In the lead-up to the U.S. presidential election, it appears that the Egyptian regime under President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi prefers Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton as the next president of the U.S. After Al-Sisi met with both presidential candidates in September 2016, his spokesman, 'Alaa Youssef, said that Egypt regarded both of them equally and that "the [last] word in the U.S. presidential election will be said by the American voters, and we have nothing to do with it." However, despite this statement, there are clear indications that the Egyptian administration favors Trump over Clinton, especially in light of what is perceived in Egypt as the latter's support for the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and her disapproval of Al-Sisi's ouster of the Muhammad Mursi regime on June 30, 2013. This preference of the Egyptian regime is reflected in statements by Al-Sisi and his associates, as well as in reports and op-eds published in the Egyptian government press.
During his visit to the U.S. to attend the September 20, 2016 UN General Assembly, Al-Sisi met with both Hillary and Trump. However, the mood in his meeting with Clinton seemed formal and restrained; moreover, the Egyptians limited the media's access to it (reporters were allowed to attend for only a few minutes and were forbidden to take pictures). Conversely, the mood of Al-Sisi's meeting with Trump seemed open and friendly.
Reports on the meetings in the Egyptian and the global media stressed Trump's positive stance towards the Egyptian regime versus Clinton's more critical stance. For example, they emphasized that, during the brief part of the meeting attended by the media, Clinton had praised Egypt, but also implicitly criticized the state of human rights there, and said that she looked forward to talking about "the path we are taking in order to build up a new civil society, a new modern country that upholds the rule of law, that respects human rights and liberties." Trump, on the other hand, did not bring up these issues in his meeting with the Egyptian president, but lavished praise on Egypt for its tough stance against terror and promised that, under a Trump administration, the U.S. would be "a loyal friend to Egypt," not simply an ally. Trump's foreign policy advisor Walid Phares described the meeting between Al-Sisi and Trump as "historic" and noted that Trump was committed to "restoring the warmth to U.S.-Egypt relations, which are presently in a very difficult phase."  Phares also claimed that in the meeting Trump had promised Al-Sisi to promote legislation in the U.S. to designate the MB a terrorist organization.
Indications of Al-Sisi's preference for Trump can be seen in his September 22, 2016 interview with CNN. In the interview, he said that Trump would no doubt make a strong leader, but when asked whether Clinton would make a good president, he replied evasively that "political parties in the United States would not allow candidates to reach that level unless they are qualified to lead a country the size of the United States of America."
As stated, the Egyptian regimes' support for Trump and reservations about Clinton were also reflected in many op-eds published in the Egyptian press. The majority of articles in the government press expressed distaste for Clinton and warned that, in the case of a Clinton victory, Egypt and the entire region would face years of chaos and mounting terror. Some even predicted that a Clinton win would herald further deterioration in Egypt-U.S. relations, due to her insistence on interfering in Egypt's affairs, such as human rights issues. These articles cited her support for the ouster of Hosni Mubarak and what they described as her positive stance towards the MB. It should be mentioned that, as early as 18 months ago, reports and op-eds in the government daily Al-Ahram have been claiming that Clinton's personal aide, Huma Abedin, is a member of the MB and serves as Clinton's liaison with the organization. Conversely, only a minority of articles in the Egyptian press spoke negatively of Trump and/or expressed support for Clinton. Most of the ones that did were penned by senior MB official Gamal Heshmat and by journalists in the independent daily Al-Shurouq, which occasionally criticizes the regime.
This report will review the media discourse in Egypt for and against Trump and Clinton as president.
Pro-Regime Journalists: Clinton Is Bad For Egypt, Trump Is Better
In the days following Al-Sisi's meetings with the two presidential candidates, the Egyptian government press published many articles and views by opinion-leaders and politicians expressing distaste for Clinton and hope for a Trump victory. For example, MP 'Imad Gad, deputy-director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said that Clinton had performed poorly as secretary of state and had caused problems for Egypt, and even called her a liar. Conversely, about Trump he said that "if elected president, he will uproot the MB spirit from the White House and purge the [U.S.] state department of it... Trump will never support the MB. A Trump victory will be best for the interest of the Middle East and of Egypt as a civil state." Pro-regime journalist Wael Al-Abrashi said on his show on Dream TV that Egyptians tend to support Trump as the next U.S. president despite his racism, because they hate his rival Clinton, who, he said, is known for her support for the MB. On his show on Sada Al-Balad TV, Journalist Ahmed Moussa, likewise a regime supporter, complained that the U.S. media supports Clinton and ignores "that poor guy" Trump, and accused Clinton and U.S. President Obama of "rigging the election."
After Al-Sisi returned from his U.S. visit, the editor of the government daily Al-Ahram, Muhammad 'Abd Al-Hadi 'Allam, published a detailed article about the president's meetings with world leaders and the messages he had delivered at the UN General Assembly. Addressing Al-Sisi's meetings with Trump, whom he described as "a strong candidate who has proved his eligibility to [be president] throughout the campaign," he stressed the importance of the meeting and devoted two paragraphs to enumerating the terrorism-related issues on which the two men had agreed. He also claimed that Trump had told Al-Sisi that "the June 30 revolution [i.e., Al-Sisi's ouster of Mursi] had saved not only Egypt but the entire world." As for Al-Sisi's meeting with Clinton, 'Allam mentioned it but did not describe its content or say anything positive about the Democratic candidate.
Editor for Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' Daily: A Clinton Victory Will Be A Catastrophe For The Region And The World
Op-eds in the Egyptian media leveled harsh criticism at Hillary Clinton. Karim 'Abd Al-Salam, the acting editor of the daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi', wrote in a September 21, 2016 article that if Clinton won she would continue the policy of the Obama administration, whose relations with Egypt have been marked by tension and disagreements, whereas Al-Sisi's meeting with Trump indicated that the latter would focus on cooperation with Egypt in combating terror and extremism. He wrote: "President Al-Sisi met with the two U.S. presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. At first glance, and judging from news agency and press reports, the meeting with Hillary was restrained... Hillary Clinton made no clear statement regarding what her policy [towards Egypt] would be were she to be elected U.S. president. During the meeting, she settled for underlining the importance of strengthening bilateral relations... and other such diplomatic statements made for the record, which conceal more than they reveal.
"The president's meeting with Republican candidate Trump was totally different. During the meeting, Trump largely agreed with the president's plan for combating terrorism and for economic growth, and at its conclusion he issued statements of explicit future support for Egypt and its president. The Republican candidate stated that he would be a powerful friend and ally of Egypt in all areas, while reiterating his full support for Egypt's efforts to combat terrorism and for economic and military cooperation...
"Trump focused on the one topic that unites Cairo and Washington: the struggle against the shared enemy of extremism and terrorism. [Trump] explicitly committed to work together with the Egyptian leadership in order to overcome this danger, while Clinton did not address [this issue at all], even though terrorist attacks have reached New York.
"What does this mean? It means that Clinton's election as president would entail a continuation of the confusion, disagreement, and chaos of the Obama years. Her administration will also focus on the issue of creative chaos, and on the forging of new societies in the Middle East, and will work pressure Egypt by raising the issues of human, minority, and gay rights. [A Clinton administration will also strive] to prevent Cairo from protecting its regional surroundings and security depth in Libya, Sudan, and Syria - not to mention the support that her administration will provide to violent and extremist organizations, chiefly the Muslim Brotherhood and Jabhat Al-Nusra [sic, now Jabhat Fath Al-Sham].
"Therefore, we must be well prepared for the possibility that Hillary Clinton will take the reins of power, despite my personal assessment that Trump will win the presidency, because a Clinton victory would bring four more catastrophic years for the Arab region, Europe, and the U.S. as well!"
Al-Sisi's meeting with Trump in New York (image: Al-Ahram, Egypt, September 21, 2016)
Al-Ahram Editor: Clinton's Interference In Egypt's Affairs Is A Red Line
In a September 25, 2016 article in Al-Ahram, Muhammad Sabreen, a columnist for the daily and a member of its editorial board, reviewed the two candidates' positions on Egypt, claiming that Trump focuses on the common ground with Egypt - namely the war on terror - whereas Clinton interferes in Egypt's internal affairs, which Egyptians regard as a "red line". He wrote: "I believe that Hillary Clinton and her Democratic camp are trying to bring back warmer [relations with Egypt] than existed under Obama, while attempting to blackmail [the Egyptian regime] into bringing the political Islam organizations into Egypt's political arena. On the other hand, Trump and his campaign are making grand promises about the importance and necessity of [U.S.] cooperation with Egypt. In an important and meticulously planned message, he says that under his presidency, the U.S. would be a friend on which Egypt could rely...
"Trump [seeks] to develop relations to the point of partnership, and later alliance, with Egypt, and the question is why. The answer was provided by Dr. Walid Phares, Trump's foreign policy advisor, who explained that 'the challenge of terrorism and ideological extremism is common to both countries'... Phares goes even further and says that Trump would work to place the Muslim Brotherhood on the list of designated terrorist organizations, and furthermore that Trump and his people see 'Egypt as the first line of defense against terrorism.' Conversely, Clinton has reverted to talking about her aspiration 'to build up a new civil society, a new modern country that upholds the rule of law, that respects human rights and liberties.'
"I believe that most Egyptians agree in principle with [the values of] 'a modern and democratic civil state,' but strongly oppose Washington's interference in Egypt's internal affairs, or [Washington's] linking [U.S. military] aid or partnership [between the two countries] to any 'engineering' of Egypt's domestic political arena [by the U.S.]. This is and has always been a red line for the Egyptians..."
Al-Ahram Columnist: A Clinton Victory Will Strengthen MB, ISIS
Rania Hefny devoted her October 7 column in Al-Ahram to a diatribe against Clinton, whom she believes is likely to win the election, saying that her victory would strengthen the MB and ISIS. She wrote under the title "The Implications of a Clinton Presidential Victory": "The foreign policy of the candidate with the highest chance of winning the presidential election, Hillary Clinton, will be far more inflexible than Obama's. She believes that the world's problems will be solved more quickly if the U.S. is involved in the solution. [If she is elected,] Libya and Iraq are expected to return to square one. Clinton's leadership of the American political arena will arouse the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist organization and the statelet Qatar, as well as ISIS - in whose creation she participated - and the focus will be on exporting the conflict to many kingdoms such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Morocco. Beware, beware, beware...
"You would do well to remember that Hillary Clinton supported the escalation of the war in Afghanistan and pushed for the ongoing U.S. military presence in Iraq. She helped plan the attack on Libya, and encouraged Obama to bomb Syria without obtaining the support of the [UN] Security Council... It is known that every American president sees to Israel's interest, and she has already stated that Israel's security is non-negotiable. Do not be overly optimistic. Beware."
Al-Watan Columnist: Clinton Is Concerned About Human Rights Situation In Egypt While Ignoring Assad's Crimes
In a September 28 column, Al-Watan columnist 'Imad Al-Din Adib accused Clinton of employing a double standard because she demanded the ouster of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak but took a feeble stance vis-à-vis Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, whose actions against his people are far worse than Mubarak's were. He wrote: "The position of Ms. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate for U.S. president, on Egypt's domestic affairs is suspect and odd. Without getting into the dissemination of the well-known conspiracy theory regarding the 'perpetual American wish to topple any national regime' in Egypt, let us discuss our actual experience between January 25 and February 11, 2011.
"During the January 2011 revolution [against the Mubarak regime], Ms. Clinton was U.S. secretary of state, and it was she who advised the White House to pressure president Hosni Mubarak to immediately relinquish power, [saying] that it was unavoidable... Thus pressure was applied to president Mubarak... This sent a reassuring message to the rebels, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the military that Washington is withdrawing support for its old friend Hosni Mubarak and his regime... The astonishing thing is that the Americans did all this with Mubarak, yet since March 2011, that is, since the start of the popular rebellion in Syrian Deraa, they have not stated unequivocally that 'Assad must leave now, and now means today!!!'
"They have not demanded [this] of Assad, who has murdered nearly 400,000 of his own people, wounded two million civilians, and expelled 11 million openly, in broad daylight! Washington has not demanded that Bashar Al-Assad of the barrel bombs, who uses missiles against civilians and chemical weapons against women, children, and the elderly, leave at once. The most it demanded in this matter was expressed in Obama's recent UN statement, that it is unthinkable that Assad will play any role during the transitional period. Mubarak was warned to leave - but Bashar Al-Assad never was!
"What sort of standards is Washington adopting, and what [sort of standards] were implemented by Ms. Hillary when she was secretary of state? Washington bemoans the human rights situation in Egypt, but not the crushing human destruction in Syria! What standards does Ms. Hillary have?!"
Al-Sisi's meeting with Clinton in New York (image: Al-Yawm Al-Sabi', Egypt, September 20, 2016)
MB Official, Independent Journalists: Clinton Is Better Than The Racist Trump
Conversely, an MB official, as well as journalists for the independent daily Al-Shurouq, which tends to be critical of the regime, expressed distaste for Trump and support for Clinton.
In response to the claim by Trump's advisor that, if elected, he would promote legislation in the U.S. to designate the MB a terrorist organization, MB official Gamal Heshmat said that there was a great deal of similarity between Trump and Al-Sisi, because both of them "rely... on spreading fear among their people in order to justify the actions of violence, exclusion and takeover in which they believe and which they employ with [great] confidence under the pretext of fighting terror and promoting stability!"
Dr. Osama Rushdi, an official in the Construction and Development party, the political branch of Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya, said that "it will be a great disaster if Trump becomes the U.S. president," adding that he is "a racist and fascist" and threatens all Muslims, whereas Clinton is more rational. 
Al-Shurouq Editor: Trump Is An Enemy Of Mankind; Clinton Is A True Head of State
The independent daily Al-Shurouq published two articles against supporting Trump. The daily's editor, 'Imad Al-Din Hussein, wrote in a September 26 article that Trump was an "extremist and racist" and even "an enemy of most of mankind," and that Clinton was the better candidate due to her experience. He wrote: "Which of the two would be better for Egypt as U.S. president, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?... Among many in Egypt, there is a widespread belief that a Trump victory would be better for us, since he promised to include the Muslim Brotherhood on the list of designated terrorist [organizations], while the Democratic Clinton opposes the June 30 revolution [i.e., Mursi's ouster]. This impression might be partially true, but people forget that Trump is also an enemy of most of mankind, as he is an extremist and a racist, and repeatedly says that if elected, he would expel the Arabs and Muslims from the U.S. [These] extremist statements have not stopped since the beginning of his election campaign. Likewise, his victory would be the greatest of gifts for ISIS and for all the extremists in the region and in the world, because it would give them the best excuse of all for their extremism.
"It is true that Clinton was not enthusiastic about the June 30 revolution, but she is a true head of state. She is not a demagogue or a racist, and carefully weighs every word she says, as she spent eight years in the White House alongside her husband, president Bill Clinton, and for years was secretary of state during Obama's first term. Conversely, Trump is rash, a radical extremist, and lacks any political experience.
"So which of the two is better for Egypt, Trump or Clinton? If Trump wins, we will temporarily gain a few nice slogans, but in the long run we will lose much, as Arabs and Muslims, if he implements his slogans. If Clinton wins, she may be somewhat reserved towards us, but not as much as Obama, and our relationship might stabilize in the long term...
"Therefore, those who think a Trump victory means a total reversal [of the U.S. position on Egypt] are deluding themselves. We must remember, for example, that every presidential candidate courts the Jewish lobby and promises to transfer their country's embassy to Jerusalem, but that [when the time comes] they don't, because of their interests vis-à-vis the Arab world."
Former Egyptian MP: Trump "Will Contribute To The World Becoming A Hell"; Hillary Is The Lesser Evil
The second Al-Shurouq article, also published on September 29, was by former Egyptian MP Mustafa Al-Naggar. He contended that Trump was no less dangerous for the world than Nazism and fascism, and condemned those who express support for him in Egypt, calling them extremist right-wing elements that pose a danger to Egypt itself. He wrote: "Under the influence of Ikhwanophobia [fear of the Muslim Brotherhood], the U.S. elections have become a new arena of schism in Egypt, for accusations of treason, and for classification by position on the candidates.
"It is no exaggeration to say that in recent days, and especially after the first televised debate, there is a sense [among Egyptians] that this election is not about the U.S., but about Egypt. There has been a resurgence of the tumultuous debate that is characterized by illogic, to the point where Hillary Clinton is described as a member and supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. One of the lies [going around] is that Clinton is grooming an American woman who is of Pakistani descent and a Pakistani Muslim Brotherhood member [referring to Huma Abedin] to become secretary of state!...
"In general, it is odd that some in Egypt support Trump, the man who undoubtedly represents the worst of modern American extremism. He repeatedly spews racism in its ugliest form, and most of his positions clash with humanism and the values of tolerance and coexistence with which the world has come very far and from which there is no retreat...
"It is therefore foolish to argue that this despicable racist will combat extremism and terrorism. On the contrary, he will greatly contribute to the world becoming a hell. Therefore, his existence will justify the rise of terrorism, deepen the concept of the clash of civilizations, and inflame religious animosity among the peoples...
"Trump threatens not only the U.S., but the entire world. The rise of Trumpism on the global level effectively recreates messages of hate and the rise of the extreme right, evoking the era of Nazism and Fascism in Germany and Italy that led the world to bloody wars that claimed millions of lives. Who wants that again?
"In effect, the U.S. is not run by a single person, but by enormous institutions of decision-makers. However, the election of an extremist and racist president, who will appoint an administration that shares his mentality, will cause many problems for America and for the world.
"This does not mean that Hillary Clinton is an angel who will do good for the world and Arab countries. But a choice between two bad things does not mean choosing the better one, but choosing the lesser evil. We have no voice in the U.S. presidential race. But we hope that the Americans will throw out the preachers of hatred and the racists, and send a message to the world that they oppose the insane campaign on which Trump and his ilk are leading them...
"[In order to cure] the delusions of the Trump supporters in Egypt, there is first a need for psychological treatment, and [only] then rational and ideological refutation. This group of extremists in Egypt that reflects the rise of a secular right wing is no less dangerous than the religious right. We must deal with it by disproving and dismantling the terminology of this message, and by making the public aware of its risks and consequences for Egypt..."
Other Articles: Trump And Clinton Are Equally Bad
Also published in the Egyptian press were some articles claiming that Trump and Clinton would be equally bad for Egypt. Tarek Fahmy, a professor of political science at the American University in Cairo, told the Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' daily that America is choosing between bad and worse and that there was essentially no difference between the two candidates in terms of foreign policy.
Mursi 'Atallah, the former board chairman of the Al-Ahram Foundation, wrote on September 21 that the debate about which is better, Clinton or Trump, was boring since both of them hate Arabs more or less to the same degree. He wrote: "As happens every four years, the Arab analysts and intellectuals are preoccupied with finding an answer to the traditional question: Which is better, an American president from the Democratic party or from the Republican party? The public has wearied of the recurring scenes of this boring play that repeats every four years. Even if the protagonists of this play are different, nothing in the discourse is, not even one single line.
"There is no difference between Reagan and Carter or Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The Republicans and the Democrats are two sides of the same coin.
"If the Republican candidate Donald Trump presents himself as an openly hostile enemy of the Arabs and Muslims, there are those who forget that Hillary Clinton harbors no less hostility and hatred [towards them] than Trump, but only softens it outwardly..."
* Y. Graff is a research fellow at MEMRI; H. Varulkar is Director of Research at MEMRI.
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