El-Sissi Takes the Reins: 3 Big Things to Know about Egypt’s New Pharaoh

Egyptians gather outside the presidential palace to celebrate former Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's victory in the presidential vote in Cairo on June 5, 2014.Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Egyptians gather outside the presidential palace to celebrate former Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s victory in the presidential vote in Cairo on June 5, 2014.Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

by Raymond Stock, Fox NewsJune 8, 2014

On Sunday June 8, Egypt’s former defense minister, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, was inaugurated as the sixth president–a de facto pharaoh, though chosen by the people–of the oldest nation-state on earth.

As expected, Egyptians overwhelmingly voted May 26-28 to elect him to lead the country, which he as ruled indirectly since overthrowing his predecessor, Mohammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), in the face of massive popular demand last July 3.

From the moment he ousted Morsi–who had turned a narrow electoral mandate in June 2012 into a brutal Islamist dictatorship almost overnight, alienating the vast majority of the country–the hugely popular El-Sissi has been ceaselessly attacked by a wide array of forces both at home and abroad.

These attacks have come not only from the Al Qaeda-allied MB and its Salafi allies in an increasingly violent insurgency that has so far claimed nearly 2,000 lives, but also from many Western journalists, Middle East experts, government officials and even key members of Congress, who have accused him of being just another military strong man who has usurped an elected leader.

Some even see him as holding onto a clandestine vision of religious rule of his own, and as a person far less popular than his cult of the personality suggests.

Though there are some elements of truth in this criticism, driving much of it is a combination of ideological blindness and ignorance (or denial) of the basic facts about both El-Sissi and his country, plus an idealistic demand for perfect democracy in a time of bloody upheaval in a land that has known essentially harsh, pharaonic-style rule for the past five millennia.

Here are three big things to know about the new president of the largest Arab country, which since 1979 has been America’s closest ally in the Middle East after Israel.

1. Despite claims to the contrary, El-Sissi does have an electoral mandate.

With the MB and most Islamists, plus some of the original 2011 secular liberal activists boycotting the vote, about 35% of the population turned out to vote on May 26-27, in the midst of a searing heat wave.

This was roughly the same percentage for Morsi’s December 2012 Constitutional referendum, and for the vote on a de-Islamistized version of it that passed–by a far higher margin–in January 2014.

Still, this was not deemed enough, so balloting was extended to a third day on May 28 with the threat of fines for those who stayed away from the polls, an unusual move.

Egypt, like 21 other countries–including a number in Europe–has a compulsory voting law, though it is not usually enforced.

In the end, participation officially reached 47.5%–and a delegation of monitors from the European Parliament declared the election was run in a “democratic and free” manner, though it was “not necessarily fair,” due to self-censorship among some in the media.

This compares well with the 46% who turned out for the first round of presidential voting in May 2012, and the 52% in the second round that June—when there were no major boycotts, amid considerable suspense about who would win, while in this case, El-Sissi was a shoo-in.

A separate Election Observation Mission (EOM) from the European Union, while saying that the vote “fell short of constitutional principles,” stopped short of further criticism and added that the media atmosphere around it was “fair.”

Egypt’s election commission announced on June 3 that El-Sissi had won 96.91% of the votes, versus 3.09% for his only opponent, leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi.

El-Sissi gained 23.78 million votes, 10 million more than the 13 million won by Morsi in June 2012, in which he narrowly beat Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq–who later complained that the vote count was fixed.

Sabahi earned but 318,000 votes, fewer than the 1.4 million spoiled ballots cast.

El-Sissi, whom the late pre-election opinion polls put at 74%-to-86% approval (roughly twice that of President Barack Obama’s at home at present), could not campaign in person due to the ongoing violence, as well as at least two alleged plots on his life.

This was compounded by the famously quiet (and deeply private) field marshal’s failure to even issue a detailed electoral program, fueling yet more speculation about what he really intends to do in office.

For its part, the MB has dismissed the current election as “null and void.”

2. Despite excesses, El-Sissi’s war against the Islamists is ours as well.

Some have argued that Morsi’s removal and El-Sissi’s election prove the validity of Al Qaeda’s objection to the MB’s strategy of gaining power through democratic means.

Hence, more of their followers will turn to AQ and similar groups out of frustration with the results from the use of peaceful means—which they say has happened in Egypt.

The assumption is that the Egyptians–not to mention the rest of us at war with Islamist terrorists–should accept whatever the fanatics do so long as they are elected, including quickly laying the groundwork for what was an obvious coup of their own, in which future elections either would not happen, or be meaningless if they did.

By this logic, perhaps to avoid alienating the MB’s base, we should have hoped for the Islamists to keep winning elections, as they did in the first parliamentary contests and the first presidency post-Hosni Mubarak–and then do nothing if they brazenly abuse the power they gain in this fashion.

That said, there have indeed been many abuses in the crackdown on the MB and its Salafi allies launched by the interim government that was appointed by El-Sissi.

Yet the first violence came from the opposition, as the MB wrongly blamed Egypt’s large Coptic Christian minority for Morsi’s ouster, inciting an immediate orgy of looting and burning of Christian churches, schools and homes by its supporters in July, the sabotage of public buildings, plus brutal attacks on police and others.

After a long standoff, roughly 700 to 1,000 persons died in operations to remove pro-Morsi demonstrators from two Cairo squares on August 14, though it later emerged from credible sources that armed provocateurs among them had opened fire first, and the graves of at least eighty people, tortured and murdered as suspected informants, were found at these sites when they were cleared.

Since then, the majority of deaths have come from the almost daily bombings and shootings launched by the insurgents, as well as continued violent demonstrations, prompting the government to formally ban the MB, and to label it — as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have also done — a terrorist organization.

Even more strikingly, the MB’s Palestinian branch, Hamas, listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S., Europe and Israel, but formerly a darling of Egyptian popular opinion, was also banned due to its suspected role in aiding the insurgents — to popular acclaim.

What was heroic to inflict on Israeli civilians was suddenly insidious when done to Egyptians — but still it is a refreshing change.

Laws have been passed banning unauthorized demonstrations, professors and liberal activists have been charged with dubious offenses, more than a thousand accused Islamists have been summarily condemned to death for murder and pillage, mostly in absentia (though these will be automatically overturned when the condemned are apprehended), burning the nation’s flag or failing to stand for the national anthem have been criminalized, and “Egypt’s Jon Stewart,” political satirist Bassem Youssef, has canceled his TV program due to threats from persons unknown.

Critics of these steps were largely silent when the previous regime blatantly overrode the Constitution, terrorized the opposition and attempted to impose a permanent, one-party Islamist state at breathtaking speed and thoroughness.

And the MB — wrongly considered “moderate” — and its Salafi allies are in fact radical groups committed to the overthrow of less militant regimes and the destruction of America and the West, even while gladly accepting our assistance in the meantime.

Yet instead of cutting aid to the Muslim Brotherhood government, Obama increased it, while his then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, overrode human rights objections from Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who tried to put it on hold pending review.

As a result, most Egyptians now disdain our president, who reached out to the MB in his June 4, 2009 speech to the Muslim world in Cairo, as a hypocrite, and have applauded El-Sissi’s recent agreement to buy an unprecedented $2 billion in military equipment from Russia, signaling that our more than three-decades old alliance is now in serious danger.

Obama effectively froze aid to post-Morsi Egypt in October 9, and when Congress this year passed a $1.5 billion mostly military package for Cairo, Leahy again put it on hold. But in contrast to what happened under Morsi, current Secretary of State John Kerry has failed to counteract it, though he did allow the transfer of 24 previously-blocked Apache helicopters to help fight the terrorists in Sinai.

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to pay $400 million per year to the Palestinian Authority, even though it now includes Hamas, and is planning to arm and train Syrian insurgents who will likely include many members of the MB and other Islamists, and who also pose a threat to Egypt, our European allies and ourselves.

And we haven’t even talked about handing 5 top Taliban commanders temporarily over to Qatar, the MB’s biggest financial backer and a patron of the Taliban, in exchange for a probable deserter who might also be a collaborator.

These are all serious mistakes that we may someday rue while wondering what happened to our former favored access to the Suez Canal, the Egyptian peace with Israel and key cooperation with Cairo in our common war against terror.

3. El-Sissi is pious, but probably not–as some have claimed–a “secret Islamist.”

In August 2012, Morsi appointed then-General al-El-Sissi as defense minister, based on his seemingly pro-MB views—and was no doubt shocked when his protégé turned on him for behaving like a president from the MB.

However, though born into a conservative, not militant, religious family in the Gamaliyah district in the heart of the Islamic Cairo, the native district of the late Egyptian Nobel laureate in literature, Naguib Mahfouz, El-Sissi, like Mahfouz, was also raised as a fervent nationalist.

When Morsi freed and even elevated terrorists who had made war on the Egyptian state, worked covertly with terrorists killing Egyptian troops in Sinai, offered to possibly hand over Egyptian land along the border with Sudan to the Islamist regime in Khartoum, and seemed poised to declare jihad against the Assad regime in Damascus, he undoubtedly viewed him as betraying Egypt’s most basic national interests.

Since then, he has vowed to completely destroy the MB and its fellow proponents of political Islam, has spoken in praise of Egypt’s persecuted Christians, and—most intriguingly of all—called in late January for a comprehensive modernization of Islam as a whole.

In a daring speech, quoted here by U.S. Marine Lt. Col. (ret.) James Zumwalt of UPI on January 28, he challenged the Muslim world to give up centuries of dogmatic thinking and for the Islamists to abandon the call to war:

“Religious discourse is the greatest battle and challenge facing the Egyptian people, pointing to the need for a new vision and a modern, comprehensive understanding of the religion of Islam — rather than relying on a discourse that has not changed for 800 years.”

As Zumwalt noted, this means that El-Sissi believes Islam has been intellectually–and even spiritually — frozen since 1258.

That was the year the Mongols sacked Baghdad, ending Islam’s Golden Age, and was roughly the time when religious scholars had agreed that “the science is settled,” and there would no more great debate on what the faith is, a process that began centuries before.

By making this bold statement—and by waging his own holy struggle against the forces of evil—he is putting his own life on the line as well.

We should indeed watch him closely now that he grasps the reins of power directly, for the first time, to see if he follows these bold words, as well as what they mean in reality, and if he rules oppressively in person.

But for the time being, he is fighting our enemies — who are also Egypt’s own — and has even increased cooperation with our friends, the Israelis.

Some now say that’s just where we were under Mubarak — whom Obama deliberately helped push from pharaoh’s palace in Heliopolis in 2011.

But Mubarak, now 86, was an aging oligarch who became president only when his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, was shot dead by Islamists while standing next to him in 1981, and who had no itch for change.

El-Sissi may yet go the way of his hero Sadat, who he has said came to him in a dream that seemed to prophecy he would one day be president of Egypt.

Like El-Sissi, Sadat–“the believing president”–started out close to the Muslim Brotherhood, but soon had to combat them — and wound up murdered by one of their offshoots as a result.

And like Sadat, especially given who might follow him, we may very much miss El-Sissi when he is gone.

Let’s try for a better ending this time.

Raymond Stock, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a former Assistant Professor of Arabic and Middle East Studies at Drew University, spent twenty years in Egypt, and was deported by the Mubarak regime in 2010. He is writing a biography of 1988 Egyptian Nobel laureate in literature Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006) for Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and is a prolific translator of his works, most recently “Before the Throne” (Anchor Books/Random House, July 2012).

 

Four big things to know about Egypt in 2014

Middle East Forum

by Raymond Stock
Fox News
January 24, 2014

Egypt will continue to make much news in the New Year — as it has since the 2011 revolution that brought down longtime U.S. ally President Hosni Mubarak amid scenes of blood and jubilation in Tahrir Square and beyond.

As Egypt celebrates the third anniversary of that revolution’s launch on January 25th, the world’s oldest nation-state enters another phase in its volatile transition from Mubarak’s fading, sclerotic autocracy to a yet-uncertain future:

With all that in mind, here are four big things to know about Egypt in 2014.

1. EGYPTIANS SHOULD BE HEADING BACK TO THE POLLS SHORTLY. The overwhelming passage January 14-15 of an amended Constitution paves the way for new presidential and parliamentary elections soon, and legitimizes the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi following the largest demonstrations in history last June 30.

This means that Egypt’s extremely popular military regime, headed by charismatic Minister of Defense General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, has turned a crucial corner in gaining international acceptance, after nearly seven months of physical attacks within Egypt, and of media and policy assaults from abroad.

Egypt's extremely popular military regime has turned a crucial corner in gaining international acceptance. Pictured, Egyptian Minister of Defense General Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi bids farewell to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry after a meeting in Cairo, Egypt, on November 3, 2013. (Image source: U.S. State Department)

Egypt’s extremely popular military regime has turned a crucial corner in gaining international acceptance. Pictured, Egyptian Minister of Defense General Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi bids farewell to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry after a meeting in Cairo, Egypt, on November 3, 2013. (Image source: U.S. State Department)

2. TERRORISM AND DISSENT WILL CONTINUE TO TORTURE EGYPT. Despite this latest triumph of the majority’s will, the same destructive forces that have plagued the nation following the euphoria at Mubarak’s fall will likely keep eating away at Egypt’s social, political and economic fabric for the foreseeable future.

Friday, four explosions, including a suicide bombing that blew the facade off the seven-story State Security building downtown, have struck targets throughout Cairo, killing at least six and wounding more than 60 others.

President Barack Obama’s botched handling of the rollout of Egypt’s — and the Arab world’s –democracy, in which the U.S. backed Islamists over secular liberal forces throughout the region, means our alliance with Cairo is far less secure than it was during Mubarak’s nearly thirty years atop the pyramid of power in Egypt.

Mubarak told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour on February 3, 2011, that Obama “doesn’t understand Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now.”

Mubarak accurately warned that if he resigned abruptly, as he was pushed to do that February 11 by Obama and the military in response to protests, bringing to climax the Arab Spring, he would be followed by chaos and rule by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which Egypt now rightly calls a terrorist organization.

Chaos duly ensued, and the well-organized, deeply entrenched MB and its Salafi allies, after electoral victories, imposed an Islamist agenda on the country, eventually alienating almost the whole citizenry.

As Obama told CBS’s Steve Kroft during a joint interview with then-outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton broadcast on “60 Minutes” January 27, 2013, at the height of the Islamists’ ascendancy, “You know, when it comes to Egypt, I think, had it not been for the leadership we showed, you might have seen a different outcome there.”

Supporters of Mubarak’s successor, Mohamed Morsi, an MB hardliner, launched an armed insurgency when he was deposed on July 3, 2013 after only one year in power.

The MB’s violent protests will probably not go away, though they are shrinking at least for the moment, while some of the key secular liberal groups that helped bring down both Mubarak and Morsi are turning against the repressive military.

Turnout for the new Constitution — which strips away most of the Islamist provisions found in the previous one, rammed through by Morsi in December 2012, while placing the military leadership beyond civilian control– was officially a modest 38.6 percent, but with a “Yes” vote of 98.1 percent.

In actual numbers, almost 20 million voters backed the document, over eight million more than endorsed Morsi’s charter in December 2012, and roughly six million more than had voted for Morsi as president that May.

The MB and its Islamist allies, plus a few of the secular liberal groups that had opposed Mubarak, boycotted the vote, denouncing the crackdown on dissent under al-Sisi, a Bizarro World replay of the campaign against Morsi’s own Constitution.

The 2014 referendum’s success enables the widely-expected presidential candidacy of al-Sisi, a modern day pharaoh in a land that has known largely that kind of rule for the past five millennia.

Al-Sisi now runs Egypt through competent surrogates like Acting President Adly Mansour and Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawy, though his glow may dim should he finally shed his uniform and govern directly as a civilian.

3 . EGYPT MAY BE JOINING A NUCLEAR ARMS RACE WITH IRAN WHILE REACHING OUT EVER MORE TO RUSSIA AND PERHAPS CHINA FOR ALTERNATIVES TO U.S. AID. This is happening as the Obama administration implements a toothless nuclear deal with radical Shiite Iran, alienating traditional Sunni allies like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In October 2013, Mansour announced a major expansion of Egypt’s sixty-year old advanced nuclear program, possibly with help from Russia, with which Cairo signed an alarming $2 billion arms deal in November.

That alliance-shifting switch was prompted by Obama’s decision last fall to suspend about a third of the annual $1.6 billion U.S. aid package to Egypt out of pique at al-Sisi’s crackdown on the MB, while the White House had increased aid to Morsi when he had muzzled and even murdered his own opposition, angering most Egyptians.

To calm these strategically dangerous waters, last week Congress voted to grant $1.52 billion in aid to Egypt for 2014 — but it is so hedged with conditions that no one can be sure if all or indeed any of it will actually go to Cairo, or assuage a single Egyptian after so many snubs if it does.

4. CHRISTIANS WILL STILL SUFFER BUT MAYBE NOT AS MUCH. Egypt’s long-persecuted Christian minority, wrongly blamed and physically targeted in a pogrom by the Islamists after Morsi’s fall, will find neither the same level of active persecution, nor — unfortunately — much more government protection than it did in the waning days of Mubarak, which were also marred by frequent acts of mayhem against them.

Nor will they probably receive any help from the White House, which shamefully has been almost completely silent on the ever-more intense, large-scale violence against Christians throughout the Middle East and Muslim world in recent years.

Yet despite the divisions that still wrack the country, we ought to thank al-Sisi and the Egyptian people for ending the reign of the falsely “moderate,” militantly anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, anti-female and anti-gay MB, that is allied with Al Qaeda and was using Egypt as a base to spread its influence and ideology.

For that service alone, Egypt today would be worth more than every penny it might yet see of the American taxpayers’ money–even if we cannot buy a genuine democracy in a land that has never known one.

Raymond Stock, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a former Assistant Professor of Arabic and Middle East Studies at Drew University, spent twenty years in Egypt, and was deported by the Mubarak regime in 2010. He is writing a biography of 1988 Egyptian Nobel laureate in literature Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006) for Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and is a prolific translator of his works, most recently “Before the Throne” (Anchor Books/Random House, July 2012).

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Complete the Islamists’ Defeat

not-a-coup1“Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak all tried to get rid of the Brotherhood. Only Mursi succeeded.”

–Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, Facebook, July 3, 2013

By Raymond Stock, July 2013:

On July 8, the Obama administration finally did the right thing in Egypt—by not calling what Mohamed Mursi’s historically huge opposition rightly hails as its “corrective revolution” a coup.  Thus it prevented the automatic cutoff of America’s $1.6 billion of mostly military aid, without which our connection to the largest Arab state (and perhaps the Suez Canal) would be lost. But it would be a grave mistake if the U.S. should insist that the aid would continue only if everyone –the deposed Muslim Brotherhood (and other Islamists) among them—is included in the now-rebooted “transition to democracy.” Nor should the Egyptians want to go to this route.  Such would be an historic error that will sabotage whatever good might come from the already diminished influence which that aid buys – as well as from the heroic actions of the Egyptians themselves.

In addition to Egypt’s probable lack of enough secular and civil society to create a genuine democracy, the seemingly imminent civil war would not permit that transition to happen, at least not now—and perhaps not ever.  With Monday’s opening clash in front of the Ministry of Defense that left roughly fifty Islamists dead and one soldier slain, after numerous other killings over the year of MB rule, and culminating in scenes such as the murder of opposition teens by throwing them off of an Alexandria rooftop last week, the much-feared Algeria 1992 redux may already have begun.

Yet as tragic—and even heartless—as this might seem, it would be better to have that civil conflict now then to wait until the Islamists are better armed and prepared, especially having been invited back into power to share the running of the state.  That will give only them both renewed legitimacy and access to material resources that they do not deserve—and which the last year shows they will only abuse.

*******************

Despite the dangers of growing violence, the removal of Mohamed Mursi is a truly promising moment for Egypt—and should be for us all. The Islamists have suffered their first great setback since the launching of the Arab Spring, one that threatens all their gains everywhere, from Cairo to Tunis, Tripoli to Benghazi, from Aleppo to Sanaa, and even perhaps to their Turkish neighbors in  Ankara and Istanbul who have really begun to rebel under Recep Tayyep Erdogan’s slier version of MB rule.  Egypt has a long, long way to go to create a truly open, prosperous, and democratic society, and the path may be even more bloody, but only now does she have even the slightest chance to succeed.  This is what we should be focused on now, rather than expecting a smooth, stable democracy while placating the forces of darkness–who can never be appeased.

Read more at Foreign Policy Research Institute

 

On Mistaking Mohamed Mursi For His Mask

by Raymond Stock
Foreign Policy Research Institute
February 2013

“You know, when it comes to Egypt, I think, had it not been for the leadership we showed, you might have seen a different outcome there.” — President Barack Obama, “60 Minutes,” January 27, 2013

imagesCA6KQ9BHWith President Mohamed Mursi’s proclamation of a “new republic” on December 26, after the passage of a Constitution that turns Egypt into an Islamist-ruled, pseudo-democratic state, the “January 25th Revolution” came to a predictably disastrous (if still unstable) terminus. As momentous for world history as the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran (should it hold), it represents the formal—if not the final—victory for the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in its 84-year struggle for power in the land of its birth. Indeed, 2012 will likely be remembered as the year that Islamists made the greatest gains in their quest for a new caliphate in the region. And without a drastic change of course by Washington, 2013 might surpass it by far in progress toward the same, seemingly inexorable end.

Egypt, the largest Arab state, the second largest recipient of U.S. military aid, and our second most important ally in the Middle East, is now in the hands of a hostile regime—an elected one at that—which we continue to treat as a friendly one. Even if the sudden outburst of uncontrolled violence along the Suez Canal since January 26—coupled with escalating political and economic tumult in Cairo and elsewhere—leads to a new military coup, it would likely be managed by the MB from behind the scenes. The irony and the implications are equally devastating. This new reality threatens not only traditional U.S. foreign policy goals of stability in the oil-rich Middle East and security for Israel, but also America’s declared support for democracy in the Arab world. Moreover, the fruits of Islamist “democracy,” should it survive, are catastrophic to the people of Egypt, the region and beyond.

How did all this happen? And what role did the U.S. play?

Excellent piece on the revolution in Egypt and the role Barack Obama has played in it. Read it all at Middle East Forum

Also see Ryan Mauro’s interview of Raymond Stock: Egypt Expert: Morsi Confidently Fooling West at RadicalIslam.org

Raymond Stock

Raymond Stock

Raymond Stock is a Shillman/Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and former Visiting Assistant Professor of Arabic and Middle East Studies at Drew University. He has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Pennsylvania.Stock lived in Egypt for 20 years and was detained at Cairo Airport in December 2010 and deported back to the U.S. due to his 2009 Foreign Policy Magazine article criticizing then-Egyptian Culture Minister for his policies and anti-Semitism.

He is currently working on a biography of Egyptian Nobel laureate in literature, Naguib Mahfouz.

Raymond Stock: The Arab Spring & Egypt’s Nuclear Weapons Program:

Is Egypt Pursuing a Nuclear Weapons Program?

By Tiffany Gabbay

As the Middle East rages out of control, great emphasis is placed on the Islamic Republic of Iran as it scrambles furiously to produce a nuclear warhead. A lesser known evil boiling beneath the surface, however, is that Egypt, now led by the Muslim Brotherhood via its newly elected President Mohamed Morsi, may indeed have nuclear weapons-ambitions of its own. During an exclusive panel discussion with Professor Raymond Stock, former visiting assistant professor of Arabic and Middle East Studies at Drew University, delved deeper into Egypt’s relationship with Iran and its plans to develop nuclear weapons.

Stock, a Guggenheim Fellow, lived in Cairo for 20 years until he was ultimately deported by the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak, citing a 2009 article by Stock criticizing then-Culture Minister Farouk Hosni’s bid to head UNESCO. The panel was hosted by the Center for Security Policy and the Middle East Endowment for Truth and was moderated by Congressman Fred Grandy.

Dr. Stock explained that the ousting of Hosni Mubarak “made us realize” that while not wholly democratic, Egypt was indeed “liberal” under his regime. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood’s goal is “to restore the caliphate.”

Stock discussed the role the Brotherhood played in spawning support for the Arab Spring and ensuring that the masses would come out in support of various Middle East uprisings. He added that the current U.S. administration’s penchant for defining the people in the Middle East based on their religion and not their respective ethnicities and state boundaries is a “real tragedy” as it only feeds into the greater Islamist “supremacist idea.”

“This is the real tragedy of what we are doing.”

In terms of Egypt’s nuclear ambitions, which began in earnest in 1954 under then-President Nassar, the country’s first small research reactor was built by the Russians that year. Then, in the 1998 Argentina aided in the development of another reactor, also fueled by Russia.

Currently, the Egyptians can “produce 6 kilograms per year of plutonium,” according to Stock. “That is the amount needed to make one bomb annually.” Thus, since 1998, the professor concluded that while Egypt may use its plutonium for some peaceful purposes, it also has had the capability to produce 24 nuclear warheads.

“They have an ongoing fuel supply for it.”

He added that in terms of enrichment, Egypt is but a heartbeat away from its current medium-grade enrichment capabilities to the high-grade capacity. “Once you get to 20 kilograms, you have essentially mastered the enrichment process.”

The professor explained that Egypt has always been open about its nuclear ambitions, even if it was so under the guise of “civilian use” but that financial difficulties have precluded the country from moving a WMD-program along full-steam head.

Read more at The Blaze

Stock’s panel discussion was hosted by the Endowment for Middle East Truth in conjunction with the Center for Security Policy.