from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Kerry’s Fantasy Egypt

February 9, 2016

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The Under Secretary of State for "Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights,"  Sarah Sewall, is today in Egypt. She might as well have stayed home.

Because today, Secretary of State Kerry did a joint press appearance with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and showed that he has zero interest in "Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights" in Egypt.

His remarks did not mention the words "human rights" or "democracy." Instead he spoke about an Egypt that exists only in fantasy.

Kerry said Egypt is "going through a political transition." That’s simply not so: it was a military dictatorship under Mubarak and is now under Sisi, only the human rights situation is considerably worse today.

Kerry said "We very much respect the important role that Egypt plays traditionally within the region – a leader of the Arab world in no uncertain terms." That’s also a fantasy. Egypt has never had less clout in the region than it does today. It is not at all a leader of the Arab world, and no Arab head of state consults Sisi for advice.

Kerry said "the success of the transformation that is currently being worked on is critical for the United States and obviously for the region and for Egypt." What transformation is "being worked on" in Egypt? The move from a general named Mubarak to a general named Sisi is no transformation. There is no transformative economic reform whatsoever, and in fact the Army’s control of the economy has grown considerably under Sisi.

Today’s Egypt is broke, and will over time receive less and less from its Gulf donors. The security situation in both the Sinai and the Western Desert is deteriorating, but Kerry did not mention that. The human rights situation is appalling, as Sisi crushes not only the Muslim Brotherhood but all political life. So much for "Civilian Security."

The message Kerry transmitted in these remarks today is that he knows little about the real Egypt, or does not much care-- or is afraid to say anything approaching the truth. The Egyptian government must itself wonder which of the three possibilities is the truth. Meanwhile, Ms. Sewall ought to come home. These remarks have left her swinging in the wind.

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