Egypt’s strongman president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi will visit the White House for the first time since he led the military’s overthrow of his predecessor in 2013, marking a shift in U.S. policy under President Obama who never invited him to the White House.
President Trump “wants to use President Sisi’s visit to reboot the bilateral relationship and build on the strong connection the two Presidents established when they first met in New York last September,” the White House said. “Egypt is one of the traditional pillars of stability in the Middle East and has been a reliable U.S. partner for decades.”
President Sisi is seen by some as a strong counterweight to the rise of Islamic extremism across the Middle East. “Merely by inviting him to Washington, Trump is granting Sisi what top Egyptian officials in Cairo told us they wanted last year: a public U.S. endorsement of Sisi and his fight against terrorism,” Politico writes.
“If Egypt falls,” Sisi told the magazine in an interview last year, “the whole world will fall … and if one in every one thousand Egyptians is a takfiri”—an extremist who believes Islam permits the killing of unbelievers, include more moderate Muslims—“imagine 90,000 killing machines, each one ready to take out one person before they die.”
The meeting is important for Sisi at home given the country’s economic and internal security struggles. Egypt is the second largest beneficiary of US military aid after Israel and receives around $1.3 billion a year. The US also grants about $250 million a year to Egypt in economic aid, the Telegraph notes.
Sisi’s visit comes days after traveling to Jordan for the Arab Summit, where leaders in the region discussed key diplomatic and security issues. Sisi met directly with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on the sidelines of that meet, and was invited to visit Saudi Arabia later this year.
A sworn enemy of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sisi is likely to push President Trump to designate the group as a terrorist organization under U.S. law, according to Politico. “So far, the Trump administration has held off, and would be wise to continue to do so.”
President Sisi will also visit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is located across the street from the White House, to discuss investment opportunities in Egypt and meet with U.S. executives.