On February 6 the world media, quoting the Kuwaiti publication Al-Seyassah, reported that the strong man of Egypt, Commander in Chief and recently-promoted Field Marshal el-Sisi, has announced that he will run for president. The important thing is that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of Egypt has already nominated the defense minister as a presidential candidate. It is obvious to all that el-Sisi will be the most likely victor at the presidential election, which is to take place no later than April 19. And it is primarily on this man, whom the people see as a «new Nasser», that the path Egypt takes in the future will depend… At the same time, his expected rise to power means the reestablishment of the forms of government which are traditional and apparently natural for the country. The five-year period of disorder and confusion initiated by U.S. President B. Obama's May 2009 speech in Cairo and of the Washington-stimulated «Arab spring» which has brought the country nothing but financial losses and casualties is coming to an end. The plan for the democratization of the «Greater Middle East» is winding down.
Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil el-Sisi was born November 19, 1954 in Cairo to a religious family. He himself is also known for his adherence to Islamic traditions (he often quotes the Quran from memory in conversations, and his wife wears a hijab), but he is not a fanatic and is tolerant toward other faiths. He has always maintained good relations with the Orthodox Copts. Keeping in mind the irritation caused in the country by the «high society» behavior of H. Mubarak's family, especially his son Gamal, he prudently keeps his family out of public view. He has three sons and a daughter, about whom little is known. He loves order and discipline. Those around him called him «General» even in childhood. In 1977 he graduated from the Military Academy. He subsequently received additional higher military education in several institutions of learning in Great Britain and the U.S. He is interested in history and law. He was the Director of the country's Military Intelligence and Reconnaissance Department, as a representative of which he held the prestigious post of military attaché to Saudi Arabia. He has good connections with the top brass of the Saudi military and in a number of other Arab countries, particularly in Syria. In a time difficult for Egypt, when the West turned its back on it, el-Sisi, thanks to his authority, was able to obtain generous financial assistance from the Persian Gulf countries. When he became part of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of Egypt, he was its youngest member. On August 12, 2012 he was appointed Chairman of the Council and also became the Minister of Defense.
Since July 3, 2013, when the military removed President Mohamed Morsi, who represented the Muslim Brotherhood, from power, el-Sisi, although formally only Deputy Prime Minister, has in fact already been the undeclared leader of the country. The upcoming elections will only confirm and legalize his real position. The path for this was opened by the successful referendum on the approval of a new constitution to replace the one adopted under the Muslim Brotherhood. Critics pointed out that only 39% of the population came out to vote in the referendum; however, they forgot to mention that only 32% voted in the referendum on the previous constitution, and only 63.8% of referendum participants voted in favor, as opposed to 98% this time. The growth of national support is clear. It is worth noting that in the opinion of experts, it was to a great extent women who stood behind this result; they voted unanimously for the new constitution, which restored rights which had previously been taken from them.
The fact that el-Sisi follows religious traditions has served him in good stead and misled the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, who placed their main stakes on him out of all the military. In fact, it turned out that national interests are more important to el-Sisi than Islam. Or more precisely, he does not believe that Islam must always resist modern life or other religious beliefs. His credo is that «We are first and foremost Egyptians, and only then Muslims and Christians». He believes that a democratic society and pluralism are fully compatible with Muslim norms; however, a gradual path to this should be taken, in his opinion. In the research paper «Democracy in the Middle East», written by el-Sisi during his year-long studies at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania, he writes that democracy will be difficult to make a reality in the Middle East because the form of government must be adapted to the local cultural and religious situation. In this paper el-Sisi spoke against a theocratic society, but expressed his conviction that democracy in Egypt should be based on Islamic values. At the same time, he has always said that the army should be on the side of the people, and consequently of all the country's citizens. El-Sisi is oriented not toward an endless confrontation with the Muslim Brotherhood, but toward national reconciliation. For example, the influential Egyptian Copts, who number 8-10 million in the country, unanimously support him. It is no accident that on the eve of his promotion to field marshal and the announcement that the military was nominating General el-Sisi for president on January 26 of this year, he was visited by the patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Theodore II, who was accompanied by six bishops.
The fact that el-Sisi's opponents are resorting to terrorist attacks, despite their bloodiness, is a sign that they are no longer able to organize real mass protests against him and are resorting to desperate measures. With each such senseless attack his authority is only getting stronger, as the population is increasingly convinced of the need for a «firm hand». Popular confidence in him is now exceptionally high. He is supported by former pro-Western liberals, who are rather disappointed in their patrons; religious minorities; and government and military employees; but he is also supported by the majority of ordinary people from among devout Muslims, who see in el-Sisi a reincarnation of Nasser, a man who is capable of maintaining social justice in society. The former elite are also on his side. For example, former president Hosni Mubarak stated in an interview with the channel al-Arabia that the Egyptian people support el-Sisi. «They want to see him as president; they will achieve that and win that battle», said the ex-president. One of the main candidates in the previous election, former Secretary-General of the Arab League Amr Moussa, has already urged citizens to vote for el-Sisi. He himself is not going to run again. El-Sisi's popularity sometimes takes grotesque forms; there are posters with his portrait everywhere, often as a collage together with Nasser, and sometimes with V. Putin as well. At the numerous souvenir stands, el-Sisi's picture and initials are extremely popular. They can even be seen on pastries. But all of this does not go against the national culture and is not regulated from above. Such are the sentiments of the people.
El-Sisi's potential foreign policy orientation and the steps he will take to restore Egypt's former influence in the region are also the subject of close attention.
El-Sisi's attitude toward cooperation with the U.S. is a strictly pragmatic one. Having spent a fair amount of time there, he knows America well, but he is not at all blinded by its grandeur, for he knows its price. It is no coincidence that some American media sources call him an «opaque» and «enigmatic» figure. El-Sisi was critical of the White House's actions in Iraq, and did not hide this even during his studies in the U.S.; sometimes he encountered angry rhetoric from American veterans who had returned from there, which also apparently remained in his memory. At the time Morsi was overthrown, el-Sisi bluntly accused the American administration in an interview with The Washington Post of unfriendly actions toward his country: «You left the Egyptians. You turned your back on the Egyptians, and they won’t forget that». The fact that Cairo has already refused to accept Robert Ford, the current American representative in Syria who is well known for his close ties with the Islamist Syrian opposition, as the future U.S. ambassador is quite noteworthy, for example. This also characterizes el-Sisi's attitude toward events in that country, especially considering the fact that it is most likely on his initiative that official relations between Cairo and Damascus, broken off by the Muslim Brotherhood, were reestablished. Nevertheless, the Americans, who announced the suspension of their yearly military aid to Egypt in the amount of 1.5 billion dollars after the army came to power there, were forced to announce a return to their former practice for geopolitical reasons.
One of the reasons the White House decided to reestablish the aid payments was obviously concern about the security of Israel and the possibility of Cairo switching to other strategic preferences. For example, the Israeli media frightened the West with Moscow's supposed ambition to create bases for its navy in Egypt, indicating four prospective locations for them – in Alexandria, Port Said, Damietta and Rosetta – as well as with plans for large shipments of Russian armaments meant to fully replace American models. But where would Russia get so many ships, or Egypt so much money? The point of these scare tactics is quite obvious. Israel has no interest in the Americans turning away from Egypt and is motivating them to keep it in their tight embrace.
At the same time, the Russian vector of Egypt's future policy indeed has good prospects, but they are a result not of mythical military preparations, but of objective economic factors. The three pillars of the modern Egyptian economy are tourism, revenues from the Suez Canal and extraction of natural gas. With regard to Suez Egypt is not dependent on anyone, but with regard to gas and especially tourism, cooperation with Russia could be of the closest kind. Russian citizens, who are not easily frightened by anything, literally saved the country's tourism industry in the crisis-filled year 2013; 2.5 million people visited Egypt that year. For its part, Egypt, which is highly dependent on food imports, imported 3 billion dollars' worth of grain alone from Russia in that same year, taking first place in this category of Russia's exports. The planned creation of a free trade zone between Egypt and the Customs Union could give the further development of cooperation between the two countries a strong impetus. If one considers that the famous American military aid is mostly just credits for price reductions on outdated armaments which could easily be replaced with shipments from other places on favorable terms, it turns out that Washington simply has nothing to offer that the Egyptian people truly need.