Shortly after the “East-West: The Art of Dialogue” event on October 30 in Washington D.C., Reps. Jim Moran (D-VA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) sat down with Alhurra correspondent Mohamed Hussin Nassar to discuss the Middle East.
During his interview, Rep. Moran suggested that Egyptian General el-Sisi run for president of Egypt, because it “legitimizes his government and it enables us to continue funding Egypt without restriction.” He urged el-Sisi to formally ask the Egyptian people to vote for him, instead of taking power from the ousted President Morsi. “The precedent of supporting a government that achieves power through, what is in essence a military coup, while we don’t disagree with the results, we can’t be comfortable with the process,” stated Rep. Moran.
Both men addressed the U.S.’s relationship with Egypt. Rep. Engel stated that the U.S./Egyptian relationship must remain strong, commenting, “Egypt has a lot of friends in the United States Congress, including me, and I want to see relations with Egypt and the United States the same way they have been for the past 40 years. Two friends, two allies, two countries that work together, that need each other, that trust each other, that rely on each other.”
However, Rep. Moran cautioned, “the fact is, the Egyptian military gains much of its strength, its professionalism from support it has gotten over the last generation from the American government. This rift can be healed and we need to do so immediately.”
On the issue of Iran, Rep. Moran suggested the U.S. take President Rohani at his word and said that the new Iranian president wants a moderate stance. He also addressed the Saudi reaction to U.S. and Iranian overtures, “So I want to open up Iran, so the Saudis are upset. The Saudi’s need to, frankly, get over it. Because they have their interests too, and it is threatened by the Shia and the best thing the Saudis could do is to restrain some of the extremism that largely got its start within Saudi Arabia.”
Rep Engel remarked that the U.S. Congress feels strongly that Iran is not allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. He stated, “I know that many countries in the Middle East, including Egypt, feel the same way. If Iran were to get a nuclear weapon there would be many other countries that would want one, and it would start an arms race which is not good for anything. We’ll know very shortly, very soon, whether or not the Iranians are serious or not. I have my doubts, but I think it is always better to talk and to try to see if there could be some kind of agreement.”
Both men spoke at the East-West’s celebration of the completion of the first class of Gabr Fellows. The Fellows included young adults from the U.S. and Egypt that traveled together to both countries promote cross-cultural understanding between their Egypt and America.