tv Hudson Institute Hosts Forum on U.S.- Egypt Relations CSPAN April 3, 2017 12:06pm-1:05pm EDT
submitting -- releasing a letter of support for the sea grant program. congressman zeldin, republican from long island, myself, led that letter. again this is where our focus ought to be right now in terms of this country. if you really care about making america great again, it's about giving people out there in the great heartland and on the coastal sections of this country the tools that they need to grow, thrive, innovate, and succeed. this budget fails that test. i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman yields back. pursuant to clause 12-a of rule 1, the chair declares the house in recess until 2:00 p.m. today.
so we're going to begin by -- sam, i'd like you to tell us what you think -- we don't know what's going to be discussed at this meeting today, but what you think is in the egyptian portfolio, what are their interests? sam: well, thank you, nina, for the introduction. i think the goal has already been achieved. the most important thing for president sisi was receiving this invitation to washington and being welcomed in the white house. for the past three years, since the military moved -- and since he came to power, he has seemed
he world has not seem him as legitimate. these comments about the military coup, comments about the oppression in the country, and the obama administration's lack of interest in welcoming him to washington has made him very keen on getting that target, being welcomed in washington, being seen as an equal partner, as an ally of in nited states so that and of itself has been the goal of the egyptian side of this visit. however, the president comes with a lot of asks. the obama administration had put certain restrictions on military aid to egypt, concerning cash flow financing, limits on egypt's ability that it had for many years. only second to israel in being able to buy weapons in advance,
paying for them later. certain limits on the kind of weapons that egypt would be able to buy. the obama administration created four specific restrictions on the kind of military equipment that would be allowed for the egyptians, would be encouraged for the egyptians to acquire. the first priority for him is to remove those restrictions. the egyptians would want more weapons, would want weapons not limited to what the obama administration has identified. second portfolio, second issue for him is economic aid. egypt is confronting an problem, to say the least. but they would like more u.s. equipment and assistance to the economic problems of the country. in general, the egyptian
military historically and the presidency has viewed the u.s. aid as by right. they have find the peace treaty with israel and that's the united states has committed to. what $1.3 billion could buy you in 1979 is not what it buy you today. from the egyptian perspective, they want more money for weapons, more money for economic aid. and more symbolic support for egypt. a sense that egypt is still the eader of the middle east, that it still matters, the egyptian president is likely to come with suggestions of a role he can play in the peace process, that egypt can be there as a partner, a broker in that process. basically, putting egypt as one
of the most important ally for the united states in the middle east. nina: well, the -- this visit -- at an inflexion infelix point where isis is re-establishing itself maybe in the sinai and has produced a number of videos and statements which is an interest, of course, of the trump administration. president trump has vowed to eradicate radical islamic terror from the face of the earth but yet he has also -- the administration is opposed to nation building. and wants to reduce foreign aid. so ambassador, what's going to be the american portfolio. >> well, i think samuel described it very well. just as the sisi government came in, gang some from an initial -- gaining something
from the initial meeting, the neo-american administration also uses this first meeting to also put down a marker that it has interests, which are overwhelmingly national security related and it's not going to be distracted from kind of the background story of the previous obama years and the differences that existed within the obama administration about dealing with egypt on certain things. alberto: that it's basically putting a marker down that we are going to engage with egypt, e are going to engage in a full way with the egyptian government, with the sisi government to get progress on the issues that we care about the most. the number one issue for this administration in this regard is obviously -- is the writ large the counterterrorism issues, the defeat of isis, particularly in the region, the destruction of it in the region
and egypt has a role to play both in terms of egypt itself, of the kind of the three challenges that egypt faces islammist s to terrorism. the challenge of the islamic state itself in egypt. growing, , which is f the activism and the poisonous narrative of the -- of it morphing into direct action, terrorist groups like hasam, others and then the danger of -- that can come with -- this dangerous spreading in the valley -- from sinai into the valley into northern states in places like libya.
so primarily looking at it through the lenses of counterterrorism and look through the lenses of the kinetic part of it and the second part the administration will be looking for is something they have very openly marked as a priority for the administration but has yet to flesh it out and that's the ideological challenge of jihadism in the region. president al-sisi very early on said positive things that were noted in washington, especially to be blunt, on the republican side of the ledger in washington about confronting jihadism, confronting in his speech, confronting the ideological dimension of the challenge. that is something had a was received very positively in this town, especially in certain areas. i know we certainly did at memory. so i think looking at how you
both respond in a more effective way kinetically, you know, what can the administration do, what can the administration do to get thi jippingses to move towards being even more effective in counterinsurgency, even more effective in special operations in sinai and also creative, smart ways to go beyond, you know, some guy standing up saying, you know, jihadism is bad, kind of going on to find creative, smart, aggressive ways to challenge the appeal of the default ideological in the middle east today. the default ideological in the middle east today is some type of islamism. so egypt's role in that. the third thing which you alluded to and you alluded to as well i see is less significant which is the idea of egypt as this regional player. yes, the administration is
interested in arab-israeli peace. yes, egypt can be helpful in libya and sudan and here and there. i don't see that as the real priority for the administration. it's more about counterterrorism. it's more about combating the threat of radical islamism in the region and the sense that, yes, egypt is a partner, yes, egypt is an important partner, maybe the most important partner and maybe egypt is -- i don't know if you read sam's piece to hudson on this -- egypt is also the battlefield. egypt is also the playing ground, where the struggle is being waged. that in the end is what makes egypt most important. aside from its, you know, its big arm evened image of itself in the region and all that is that all of these fishers, all of these -- the crisis of authority in the sunni arab muslim world, the challenge of
islamism, the challenge of governance, all this is playing out on the great battlefield which is the arab republic of egypt. nina: sam, it sounds like what the ambassador is saying, egypt could very well get its money after all. that if it can deliver on and accept its new role of counterterrorism, what do you think, will it be able to -- can you tell us about what isis is doing in the eye inside right now? it -- in the sinai right now? cops are the number one target, that they are -- their favorite prey is the term -- the phrase they use and they also call themselves i think for the first time the islamic state of egypt. can you tell us more about what is happening with isis? sam: sure. the islamic state, of course,
or let me put it this way. the problem of terrorism in sinai goes back to about the year 2000 or 1999 where the first group was formed in the sinai. they conducted a number of operations targeting tourists. they had the bombings of the hotel and other cities and then we had a period and sense of quitity in the sinai as the group was targeted about the egyptian state, forced into oing through gaza where they mixed with palestinians who had been fighting hamas at the time and other groups. and created a new group after that. the egyptian revolution allowed them the free opportunity to operate in the sinai. the collapse of the security forces there. and they created what they rmed the supporters of
jerusalem. a few years ago they gave allegiance to the islamic state which through its establishment of the caliphate became the most appealing jihadi group in the world in the sense, attracting supporters both in egypt and libya and nigeria and all other areas of the world where they see it as the most successful caliphate jihadi model to follow. however, the group has also been a sinai-based group. they have done a spectacular attacks in cairo. the bombing of the coptic and other such attacks, but they are also limited by the fact they drove their membership from the tribal networks of the sinai, their supporters, their protection comes from the reality that there is a
breeding ground there, there is a welcoming environment there, that has been completely alienated by the egyptian state and that sees these guys as doing a noble fight against the oppressive state. as a result, they have been able to grow their presence in the sinai. initially they were based in a small border area. now we're seeing them able to operate in the capital of northern sinai. we are talking about the city of a million people. where they have nightly patrols, for example, checking driver's licenses, walking in the streets with their rocket launchers and clashing with cops, that ability to protect their presence and power at the center of northern sinai, that's a reflection. nina: this is an area where the christians are being killed and being driven out?
sam: which brings us exactly to the christians. the cops in egypt in a sense have been a favorite of islamist groups. perhaps this is a reflection of the extraordinary number of egyptians that have played an instrumental role in the formation of islamist deological, jihadi ideology. my homeland has been important in that regard. so naturally these islamists, the hatred towards the cops, the intolerance they have against them has been translated into a significant presence of the cops in the literature within the islamist universe you have outside of egypt. if you remember, for example, the targeting of the church in baghdad in 2012 -- sorry -- 2010, december, 2010, asking for the release of an egyptian woman that they claim had converted to islam and was being held by the church, this
significance has always been there. we also had the cops in egypt receiving fatwas from various islamist groups in the 1980's and 1990's saying the rules don't apply to them any longer. so they are protected people under the rule of islam, cops would not receive any form of protection and that's their targeting them is permissible. these fatwas have been repeated by the islamic state saying basically all those rumors of how these nonmuslims should be treated under -- non-muslims should be treated under the rule of the islamic state should not be applied because the cops by their very actions are warriors, are fighting against islam and thus it is permissible to target them. we have seen the targeting of six or seven cops killed, forcing the whole coptic
community of northern sinai to leave the territory. but we've also seen a number of ery alarming incidents of them being massacred, sometimes in their beds, sometimes simplely in the street. in the last two, three months, all over the country. the islamic state has not claimed these attacks but it's a very interesting development it's the same method that's being repeated throughout the country. how much of this is a reflection of the islamic supporters in these areas, that's something we'll continue to see in the future. nina: ambassador, you've also written recently about another video that isis in egypt has leased last week about the sorcerors in sinai. what is all that about? what did they --
ambassador fernandez: what that video do is a part of a larger trend that isis does in other places. while isis propaganda is tailored to an audience that it's focused on, it has certain patterns everywhere that are found everywhere. it seeks to present an alternate rule of governance, an alternate reality of a specific place. so the last video from a week ago which is called "the light of shahrya," an isis sinai video. by the way, it has elements that leads you to believe -- and i think this is, you know, when you look at propaganda you always have to remember they are presenting a reality. they want you to believe, right, so they present a skewed reality that shows isis sinai much more ubiquitous, much more controlling than it actually
is. the video has elements that has -- even though it's put out on the isis sinai brand, there was a lot of editing and work done outside of egypt. whether in raqqah or mosul or, you know, wherever it is, somewhere else there was a lot of prepping of that video. but what it seeks to present is an ideal form of jihadist governance. it's important to point out because all too often the debate in washington is, oh, you know, sisi is bad or sisi is good or morrissey was better or whatever and the isis video, this video before it basically says that all of egyptian ruling class, past and present, all of them are infidel, all of them are to be rejected. christian, islamists, it doesn't matter.
they're all bad. they're all servants of infidelity, servents of polytheism, and they have to be eliminated. this video, which ends as they usually do with the money shot of two poor old men being beheaded as source roars, the whole video is basically showing this is a righteous islamic government, this is what it looks like. so it shows, you know tobacco plants being torn up, drugs being burned. some being kidnapped, forcibly brainwashed or forced to repent and having to sign a repittance document. so it's basically about presenting a kind of idealized, tylized form of what a righteous, you know, governance under the flag of talhid would look like.
obviously knowing and thing this many will resonate with part of the egyptian population. beyond its little enclave in sinai. nina: yeah, i want to get that with you, sam, because you have mapped the islamist groups in egypt and i want to hear about what your view is, whether that kind of messaging is going to iraq popular as it was in and syria where isis also presented itself as a purifier, driving out, killing and slaving, using these shocking brutally messages that grabs the world attention and filming it and also resurrecting these long dead rejected practices of slavery, sexual slavery of yazidi and other
groups and being declared a genocide by our government. 's also a type of ethnic cleansing, a reledgeous cleansing, a purification. is that what we're -- we're already seeing it in north sinai. is this going to resonate among and who would it resonate among in -- which groups in egypt? islamism is in flux. it seeks to create a state that connects heaven and earth. a model of -- a return to previous centuries of islamist practices, to a point where islam was great both in military, material and cultural terms and until today no one
has been successful in finding an actual methodology for achieving it. so the islam brotherhood said the methodology to achieve that dream is to -- the six stages that they articulated. we are going to work on the muslim individual, the muslim family, the society until we reach the end state. hen we'll come the quiet and say, no, religion has been corrupted. we need to purify it. we need to bring a new generation of muslims on this purified form of religion. come jihadi groups and say we need to fight the governments that don't apply shahrya, that don't apply the true others and
what god has revealed in his koran. that continuation, that continuous state of flux is basically the result of the failure of previous ideologies and each one claiming to be the one. we're going to be the guys that achieve that dream. in the sense the failure of all previous ideologies has been the reason for the appeal of the islamic state. if you are an egyptian islam and you buy into the basic framework of the idea, and you look at the muslim brotherhood methodology today, where is the muslim brotherhood? well, it's in jail, it's under ground, it's escaping through turkey and qatar. t's not a successful muslim. if the muslim brotherhood were so successful, why did it collapse so easily in one year after coming to power? and let alone talk about the
failures of them achieving any of the islamist -- the demand during its year in power. you look at the scene, you look at za warry, where is this guy today? - zawahiri, he's nowhere closetory it. nina: but egypt isn't really secular, is it, the culture either? a recent pew poll showed that over 70% of the population want rule by shahrya. sam: i think it depends -- i mean, you ask these questions and it depends how du define shahrya. it's no doubt that the islamist message is appealing in egypt, continues to be appealing until today due to the fact that it a not been discredited as certain ideology. some were discredited, that of
the muslim brotherhood. secondly, because there are no other competing ideologies. the basic premise of islamism makes sense for an average egyptian. doesn't make him a radical or extremist or an islamist per se. nina: president an-sisi and others have been talking about a sident sisi talked about revolution in ideology, really, not the religion itself. so is that being received well? is that -- is that government going forward with it? they reformed some textbooks that -- and he made this appeal allah -- the 10 century center of sunni learning. and he challenged the clerics
and religious scholars in his has recently tarted talking about reform. ambassador fernandez: the speech that sisi caved was very well received. the arab proverb said, she was pregnant in a mountain and gave birth to a mouse, it sounds better in arabic. u know, this very sweeping powerful speech, there has been al-azhar.ent from there is a tremendous amount of space for islamist extremism in egypt still. in the media. in both print media and in broadcast media. you still have secularrists and
liberals persecuted, not leaving the government aside. u have people like islam muhati. they talked about reform and reform has been talked about but hasn't been really been implemented. there has been a nibbling around the edges but there -- you cannot say that the egyptian government has done something which would be truly revolutionary that has never happened in the arab world which is to have a government on the level of ideology, on the level of textbooks, on the level of religious establishment really embrace the kind of a liberal reinterpretation of problematic texts and conceptes that are sed by jihadism, by islamists. nina: what does jihad mean? ambassador fernandez: the question of governance.
you know, who rules -- who are you loyal to, who do you reject? all of those things. there's a lot that can be done. it seems to me that president sisi kind of put out a very enticing marker but there's a lot of work that has to happen which hasn't even begun yet. nina: iist guess a case in point is that the roman catholic pope francis is going to visit this the end of this nth to al-azhar picking up a ruptured relationship ruptured by pope benedict xvi which denounced the bombing of a church at christmastime in egypt, a coptic church, and then asked for protection for the christians and al-azhar said that was unacceptable and said this was a defamation of islam. and after the pope francis' outreach in saying we want to
repair this and -- in the fall, i think -- there was reports of visit by the papal -- by the sheik to the papal saying we can do the visit but no criticism of islam. so it's going to be a tricky conversation. ambassador fernandez: one thing about egypt which struck me when i got there in 1984 as a young diplomat, every church in egypt -- and there are a lot of churches in egypt -- had a policeman guarding it. and why was that? because also christian cemeteries had a policeman guarding it because already -- this is 1984. in the 1970's, of course, everything you see today that was much of everything that was has been put into place against religious minorities in
iraq and in syria had its ginning in the 1970's by the ihadist groups, egyptian jihadist groups, the robbing of christians. the whole question of them not really being -- or being the -- saying they didn't have a contract. egypt was the proving ground for all of this stuff that we saw later on with al qaeda and the islamic state. nina: sam, what are the other benchmarks both for christians and also you have written about anti-semitism. that would be another benchmark, i suppose. sam: on the issue of president sisi's call for religious reform or religious revolution, i think it was genuine. it was unprepared. he left his prepared remarks in the classical arabic and just
started speak in clogial egyptian dialect -- colloquial egyptian dialect. it's a reflection of his own view but there was never a plan. he has no idea how this reform s going to happen. once you began to see these voices outside of the official religious establishment, people ike the ambassador mentioned which began attacking the text on which all the jihadi interpretations are based, once you began to have that, the religious establishment automatically called for the stopping of this. the program was cancelled. and one was thrown in jail for a year. so the -- nina: for blasphemy. the blasphemy law. sam: and this use of blasphemy laws to stop any serious
discussion, both as a method to target the religious minorities, christians, shiites have been targeted by these blasphemy laws and also muslims to stop any serious conversation, examination or called for different interpretations. we've seen that in the past from one and the worse case against him since he isn't a poss tate and his muslim wife had to leave him. so there are limits to president sisi's call. there is a genuine -- yes, wee like to see a reform of the religious discourse but he has no plan. plus, he has to deal with the reality of another. he recently clashed over the question of divorce, for example. he commented on the high number of divorces in the country asking if there can be a limit
on the right of divorce. very clear er was a public humiliation of the president. no and this is not debatable. this is the religion as it is. don't talk about these issues or you will be humiliated in public. so i think why washington has welcomed this talk a lot. there are actually limits to sisi said. this teaching doesn't teach the outside world. my favorite story is about an egyptian journalist, a christian, who was getting engaged and being asked by a colleague of hers where her husband would spend the first night. i mean, she didn't get the question. what do you mean? we're not sure where we'll spend the honeymoon.
no, i mean, where will he be when the priest is with you? turns out that her colleague and many egyptian muslims believe that christian girls the night of first night goes to the priest. where did they get that idea from you might wonder, well, it's a movie "braveheart." in the absence of any actual information about people that they have shared 14 centuries of living together, in the sense every egyptian muslim, great grandparents were from egypts and the lack of people that you live in the same country with, allowing all these superstitions, these conspiracy theories, these propaganda by islamists to fill that vacuum. this lack of knowledge about world religions. nina, you've done work on the saudi textbooks and the kind of intolerance they teach. similar story is in egypt.
whether it's in textbooks or even in the egyptian government textbooks. the other simply doesn't exist. ambassador fernandez: one of the great ironies is you have the egyptian government and the supporters and you have the opposition, especially the islamist opposition supporters, they disagree on many things but you see anti-semitism in the pro-government camp and you can find anti-semitism in the anti-government camp and each one blaming the others of being in the pocket of the jews or the pocket of the israelis or the pocket of the jews and the israelis. that's one area where actually they both share the same -- some of the same elements of the world view. as sam said, because they're drawing from a kind of hair tanel of anti-semitism just like there is a heritage of an engrained, deeply ingrained anti-christian sentiment that has always been there for many
years. it doesn't mean all muslims in egypt are veerlly anti-christian but that element has existed to some extent. sam: i mean, if you read the brotherhood sources, sisi is jewish. his mother is a moroccan jew. so both agree. nina: yeah. and the protocols of the elders of zion that fabricated anti-semitic track from russia was put on tv during ramadan through a government sanctioned outlet. sam: back in 2002. nina: i'm sure the track itself can be found in arabic easily. sam: it's one of the most popular books if you are walking in the streets of cairo. one time a few years ago -- last time i was there for the u.s. government which was three
years ago, staying at the intercontinental hotel and in the little bookstore there, you go in and there was an entire shelf of anti-set metic material in asia. ambassador fernandez: the proowe call of the elledersers of zion, there were vampires with the star of david on them and this kind of material in a five-star hotel frequented by foreigners. and, of course, this was in arabic. i think probably saudi guests get it a lot. but it's important while this is true, it's important -- i don't want to always focus on this but sam wrote a tremendous piece on the jewish experience in egypt which i -- if you haven't read it, really captures the nuance of this phenomenon and there's a lot of negativity. there's a lot of awful things. but there's a lot of complexity as well. i highly recommend his piece on
this issue. i forget the name of it. it's a tremendous piece that he wrote. nina: ok. i think we should turn to public questions. and we have quite a few. we should start in the back, move forward. and please identify yourself and your organization. >> hi. i'm christine, one of fellow cuban. am one of nine commissioners. thank you, sam. before we went to egypt earlier this year we heard a lot of what you said, but we also met with a lot of n.g.o.'s and evangelical groups and met with the pope and we met with the grand sheik and we also got a lot of stories about -- a lot of factual evidence, they argue, that we should be supporting el-sisi's government
for his great improvement in the religion area. one of the things they quoted was the sheik participated in a number of interfaith dialogue and conferences and they're holding one this fall. e pope said that el-sisi had attended three christmas -- two or three -- i thought it was two. two christmas celebrations there which was unprecedented and that signaled that the cops would be protected there. afterwards there was a bombing. there was a lot of evangelical ministers. things were better under el-sisi and a lot of his policies had to due with dealing with huge cultural issues. if you rank them in term of advances or not advances of religious freedom, what would you say. -- what would you say?
ambassador fernandez: i don't think there's any doubt -- any suggestion that he hates christians or anything in that regard. i think he also appreciates -- sam: i think he also appreciates the fact that the christians didn't complain after the massive burning and attacks on coptic churches in august of 2013, which was the largest attack on the coptic churches since the 14th century. he really appreciates the facts that cops in a sense proved they are loyal egyptian citizens. he has an excellent working relationship with the pope. however, this has not translated into anything meaningful for the people on the ground. building a church in egypt remains a significant problem. we passed -- egypt passed just at the end of 2016 a new law
the building of churches. it makes matters -- i don't want to say worse -- but it doesn't change any of the facts on the ground of how it is possible for you to build a church in egypt. the egyptian police does not protect cops from any of the attacks that they suffer from. in every single incident of attacks on cops -- and we had about 100 such attacks under the sisi government. the regime resorts to to ciliation sessions bring them together to kiss each other giving into the mob demands. the reconciliation . cides, yes, they won't and it creates a culture of not only impurity but encouragement. hey, let's go attack the
christians. we are he going to get what we want because the government is force them. hat's a serious problem. he's trying to protect people from having their homes burned into these regular problems about ke place usually people being killed but these have become a regular occurrence in the country. the religious leaders in the middle east are in a position that i don't envy them. they are cornered from all sides and they do what they can to protect their communities. so the position that they take, the sense of the governments that they offered are -- is
understandably given the circumstances that they are confronting. i mean, i'm happy i'm not in their shoes to be forced to deal with these horrible circumstances. between the conditions that you're living in and the fear of things going much worse if the sisi regime would fall tomorrow. ambassador fernandez: you mentioned it, there's been a lot of positively symbolism and they focus a lot on that and i'm sure with pope francis, you'll see a whole bunch of positive symbolism. the problem is, as sam said, the symbolism and the reality, the kind of everyday reality on the ground for people and especially, let's face it, village people, poor people, people who can be easily attacked and humiliated. on the other side you do have to say that even with the
symbolism, as weak as it is for us, president sisi attack, in a 2014 video he's called sisi, oh, you the slave of the cross, as an egyptian fighter tears up his board. so even what we see with that symbolism promotes a reaction, not just from isis, but from other islamists as well. all the methodology that sam referred to about, christians, kind of similar to what anti-semites would talk about jews, they have too much power, they have money. they're doing all these things exists in the kind of wider atmosphere there and it's something that the government has to deal with, even if the government wants to do more, it exists in an environment where that bigotry is deeply embedded in a broader society, a society they need to appeal to to a certain extent to survive.
nina: in the back. >> hudson institute, thanks very much for the discussion. the title of this event and certainly the discussion early on suggested that one big common ground between -- that will be discussed is common enplease. in particular, isis. -- common enemies, in particular, isis. two questions. one is the focus is on isis. of course, we have declared we have two major enemies. iran as well as isis. i was wondering what you thought, especially ambassador fernandez thought might be the character of the discussion about that between this administration and president sisi. but also what we might be asking egypt to do on the counterterrorism front and what they reasonably in your
judgment and experience could be doing that they're not doing already. ambassador fernandez: well, on iran part, this is a theme that the leadership, the sunni arab leadership in the region, not just in egypt, is looking for the administration to follow through and looking for it to differentiate itself from what t saw as the kind of weak or dishonest or intentionally betraying attitude of the previous administration. that's why, you know, one of the methodologies in washington is, oh, if it's trump the arabs are upset. that's not exactly true. they see him as an obama policy which favored the enemies of the sunni arab muslim government. egypt, saudi arabia, jordan, the gulf states, etc. so there is a kind of sense
that this administration should somehow have the sunni arab government's back when it comes to this issue. now, how that's going to actually turn out after the priority issue which is the defeat of the islamic state turns out, that's a big question. on the whole question of counterterrorism, i think my sense is, the administration is first going to look whole. egypt needs a better handle on the jihadist threats that it has at home. it's addressing them but what are creative ways that can be done better. whether in the sinai or the valley or the frontier. sam: one thing i would add, the demonstration is if it will approach egypt as the major sunni country is going to discover soon just as the saudis discovered that egypt
doesn't see itself as a sunni country in the first place. precisely because perhaps the hiite community is so minute in size, the sunni divide doesn't resonate in egypt in the same way as it does in the gulf or in the levant. as a result, egent has given verbal support to saudi arabia. president sisi saying it's a matter of just the time it would take for us to reach them. if anything happens we'll be there. when things happened in yemen egypt said, well, we have a long history in yemen. we're not really interested in getting involved there. egypt simply doesn't see iran as an enemy or as a threat the same way that the other arabs see it and that impacts the way it will approach the issue. ambassador fernandez: we wrote a report on that egypt produces
its fair share of anti-shiia propaganda. maybe to the gulf arab audience but a lot of it is in the gulf, a lot of it is in egypt and north africa. and these are population where is there is no shiia or very view. sam: and the gulf institutions. ambassador fernandez: exactly. nina: ok. over here in the middle. >> hi. rachel, reporter with "congressional quarterly." taking a broader look at this topic, i believe the misery index for egypt stems from 45%, as you know, half of egypt is under the age of 30. high levels of youth unemployment. and i wonder what all this means for president trump's move toward embracing sisi in the event there is further domestic instability in egypt
given all those population factors. what kind of position will the united states be in if the egyptian people rightly or wrongly perceive the united states as condoning human rights abuses? ambassador fernandez: guess what, the u.s. is committed no matter what it does. there's no way you can walk away from this. the finessing that occurs in washington about this maybe is noted by the egyptian elite. kind of obama versus -- but if you look at extremists and if you look at the man in the street it actually doesn't really matter that much. so this is basically a problem or an issue you have to deal with so you better engage, try to get the change that you can. economic issues -- if i could make a point on the misery index. there are two things. one, egypt is very slowly improving on the macro level when it comes to economic issues. still terrible, you know.
it's number 122 in world bank index of ease of doing business, which is really bad. if they could get at the level of morocco which is, say, 68, that would be an improvement. one of the challenges for the administration is not so much not to embrace them, as you said, one of the challenges is for the administration is to, i think, is to move to do these big macroeconomic issues. the stuff the world bank has you to do, stuff like that but to also find creative ways to help the underclass that makes sense. in other words, you're doing this mack -- macro things that they ask to you do. you need to talk about the human dimension. in things like the rice, the price of bread or the price of certain basic commodities and kind of making -- finding ways to kind of on the macro level
try to make life a little more better, a little more dignified and juster for your everyday citizens realizing this administration will not be in nation building. it's not going to be able to, you know, try to turn night into day. i think there are stuff -- there is stuff that could be done on the development side within the context of the administration radically remaking, for example, the work of u.s. development, getting away from some of the ridiculous things we spent money on in egypt. there are ways that you can kind of look at kind of ddressing the poor in a better sam: i think there was a poll back in 2014 or so where positive perception of the united states, the huge number of 1%. the obama administration has
managed to lose everyone in the country. the islamists believe it condoned or supported the coup. the regime supporters believe they supported the muslim brotherhood. the christians believe they created the islamic state. you got a question about that, ambassador. everyone in the country at this moment has a negative view of the united states. so i don't know how worse you can do no matter what policy you actually take. . the c.c. regime has very different understandings of human rights than the united states. if it had any in the first place. there are huge human rights abuses in the country, but it is also very popular regime. i have no doubt that even in a free and fair elections, c.c.
would win elections. he is -- presents a certain reality in the country, a muslim rejection of the brotherhood. a demand for return to normalcy, stability, egyptians revolution has led to a complete upheaval in the lives of egyptians. and many people in egypt will tell you, sure, things are not great, but better than being -- that's becoming the benchmark in the region. you have a human rights abuser, but look around you. i don't agree to that narrative, but it's a narrative that is very popular in the country, and continues to give president c.c. base of support as well as the reality that there are no alternatives. if you ask any egyptian he would be hard-pressed to name
you five individuals that could possibly be a serious candidate for president or for prime minister or for any position for that matter. as the regime is creating problems in the country, definitely, but i don't see any alternative on the horizon at the moment to that regime. nina: thank you very much. we're out of time already. so that closes our program. i want to thank you-all for coming and please join me in hanking our discussions. [captioning made possible by the national captioning institute, inc., in cooperation with the united states house of representatives. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]