Defeat of Clinton and her human rights agenda brings relief to Arab leaders
CAIRO, EGYPT President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi congratulated United States president elect Donald Trump on his victory Wednesday – openly expressing heartfelt sentiments held by authoritarian leaders throughout the region.
“Egypt is looking forward to a new boost in bilateral relations under the new Trump administration,” said a statement from the presidential spokesman.
Sisi met with both candidates on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September and it was already clear then that the Egyptian leader was hoping for a Trump victory.
While Trump hailed Egypt’s close relationship with Israel and extensive counter terrorism measures, Clinton pressed Sisi to release a jailed Egyptian-American children’s rights advocate Aya Hijazi, and raised concerns about prosecution of Egyptian civil society organizations and activists.
In turn Al-Sisi downplayed the implications of Trump’s proposed ban on US immigration for Muslims from war-torn Middle Eastern countries saying that security measures for everyone who wishes to visit it had been in place for quite a few years.
“Clinton’s emphasis on human rights was not popular with many rulers in the region,” Mustafa Kamal Al Sayiid political science professor at Cairo’s American University told The Media Line.
The US election was cast in pro-government Egyptian media as a contest between a pragmatic Trump who saw Islamist terror as a top threat, and a devious Hilary Clinton portrayed as nursing a soft-spot for the Muslim Brotherhood.
That perception has been embraced by the segment of Egyptian society backing Al-Sisi.
“Hilary Clinton is known here,” barber shop owner Mahmoud Gindi told the Media Line. “She did try and interfere during the Revolution and it seems she, like Obama, sometimes had more patience for the Muslim Brotherhood than our army.”
In Damascus, the government is breathing a sigh of relief as Clinton, who had campaigned on a program of establishing American patrolled safe-zones for refugees in addition to tackling the Islamic State, was ousted by Trump who had expressed admiration for Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s “strong” leadership style.
“Assad hears Trump say the main enemy is Islamic State and his warm words for Russia’s president Putin, and he knows that the Trump White House will put even less pressure on him than there has been under Obama,” Ayman Abdul Nour, publisher of Kulna Sharakna, the largest independent opposition Syrian news portal told the Media Line.
“They even went to direct Syrian Americans to contribute to the Trump campaign and attend his rallies,” said Abdul Nour. “It’s well understood that when it comes to Syria there is more of a difference between Obama and Hilary Clinton than there is between Obama and Trump.”
In Libya, unfulfilled hopes that decisive American presence would provide a better future drove support for Trump.
“I can see, for the sake of Libya at least and the sake of defeating political Islam, Trump is much better than Clinton,” said Khaeri Giuma, a communications consultant from Tripoli now exiled in Tunis.
The former Secretary of State is seen by many as giving too much room for Islamists and not enough support for the country’s military establishment- which however tainted from association with the former leader Qadaffi, may have represented the only force capable of halting a descent into anarchy.
“Political Islam is what ruined Libya and Clinton played a big part in that,” Giuma said.
Back in Cairo, some young people fear Trump’s victory will shut down their ability to seek better fortunes elsewhere.
“Not all of us want to move to America, said Mahmud Hazem whose fluent English qualifies him for a well-paying job at the Vodafone call center. “But the Egyptians who did move there are not terrorists and they are not taking social benefits.”
“Saying none of us can come because of religion is a kind of racism, said Hazem, referring to Trump’s calls to restrict Muslim immigration to America.