What Egypt and America can do together

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A new U.S. administration naturally offers an opportunity for America’s allies around the world to consider the past and find new ways to a more secure and prosperous world.

Egypt and other moderate states across the Arab world have an urgent request that the new administration engage in our region to build stronger and more resilient economies and societies, and address the spread of extremism, terrorism and violence that has brought so much human suffering.

It is a request our president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, will take to the White House on Monday when he meets with President Trump.

{mosads}A retrenchment of U.S. leadership in the Middle East and North Africa in recent years has coincided with the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and conflicts in Libya, Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia. Trump has called for a new strategy to defeat ISIS. We share his vision and the urgency to do so.


But winning on the battlefield will not be enough. We will also have to begin to rebuild the lives of millions of people who have been impacted by terrorism and chaos, as well strengthen the institutions of government, economies and societies that can serve them.

A comprehensive strategy to both prevent terrorism and promote peace and prosperity in the Arab world rests on four separate but interwoven elements. All of them will require America working together with Egypt and other moderate Arab states across the region.

1. Support counterterrorism efforts in moderate Arab states under siege by extremists within their own borders.

This will require the right mix of equipment, intelligence-sharing and logistics support. Egypt has been engaged in this struggle for many years on behalf of itself and others. Additionally, there should be the right alignment of strategies, tactics and shared responsibilities through a more robust dialogue between Washington and leaders in the region.

This begins with the United States placing the Middle East among its top foreign policy priorities.

2. Stop sources of funding and weapons to terrorist organizations.

This, too, will be achieved by a shared responsibility of the United States, the international community and moderate Arab states to both weaken the capability of terror organizations to conduct violence as well as reduce their ability to attract new recruits.

3. Expand trade and investment and share technologies to shore up the economies of the Arab world and enable them to provide a living standard that discourages citizens from being attracted to extreme ideologies.

Many countries in the region have very young populations. Creating employment and opportunities for them is a sound investment in our collective future. 

4. Promote a serious and genuine reform of religious discourse.

Moderate Arabs must lead an effort to advance a culture of peace by discouraging hate speech and supporting the coexistence of all peoples. In Egypt, we are welcoming Pope Francis to Cairo next month, which is an opportunity to promote improved relations between Christians and Muslims.

While there is today a focus on defeating terrorism and ISIS, we must engage anew on the most longstanding conflict in our region — that between Israel and the Arab world. Egypt and the United States can work together to urge the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to begin a new round of serious negotiations to find a solution for how the people they represent can live together, side by side, in mutual security.

If negotiations take place, the moderate Arab world should support this effort and, where possible, help mediate the most difficult issues in any negotiation. Egypt has the credibility to participate as a result of our more than three decades of peace with, and diplomatic recognition of, the state of Israel.

Egypt’s centrality in the Arab world and its long relationship with the United States offers an opportunity to advance our shared interests in regional peace and security. Progress will not always be smooth, and there will inevitably be disagreements and setbacks as we strive to deal with very complex security challenges. But progress can be made, and my government is prepared to play a more active diplomatic role.

Egypt looks forward to finding in the Trump administration a partner willing to invest with us in a more prosperous and secure Middle East and North Africa.

Sherif Ismail is prime minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.


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