the propaganda and this lack of knowledge i know you've got work on the textbooks and the kind of intolerance that they teach whether it is in textbooks. >> one of the great ironies is you have the supporters and opposition supporters that but disagree on many things but of course you can find the anti-semitism and each one blaming the others being in the
pocket of the jews and israelis if you can share the same elements because they are drawing from the anti-semitism so deeply ingrained and anti-christian sentiment that has always been there for many years. it doesn't mean that they are all anti-christian but that sentiment has existed. >> if you've read the government forces it is of course, so they both agree on that. >> the protocols of the others but fabricated the anti-semitic
tracks was put on tv during ramadan for the government sanctioned outlet. i'm sure the track itself can be found in arabic. >> it's one of the most popular books. >> it was three years ago there was an entire shelf of anti-semitic material and the protocols of the others was just one, the star of david, this kind of material and in all of the hotels frequented by foreigners and of course this was in arabic and at the end of the blog but it' block but it'st that while this is true, it's
important that i don't want to always focus on this, but sam wrote a tremendous piece on the jewish experience of egypt that captures the nuance of this and there is a lot of negativity and awful things, but there's a lot of complexity as well, and i highly recommend his piece on this tremendous piece that he wrote. >> we should turn to public questions and we have quite a few. please identify yourself and your organization. >> i am one of nine commissioners.
before we went to egypt earlier this year, we heard what you said but we also met and got a lot of stories about the evidence that we should be supporting sisi blank improvement in the religious freedom areas of some of the thing they participated in was thoncethe number of dialogue ane conference and they are holding one that began this fall. the pop pope said that they had attended the celebrations there that signaled they would be protected afterwards there was a bombing.
a loft we met with said things were better under sisi and that a lot had to do with dealing with the complex issues. if you have to rank them in terms of advances or not advances of religious freedom, what would you say? >> i have no doubts that president sisi is not a fanatic and i do not have any doubt he hates or anything in that regard but he also appreciate the fact that they didn't complain in august of 2013 with the largest attacks in the century and he appreciates the fact that they
are loyal citizens however this hasn't translated into anything meaningful for the people on the ground. building the church remains a significant problem. it doesn't change the facts on the ground to build a church in egypt for any of the attack they suffer from and any instance we have had about 100 under the government and the two parties are brought together usually
that they are prohibited from building a church in a particular village and no one is punished which creates a culture not only of impunity but let's attack the christians. we are going to do what we want because the government will force them to accept that and no one will ever go astray from doing that. that is a serious problem. they are not asking for a special status but an equal application of the law to protect people from having their homes usually without anybody being killed although there have been instances but this has
become a regular occurrence in the country. the religious leaders in the middle east are in the position they are cornered from all sid sides. the governments that they offered our understandably given the circumstances that they are confronting. i'i am happy i'm not in their shoes to deal with these horrible circumstances between the conditions that you're living in and fear of things going much worse. >> their spin as you mentioned a lot of positive symbolism and
and money and giving all these things exist in the atmosphere and its something the government has to deal with where it i is embroiled in a societandbroughtt they need to appeal to a certain extent to survive. >> the title of this event is a common ground that would be discussed as common enemies in particular isis. two questions. one is focused on isis but also we have two major enemies.
administration. that is why one of the mythologies in washington is that's not exactly true. they see him in the context of what they saw as the obama policy that favored the enemies. egypt, saudi arabia, the states, et cetera. so, there is a kind of sense that this administration should have their back when they come to that issue. now, how that is going to turn out after the priorities. they would have a better handle on its own threats.
it is addressing them but one of the ways it can be done on the frontier. >> if a 12 approach them they will discover egypt doesn't see itself in the first place perhaps because this whole divide as it does in the goals and as a result, they've given verbal support to saudi arabia. he famously says it is the time that it would take for us to reach them if anything happens
we will be there. things have been. we have a long history we are not really interested. it simply doesn't see it as an enemy or as a threat the same way that the others exist and that impacts the way it will approach the issue although we wrote a report that egypt actually produces its fair share of propaganda. maybe it is an appeal to the audience but a lot of it is in the egypt and north africa and these are populations where they supply the institutions. >> over here in the middle. >> reporter with congressional quarterly.
taking a broad look at this topic, i believe that the index stands somewhere around 45%. as you know, half of egypt is under the age of 30, high levels of youth unemployment. i'm wondering what all of this means for president trump blank move towards embracing sisi in the event that there is a further instability in egypt given all of those population factors. what kind of position will the united states be in if they rightly or wrongly precedes the united states as condoning human rights abuses? >> they are committed no matter what it does. there is no way you cannot walk away from this. the finessing that occurs in watching an is noted by the egyptian elite but you look at the extremists and it doesn't
matter that much. this is basically a problem or issue you have to deal with, so you better try to get the change that you can and if i can make a point on this index, there are two things. it is very slowly improving on a macro level when it comes to economic issues. it's number 122 in the world bank index way of doing business which is really bad. we could get to the level of let's say 68, that would be an improvement. one of the challenges isn't so much to embrace them as you said, one of the challenges for the administration i think it's too removed to these macro economic issues like the world bank and stuff like that but to also find creative ways to help
the underclass that makes sense. the macro stuff that you are asked tyou'reasked to do that my miserable you need to factor in the human dimension that has occurred in egypt and other places and things like the price of bread or certain basic commodities. finding ways on the micro level to make a life a little more dignified for your everyday citizens. they will not be able to turn night into day. there is stuff that can be done on the development side within the conflicts making poor example for development getting away from some of the ridiculous things we've spent money on in
egypt. there are ways you can look at addressing the poor in a better way. >> there was a poll done back in 2014 where the positive perception of the united states had a huge number, 1%. of the obama administration has managed. they believed they had condoned or supported and the regime supporters believed they supported the muslim brotherhood. the christians believed they created the islamic state. you got a question about that. everyone in the country at this moment has a view of the united states. so i don't know how much worse no matter what policy you
actually take. the sisi regime has different understandings of their rights. the human rights abuses in the country, but there's also a very popular regime. i have no doubt even in a free and fair election he would win. he represents a certain reality in that country, a certain rejection and the demand fo a da return to normalcy, stability. it led to a complete upheaval in the life of egyptians and many people in egypt will tell you sure, things are not great, but better than iraq or syria and that is becoming the benchmark in the region.
you have a human rights abuser. but look around you. i don't agree with that narrative, but it is a narrative that is very popular in the country and continues to give president sisi support as well as the reality that there are no alternatives. if you ask any they would be hard-pressed to name five individuals that could be a serious candidate for president or prime minister or any position for that matter. so as the regime has created problems in the country definitely, but i don't see any alternative on the horizon at the moment for that regime. ..