Trump to al-Sisi: Syria’s al-Assad is a Brave, steadfast Man (Beirut Report)

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

al-Diyar (The Lands) [Beirut] reports on what Egyptian officials allegedly leaked about the telephone conversation between Donald J. Trump and Egyptian president `Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. There is no way to certify the truth of this report. For all I know it is Egyptian propaganda, or Syrian propaganda. The newspaper is linked to the semi-fascist Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party. So buyer beware.

The leakers are alleged to have said that when Trump and al-Sisi discussed Syria, Trump expressed admiration for Syrian strong man Bashar al-Assad, saying that he is “a brave man” who endured steadfastly in the face of terrorism, but adding, “Circumstances don’t allow me to contact him directly.”

Trump said, according to these sources which al-Diyar maintains are in the Egyptian president’s office, that he would be in contact with Russian president Vladimir Putin to coordinate military operations in Syria against terrorism and and against Daesh [ISIS, ISIL] so as to wipe it out.

Al-Sisi is alleged to have contacted al-Assad after the call and to have conveyed Trump’s compliment about him being brave and unswerving, since al-Sisi suspected that Trump was speaking to al-Assad through him.

Trump is said to have promised his support in fighting terrorism to Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former brigadier general who overthrew elected Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi in 2013. He said that the US will be fighting terrorism in the Middle East.

Trump is alleged to have said that Washington will also be carrying out military operations against terrorism in Iraq and Syria in coordination with Russia.

Likewise, this report says that Trump supports moves in the US Congress to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. (The Muslim Brotherhood actually gave up violence in the 1970s; but Sen. Ted Cruz wants to designate it as a terrorist group as a wedge toward trying to destroy Muslim-American community organizations that can somehow be tagged as Muslim Brotherhood).

Al-Sisi for his part has long since declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and has waged a concerted campaign to destroy the organization, which had won the 2011 parliamentary elections and the 2012 presidential elections in 2012 before being overthrown in 2013. The Muslim Brotherhood is the Sunni world’s religious Right, and typically agitates to move society away from secular principles and toward a more fundamentalist vision.

Trump is alleged to have said that the US will support the Iraqi army with air strikes and military aircraft to end terrorism in that country.

As I said, you’ll have to decide for yourself how plausible these details are. Given al-Diyar’s politics, it seems to me more likely that it has Syrian sources than Egyptian ones, so this may be al-Assad’s secret police passing on their impression of the Trump-Sisi exchange, perhaps based on what their Egyptian counterparts told them. But then it could also just be lies. But in that case it would tell us what sort of lies are circulating about Trump in the Middle East.

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Related video:

CGTN Africa: “U.S.-Egypt ties strained under Obama, leading to hopes for Trump”

8 Responses

  1. The source isn’t credible. As much as I despise Drumpf, as much as I have contempt for his ignorance of foreign affairs, this would be a bridge too far. It’s probably fake news – which, unfortunately, is quite prevalent in Arab media.

    • It is hard, however, to put one’s finger on a false note. Certainly Trump will send aircraft to support the fight against ISIL. He will support strong man dictators like al-Sisi and al-Assad. He will try to crush the Muslim Brotherhood. If the report is fake in the sense of not actually being based on real sources, it nevertheless reaches plausible conclusions and tells us what pro-Syrian groups in the ME are expecting from him.

  2. I doubt there is much use in speculating about whether this is a genuine leak because fundamentally, Trump’s team with Flynn as NSC advisor and Mattis Secretary of Defense and Tillerson as Secretary of State, will find supporting Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Israel simultaneously will create more terrorism than they can handle. Turkey’s secularism seems destined for the ashes of history. And despite Israel’s desire to prevent Iran from becoming a regional power, Iran now has an alliance with Russia and is likely to develop stronger ties with China.

    There is no simple way to prevent a deepening of contradictions in American foreign policy over inherently unstable coalitions with states whose rivalries interfere with achieving political stability; and therefore, cannot help overcome the vast social inequalities that create the incendiary incentives to initiate social movements to alter the status quo.

    One might not agree with the political program of the Muslim Brotherhood, but they were doing better than has Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in preventing the wholesale evisceration of the Christian Coptic community in Cairo and were far less aggressive in the persecution of journalists, academics, artists and film makers.

    Egypt seems likely to enter a period of prolonged political instability and further American military intervention in Iraq; as well as tacit support for Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan will intensify fighting among the disparate militias whose access to sophisticated weapons is not trivial.

    One topic that has received little coverage is the demographic shift in the Middle East and North Africa, especially in comparison with European and Nordic countries. Anywhere from 40%-60% of the populations of the Middle East North Africa is under the age of 30. This is the sophisticated generation who were raised on social media which helped enormously in the rise of the Arab Spring (as well as ISIS).
    link to jia.sipa.columbia.edu

    And what will Trump’s team do about the Kurds who are (relatively) thriving in Iraq, brutalized in Turkey and a target in Syria (because of Turkey)?

    If Trump supports Russia, then Putin has achieved a major victory with just two remaining challenges: 1) supporting a weakened EU which seems curiously aligned with the so-called populist right parties who recently convened in Germany under the leadership of Marie LePen; and 2) destabilizing the NATO alliance which might occur simply because there is conflict over the status of NATO within Trump’s inner circle.

  3. It doesn’t look like a leak, more like a fabrication from within the journal itself. It discloses nothing much Trump hasn’t said openly so the only ‘novel’ elements would be the Moslem Brotherhood business and that he said it all to al-Sisi which might, I suppose, be thought to add kudos to the Egyptian but the rest is mist. The little touch of Trump using al-Sisi as a conduit to Assad is preposterous and surely gives the game away

  4. Regardless of whether Trump made the statement or not, the description of Bashar as “steadfast” is true enough in itself.

    Bashar has proven to be an effective leader under very adverse circumstances. The government side in the civil war could never have stood without him. At any number of times it would have been easy for him to go into exile, or to be overthrown by his own generals. Neither of those things happened. The Syrian government side went through some crises at several points during the war. I’ve always been surprised by how few defections took place after the initial batch in 2011-12, even when it looked like the government side was losing.

    His critics and opponents have too often underestimated him, all the way to the time of his first ascent to power.

    I remember when Bashar took over, people were saying that he couldn’t control the old hands. A few years later, they were saying that Bashar’s gov’t was going to fall because of the withdrawal from Lebanon.

    When the uprisings began, doesn’t everybody recall that there were daily predictions of Bashar’s ouster in the Western media?

    While Russian help was critical to government side gaining the upper hand in the civil war, nevertheless Bashar held on for three years before Russia intervened. It seems to me that Bashar put as much backbone into Putin, as the other way around.

    Short form: give the s.o.b. his due.

  5. Juan Cole, for shame. This headline and story is as bad as the sort of things the NY Times did to Hillary over emails. The headline shouts the shocking news that Trump has praised al-Assad, and one only gets the qualifiers as to the unverifiability and strange sources by reading into the story. Many will only get the message of the headline.

    As a headline, how about, “Dubious and Unverifiable Sources Claim Trump Praises Al-Assad?” Or how about just not running it?

  6. Putin loves him so there is no reason Trump turnip won’t either. He’s Trump’s kind of guy. its sad when you think people will believe /Trump did say this because hey, we’ve seen what else Turnip has said.

    If Americans start to reject Trump and he takes “action” against them, expect it to be along the lines of Assad’s actions against the citizens of Syria. the war in Syria didn’t start out like it is now. it was about people feed up with their President.

    In my opinion Trump looks at the people in Iraq as loosers and at Assad as a “strong” leader. there goes the neighbourhood.

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