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tv   Hudson Institute Hosts Forum on U.S.- Egypt Relations  CSPAN  April 8, 2017 5:21pm-6:23pm EDT

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announce executive orders and memorandum when they are issued, not in response to rumors. >> {indiscernible] a topic init was not today's session, but we have been looking very carefully at that and the alternatives, both through economic, energy generation, and from a nationals could point of view. sec. mnuchin: i would just comment that obviously any such foreign investment would go through the normal process. thank you. ♪ c-span, where history unfolds daily. a 1979, c-span was created as public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to today by your cable or satellite provider.
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at theer: next, a look state of u.s.-egypt relations. the discussion took place the same day that egypt's president met with president trump at the white house. from the hudson institute, it is an hour. >> good afternoon. i direct the center for religious freedom here and i am a senior fellow at the hudson institute. we have a very exciting and timely program. at this very moment, president trump is sitting down at the white house with the egyptian president. our topic today is going to ask you all to turn off your cell phones -- i forgot to say that.
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we are going to be talking about u.s.egyptian relations in the age of isis. egypt of course is egypt of course is a close ally in the arab world of the united states. it is the most populous arab country and i've been told a quarter of the world's arab speakers are in egypt or from egypt. it also has the largest non-muslim population in the arab world and the largest christian population, the copts. there are more in egypt then in israel. it is one of the united states recipients, and has been for many years. it receives annually about $1.3 billion in assistance. there is also the suez canal and the camp david accords that have been traditionally at the heart of american interests in egypt.
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so, president trump has announced his visit as occasion to reboot our relationship. we we are going to be discussing int that will look like 2009. you will recall president obama went to egypt and delivered a new initiative speech, which was significant turning point, or was intended to be a turning point, where he said he hoped to have a new beginning for the u.s. relationship with the muslim world, and addressed his remarks over the heads of the government of president mubarak at the time directly to the muslim people, so this is a very new reboot, and so we will begin by talking about what is going
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on right now in the oval office or in the white house, what is the conversation, so i would like to start with sam. he is a hudson center senior fellow. he is the author of the book, motherland lost. islamism in egypt and has written widely for the media, including the wall street journal and current trends in ideology, atlanta, and other publications, and he is egyptian. ambassador fernandez is sitting to my left. he is vice president of the middle east research institute. he was also the coordinator at for strategic counterterrorism communications at the state department for three years in
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the obama administration. he has been a career for an 30 years,ficial for serving in the middle east, but also in latin america and other countries. we will begin by -- sam i would like for you to tell us what you think. we don't know what exactly will be discussed at the meeting today, but what do you think is in the egyptian portfolio? what are your interests? sam: thank you. i think the goal has already been achieved. the most important thing was receiving this invitation to the washington and being welcomed to the white house. since the military coup and since he came to power, the world has not seen him as legitimate. the comments about the military popularsus the
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uprising, and the obama's administration lack of interest welcoming him in being seen, and being a partner of the united states. that, in and of itself has been the first goal. the egyptian president also 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 had for many years, on the second to israel, and being able to buy weapons in advance and paying for them later. certain limits on the kind of weapons that egypt would be able to buy. the obama administration had put
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certain restrictions on military equipment that would be allowed for the egyptians or encouraged for the education's to acquire, so the first priority for him is to remove those restrictions. the egyptians would want more weapons that the administration has identified. portfolio, second issue for him is economic aid. egypt is confronting an economic problem, to say the least. to accessbeen able funding, but they would like more u.s. equipment and assistance to the economic problems in the country. in general, the egyptian military historically and the presidency has viewed the u.s. aid as theirs by right. they have signed a peace treaty
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with israel and that's the price that the united states has committed to. b, that it has diminished in value over the years. what $1.3 billion could buy you in 1979 is not what it buy you today. so 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 leader of the middle east, the arab world, 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 one of the most important allies for the united states in the middle east. nina: well, this visit comes at an inflection point where isis
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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. ambassador fernandez: well, i think samuel described it very well. just as the sisi government came in, 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
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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, we 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
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faces when it comes to islamist terrorism. the challenge of the islamic state itself in egypt. the danger, which is growing, of the activism and the poisonous narrative of the -- of it morphing into direct action, terrorist groups like hasam, others and then the danger of -- kind 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
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a priority for the administration but have yet to flesh it out and that's the ideological challenge of jihadism in the region. president el-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 the egyptians to move towards
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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 ideology in the middle east today. the default ideology 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.
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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 fissures, 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
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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 sinai right now? copts 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.
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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 quiet in the sinai as the group was targeted about the egyptian state, forced into going through the tunnels to 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 termed 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
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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 cathedral compound 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.
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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 quarter 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 copts, 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 copts in egypt in a sense have been a favorite of islamist groups. perhaps this is a reflection of
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the extraordinary number of egyptians that have played an instrumental role in the formation of islamist ideological, jihadi ideology. well, my homeland has been important in that regard. so naturally these islamists, the hatred towards the copts, the intolerance they have against them has been translated into a significant presence of the copts 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 copts in egypt receiving fatwas from various islamist groups in the 1980's
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and 1990's saying the rules don't apply to them any longer. so they are protected people under the rule of islam, copts would not receive any form of protection and that their targeting them is permissible. these fatwas have been repeated by the islamic state saying basically all those rules of how these nonmuslims should be treated under the rule of the islamic state should not be applied because the copts 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 copts killed, forcing the whole coptic community of northern sinai to leave the territory. but we've also seen a number of very alarming incidents of copts being massacred, sometimes in their beds, sometimes simply in
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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 released last week about the sorcerers, and the killing, the beheading of sever sorcerers 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
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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 powerful, 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.
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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 morsi was better or whatever and the isis video, this isis video and others 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, servants of polytheism, and they have to be eliminated.
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this video, which ends as they usually do with the money shot of two poor old men being beheaded as sorcerers, 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. sufis being kidnapped, forcibly brainwashed or forced to repent and having to sign a repentance document. >> sunni muslims. >> exactly, so it's basically about presenting a kind of idealized, stylized 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
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mapped the islamist groups in egypt and i want to hear about what your view is, whether that kind of messaging is going to be as popular as it was in iraq and syria where isis also presented itself as a purifier, driving out, killing and slaving, using these shocking brutally messages -- brutal methods that grab the world attention and filming it and also resurrecting these long dead rejected practices of slavery, chattel slavery, sexual slavery of women from the yazidi and other groups and being declared a genocide by our government. it's also a type of ethnic cleansing, a religious cleansing, a purification.
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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? sam: islamism is in a state of perpetual flux. by its very nature, islamism 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 at a certain point in time,
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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. then will 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 shahria, 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
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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 islamist 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. it'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 list during its year in power. you look at the scene, you look at zawahiri, where is this guy
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today? hiding in a cave in afghanistan or a cave? he's nowhere close to 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 has not been discredited as a 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
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egyptian. doesn't make him a radical or an extremist or an islamist per se. nina: president el-sisi and others have been talking about president sisi talked about a revolution in ideology, really, not the religion itself. so is that being received well? is that government going forward with it? they reformed some textbooks that -- and he made this appeal at alazar -- the 10 century center of sunni learning. and he challenged the clerics and religious scholars in his speech, al-azhar has recently started talking about reform. what can you tell us about that? ambassador, jump in, too.
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amb. fernandez: the speech that sisi gave was very well received. the arab proverb said, she was pregnant with a mountain and gave birth to a mouse, it sounds better in arabic. you know, this very sweeping powerful speech, there has been some movement from al-azhar. 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 secularists and liberals persecuted, not leaving the government aside. you have people like islam muhati and people like that.
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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 concepts that are used 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
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sisi kind of put out a very >> that there is a lot of work in -- a lot of work that have to happen that hasn't been done yet. >> the roman catholic pope is going to visit al anwar, a ruptured relationship by pope benedict the 16th announced to the bombing of a church at christmas time -- a coptic church and then asked for protections for the christians and ala anwar said that is unacceptable and a decimation of -- defamation of islam. and after pope francis's outreach and said we want to repair this in the fall, there were reports of a visit by the
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sheik, the papal nuncio saying we can do the visit to but no criticism of islam. it is going to be kind of a tricky conversation with the pope goes. >> one thing about egypt that always struck me the first time we lived there in 1984 as a young diplomat, every church in egypt had a policeman guarding it and why was it that? also christian cemeteries had a policeman guarding it because already -- this is a 1984 -- everything that you see today that was much of everything that has been put into place against religious minorities in iraq and syria had its beginning in the 1970's by the salinity jihadist group -- salifi jihadist group, the attacking of christians and
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robbing them. egypt was the proving ground for all of this stuff we saw later on with al qaeda and the islamic state. >> what are some of the other benchmarks -- you have written about anti-semitism and that would be another benchmark, i suppose. >> on the incident of the president's call for a religious revolution, i think it was general, it was unprepared. he had left his remarks in the classical arabic and started speaking in colloquial egyptian dialect. there never was a plan. he has no idea how this reform
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is going to happen. and once he began to see these forces outside of the official religious establishment -- people that the ambassador mentioned who began attacking the text on which all the salafi jihadist interpretations were based. after you had that the religious establishment called for the program to be canceled and he was thrown in jail for a year. >> for blasphemy? >> yes. this the use of force of blasphemy laws to stop any
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serious discussion both as a method to target the religious minorities -- christians, shiites, but also muslims. to stop any serious conversation, examination or different interpretations. we've seen that in the past. mohammed al busasd, there are limits. we would like to see a reform but he has no plan. plus he has to deal with the reality of of bar. he commented on the high number of divorces, asking if there can be a limit on the rights of divorce and it was a very clear, public humiliation of the president.
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of no and this is not debatable. basically don't talk about these issues or you will be humiliated in public. while washington has welcomed this talk, there are limits to what they can offer in this regard. it teaches nothing about the outside world. in that vacuum -- my favorite story is about an egyptian journalist who was getting engaged and being asked by a colleague of hers where her husband would spend the first night. she did not get the question. no, i mean, where will you be with the priest is with the that with you --with you? many colleagues believe that christian girls, the first night, they go to the priest.
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where did they get that idea? the movie braveheart. in the absence of any information on people they have shared 14 centuries of living together. every egyptian muslim, his great-grandparents were originally coptic from egypt. that lack of knowledge about people that you live in the same country with, allowing all the superstitions, propaganda by islamists to build that fact, this lack of knowledge about world religions. you have done work on the saudi textbooks and the type of intolerance they teach. one of the great ironies is you have the egyptian government -- >> one of the great ironies is you have the egyptian government and its supporters and the
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islamist opposition and its supporters. they disagree on many things, but you can find anti-semitism andhe pro-government camp anti-semitism in the antigovernment camp and each other blaming the other of being in the pocket of the jews. that is one area where they agree. they are drawing from a heritage of anti-semitism just like there is a deeply ingrained anti-christian sentiment that has always been there for many years. it does not mean that all muslims and egypt are verily -- very allegedly anti-christian but that element has always existed to a certain extent. >> if you read the sources, he
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is jewish, his mother is a jew and if you read government sources his brother is a jew. they can both agree on that. >> then the protocols of the elders of zion, that fabricated anti-semetic track from bolshevik russia was put on tv during ramadan. the track itself can be found in arabic easily. >> it is one of the most popular books if you're walking in the streets. last time i was there for the u.s. government, i turned into a hotel and there was an old bookstore there and there was an
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entire shelf of anti-medic -- anti-soma -- anti-semetic material. all this kinds of material in a five-star hotel frequented by foreigners. this was in arabic. while this is true, i don't want to always focus on this but sam wrote a tremendous piece on the jewish experience in egypt which if you have not read it, it's really captures the norms of this phenomenon and there is a lot of negativity, a lot of awful things but there are is a lot of complexity as well. i highly recommend his piece on this issue. it is a tremendous piece of that he wrote. >> we can now turn to public questions and we have quite a
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few. let's start in the back and move forward and please identify yourself and your organization . >> hello, i'm christine, i'm a fellow cuban. i am one of nine commissioners of a commission on religious freedom and thank you sam. once -- just before we went to egypt earlier this year, we heard a lot of what he said but we also met with a lot of ngos and the pope and we met with grand sheika malasar and we got stories about how we should be supporting al si si's government because of the religious tolerance he is promoting. they have anticipated in a number of interfaith dialogue
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could the pope said that al sisi had attended three -- two christmas celebrations which was unprecedented and that signaled that the coptic would be protected. after that there was a bombing. there was a lot of evangelical ministers we met with the said things were vastly better under al sisi and his policies had to do with dealing with huge issues. if you had to rank them in terms of advances or not advances of religious read him what would you say? >> i have no doubt that president sisi is not a fanatic. i don't think there is any doubt that any suggestions that he hates christians or any of that
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regard -- i think he also appreciates the fact that the christians did not complain after the massive burning and attacks on coptic churches in 2013 which was the largest attack on the coptic churches since the 14th century. he appreciates that they have proved that they are loyal egyptian citizens. he has been a point working relationship with the pope but this is not translated into anything meaningful for the people on the ground. building a church in egypt remains a significant problem. egypt passed a new law on the building of churches. it makes matters, i don't want to say worse but it does not change any of the facts on the ground for the possibilities of
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you to build a church in egypt. the egyptian police and do not protect coptics from any of the attacks they suffer from. we've had about 100 such attacks under the sisi government. the regime resorts into reconciliation sessions. the two parties are brought together to kiss each other, reconciliation sessions. usually giving into the mall the demands. -- usually giving into the mob demands. if the mob is against the building a church in a particular village, then they will not build the church and then no one is punished. that brings a culture of not only impunity but encouragement. we are going to get what we want because of the government is going to force them to accept that in the reconciliation section and no one will go to jail for doing that. that is a serious problem.
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coptic's in egypt are asking for protection of the law to keep their homes from being burned in these regular pograms taking place. usually without anybody being killed. these have become a regular occurrence in the country. the religious leaders in the middle east are in a position that i do not envy them. they are cornered from all sides. they do what they can to protect their communities so the position that they take, the defense of the government that they offered is understandable given the circumstances that they are confronting. i am happy i am not forced to deal with these horrible
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circumstances between the conditions of that you are living in and things going much worse if the sisi regime would fall tomorrow. >> you mentioned there has been a lot of positive symbolism as they focus a lot on that. with pope francis you're going to see a whole bunch of positive symbolism. the problem is the symbolism and the reality -- the everyday reality on the ground for people. especially, village people, poor people, people who can be easily attacked and humiliated. on the other side, we do have to say that even with a this embolism, as weak as it is for us, the president's attacked. he is called you slave of the cross.
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that's as an egyptian isis fighter tears up his picture. all the mythology that he referred to about christians and anti-semites would talk about jews, a have too much power and too much money and are doing all these things exists in the wider atmosphere and is something the government has to deal with. even if the government wants to do more, they exist in an environment where that bigotry is a deeply embedded in society. >> you in the back. >> of the hudson institute. thank you for the discussion.
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the title of this event and the discussion early on suggested that one big common ground that will be discussed is common enemies, in particular isis. two questions, one, the focus is on isis but we have declared that we have two major enemies in the region, iran as well as isis. what will be the discussion between this administration and president el-sisi. what we might be asking egypt to do on the counterterrorism front and what in your judgment could be giving that they are not doing? >> on the iran part, this is a theme that -- the sunni-arab
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muslim leadership in the area is looking to differentiate itself is what it saw as the kind of weak or dishonest or intentionally betraying attitude of the previous administration. one of the mythologies in washington is of president trump -- the arabs are all upset about him. that is not exactly true because they see him -- unlike people in washington -- see him within the context of what they saw was an obama policy that favored the enemies of the sunni-arab muslim government. egypt, saudi arabia, jordan, the gulf states, whatever. there is a sense of that this administration should have the sunni-arab governments back when it comes to this issue. how that is actually going to turn out after the priority
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issue which is the defeat of the islamic state turns out is a big question. on the whole question of counterterrorism, my sense is that the best you just have to have a better handle on its own jihadists than it does it home. it can be done better whether it is in sinai or the nile valley. >> i will add that the administration -- is it will approach egypt as the major sunni country -- it is going to discover -- just as the saudi's have discovered that egypt does not see itself as a sunni country in the first place. precisely because perhaps the shiite community is so menu --
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minute in size that the whole sunni-shiite divide does not resonate in egypt the same way it does in the gulf or the levant. president el-sisi saying it is a matter of the time it would take to reach them. if anything happens we will be there. what things happened -- when things happened in the yemen, egypt said we have a long history in human and we are not interested -- a long history in yemen and we don't want to get involved. egypt does not see iran as as much of an enemy as the other countries. that impacts the way it will approach. report that egypt produces its fair share of anti-shiite propaganda perhaps to appeal to a gulf-arab audience. a lot of it is egypt and north
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africa, and these are populations where there are no shia or very few. >> over here in the middle. >> rachel, a reporter with congressional quarterly. taking a broader look at this topic, i believe the misery index for egypt is around 45%, half of egypt is under the age of 30. high levels of the youth unemployment and i'm wondering what all this means for president trump's moves towards embracing sisi in the event there is further domestic instability in egypt. given all those population factors. what position will he be in by seeing the u.s. as condoning human rights abuses?
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>> the u.s. is committed no matter what it does. there is no way you can walk away from this. the thing that occurs in washington about this is noted by the egyptian elites but when you look at extremist and the man in the street, this doesn't matter that much. this is a problem or initiative that you have to deal with so you better engage and get the changes that you can. on economic issues, let me point out the index. egypt is improving on the macro level when it comes to economic levels. it is still terrible. it is the number 122 and the world bank index of ease of doing business which is really bad. if it can get to the level of morocco which is 68, that would
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be an improvement. one of the challenges for the administration is not to much to embrace them, what are the challenges is to move through these big macroeconomic issues like with the world bank asks you to do but also find creative ways to help the underclass that makes sense. doing these macro stuff that the economists ask you -- which often makes life more miserable. you have to factor in the human dimension. that occurs in egypt and other places, the rise of the price of bread or the rise of the price of certain basic commodities. finding ways to on the micro level make life a little better and a little more dignified and a little more just for your everyday citizen. realizing that this administration is not going to be a nationbuilding -- it is not
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going to be able to turn night into day. there is stuff that can be done on the development side within the context of the administration radically remaking the work of u.s. development. getting away some of the ridiculous things we have spent money on in egypt. there are ways where you can kind of look at addressing the core and a better way. -- poor in a better way. >> there was a poll back in 2014 or so where the perception of the united states stood at the huge number of 1%. the obama administration has managed to lose everyone in the country. the islamists believe they supported the coup in some fashion, the regime supporters
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believe it supported the muslim brotherhood, the christians believe that it has created the islamic state. you asked a question about that. everyone in the country at this moment has a negative view of the united states. i don't know how worse you can do no matter what policy you actually take. the sisi regime has very different understandings of human rights than the united states. if it has any in the first place. there are huge human rights abuses in the country but this is also a very popular regime. i have no doubt -- even in a free and fair election, president el-sisi would win the election. he represents a certain reality of the country, a certain rejection of the muslim brotherhood. demand for a return to normal
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fleet -- to normalcy, to stability. the revolution has led to a complete of people in the lives -- complete upheaval in the lives of egyptians and to many people in egypt will tell you things are not great but better than being iraq or syria. you have a human rights abuser but look around you. i do not agree with that narrative that is a narrative that is very popular in the country and continues to give the president a base of support as well as the reality there are no alternatives. if you asked any egyptian he would be hard-pressed to name you five individuals who could be a serious candidate for president or prime minister or any position. so, the el-sisi regime is creating problems in the country
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but i do not see any alternative on the horizon at the moment to that regime. >> we are out of time already. that closes our program. i want to thank you all for coming and please thank them in joining our discussion. [applause] [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] [indiscernible] c-span's washington journal, live every day. news and policy issues that impact you. coming up sunday, the president of the plowshares fund, tensions withng
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north korea and the recent chemical attack in syria. then ronald reagan biographer discusses his latest book which examines president reagan's political ascendancy after losing the republican nomination for president in 1976. randy of the migration policy institute on the drop in arrests at the u.s.-mexico border. be sure to watch washington journal live at 7:00 a.m. sunday morning. join the discussion. in his weekly address, the president talks about border security and his recent meetings with foreign leaders. response,ocratic garnishment hakeem jeffries urges president trump to release his tax returns. americansp: my fellow , we are only 11 weeks in, but already my administration has achieved historic progress for the american people. 93% of our domestic

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