For liberale og venstreorienterte er presidenten av Egypt en ny reaksjonær, knapt noen forbedring fra Brorskapet. Mer finstemte obserbatører har fått med seg at dette er et nidbilde. Abdel Fattah Al Sisi er annerledes. Han er ingen ny Mubarak. Han har en strategi for å utvikle Egypt og avskjære ekstremismen slik at den ikke ødelegger Midtøsten.


Europa burde forstå at det har interesse av at Sisi lykkes. Hvis ikke vil Europa bli oversvømmet av folk som flykter fra kaoset.

I det to timer lange intervjuet han ga til Bret Stephens fra Wall Street Journal utdyper han sine ideer. Han er dypt pro-amerikansk og vil være det selv om USA skulle snu ryggen til Egypt.

Sisi var to ganger på militær utdannelse i USA. Første gang i 1977:

he headed for military training in Texas and later the infantry course at Fort Benning, Ga. He returned for another extended stay in the U.S. in 2005 at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.

Recalling the two visits, he notes the difference. “The U.S. had been a community that had been living in peace and security. Before 9/11, even the military bases were open. There was almost no difference between civilian life and life on a military base. By 2005, I could feel the tightening.”

Nå står Egypt overfor de samme kreftene som rammet Tvillingtårnene: islamisme og dens mer akutte variant, IS.

Denne trusselen har vokst seg så stor at Sisi har tatt mål av seg til å stanse den. Han arrangerer et toppmøte i Den arabiske liga i Kairo. Der vil han forsøke å stable på bena en all-arabisk styrke som kan bekjempe jihadistene.

Later this month, Mr. Sisi will host an Arab League summit, the centerpiece of which will be a joint Arab antiterrorism task force. He says he won’t put Egyptian boots on the ground to fight ISIS in Iraq, which he says is a job for Iraqis with U.S. help. And he takes care to avoid mentioning Iran’s regional ambitions or saying anything critical of its nuclear negotiations, which he says he supports while adding that “I understand the concern of the Israelis.”

But he does say the new force is needed “to preserve what is left” of the stable Arab world. In particular, he stresses that “there shouldn’t be any arrangements at the expense of the Gulf states. The security of the Gulf states is indispensable for the security of Egypt.”

Sisi har flere budskap til det liberale Vesten: De som kritiserer ham forstår ikke hva som kommer først. Først må det skapes orden. Liberale anlegger en amerikansk eller europeisk målestokk. Det gir ikke mening.

“You can’t imagine that as an American. You are speaking the language of a country that is at the top of progress: cultural, financial, political, civilizational—it’s all there in the U.S.” But if American standards were imposed on Egypt, he adds, it would do his country no favors.

“I talk about U.S. values of democracy and freedom. They should be honored. But they need the atmosphere where those values can be nurtured. If we can bring prosperity we can safeguard those values not just in words.”

I tillegg må økonomien styrkes. 90 millioner innbyggere trenger infrastruktur. Stephens kunne tatt opp demografien: Hvordan skal Egypt kunne holde tritt med befolkningsveksten? Egypt har ikke sjanse til å skape nok arbeidsplasser. Det gir islamistene fruktbar mark å rekruttere fra.

Økonomi og ytringsfrihet henger også sammen i et skjørt samfunn som det egyptiske:

“In the last four years our internal debt doubled to $300 billion. Do not separate my answer to the question regarding disappointed liberals. Their country needs to survive. We don’t have the luxury to fight and feud and take all our time discussing issues like that. A country needs security and order for its mere existence. If the world can provide support I will let people demonstrate in the streets day and night.”

Mens liberale land er raske til å kritisere Egypt for manglende frihet, er de i liten grad selvkritiske. Vestlige land befridde Libya for Gaddafi, men tok ikke ansvar etterpå.

“Look, NATO had a mission in Libya and its mission was not accomplished,” he says. The U.N. continues to impose an arms embargo on Libya that adversely affects the legitimate, non-Islamist government based in Tobruk while “armed militias obtain an unstoppable flow of arms and munitions.”

“I wasn’t with the Gadhafi regime,” he says, “but there is a difference between taking an action and being aware of what that action will bring about. The risks of extremism and terrorism weren’t clear in the minds of the U.S. and Europe. It is really dangerous if countries lose control because extremists will cause them problems beyond their imagination.” The same lesson, he emphasizes, applies to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Det er en velment kritikk. Men Vesten har fått en mye høyere terskel for å intervenere i anarkiet i muslimske land. Man velger tilskuerens rolle. Det er ikke sikkert det er holdbart i det lange løp, ikke når jihadistene har gjort Europa til sin valplass.

Da kan det være at en leder som al-Sisi vinner større forståelse for sitt syn.

Han mener Vesten, les: USA, ikke kan løpe fra sitt ansvar.

I Norge hører vi mye om ansvaret for å ta imot flere flyktninger, men lite om ansvaret for å skape ordnede forhold. Tvert imot, mediene og mange NGO’er, har drevet en vedvarende kampanje mot vestlig engasjement i muslimske land. Det kan være det vil endre seg.

“The United States has the strength, and with might comes responsibility,” he says. “That is why it is committed and has responsibilities toward the whole world. It is not reasonable or acceptable that with all that might the United States will not be committed and have responsibilities toward the Middle East. The Middle East is passing through the most difficult and critical time and this will only entail more involvement, not less.”

Det aller vanskeligste er å forandre religionens plass i samfunnet. Sisi har tatt et oppgjør med islamismen. Han hevder islam må bli en religon igjen, ikke en politisert sådan. Den må slutte å bry seg.

In January Mr. Sisi went before the religious clerics of Cairo’s Al-Azhar university to demand a “revolution” in Islam. The follow-through won’t be easy. “The most difficult thing to do is change a religious rhetoric and bring a shift in how people are used to their religion,” he says. “Don’t imagine the results will be seen in a few months or years. Radical misconceptions [about Islam] were instilled 100 years ago. Now we can see the results.”

That’s not to say he doesn’t think it’s doable. “Popular sympathy with the idea of religion was dominating the whole scene in Egypt for years in the past. This does not exist anymore. This is a change I consider strategic. Because what brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power was Egyptian sympathy with the concept of religion. Egyptians believed that the Muslim Brothers were advocates of the real Islam. The past three years have been a critical test to those people who were promoting religious ideas. Egyptians experienced it totally and said these people do not deserve sympathy and we will not allow it.”

Dette er nye toner. Hvilke andre ledere i Midtøsten har ytret seg slik?

“Religion is guarded by its spirit, by its core, not by human beings. Human beings only take the core and deviate it to the right or left.”

Does he mean to say, I ask, that members of the Muslim Brotherhood are bad Muslims? “It’s the ideology, the ideas,” he replies.

“The real Islamic religion grants absolute freedom for the whole people to believe or not believe. Never does Islam dictate to kill others because they do not believe in Islam. Never does it dictate that [Muslims] have the right to dictate [their beliefs] to the whole world. Never does Islam say that only Muslims will go to paradise and others go to hell.”

Dette er en fredelig islam, en resten av verden kan leve med. Det kan være at Sisi har funnet noe verden leter etter.