Egypt’s El-Sisi, like Trump, puts his country up for sale
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi | AP

General Abdelfattah El-Sisi, the autocratic dictator of Egypt and good friend of Donald Trump, has more in common with the president of the U.S. than his autocratic methods. Like Trump, he has been putting his country’s vital resources and national interests up for sale in order to enrich himself and serve his corporate and foreign benefactors.

Sisi, the leader of the 2013 military coup who became president, has given up a great part of Egypt’s rights and sovereignty over land, maritime, and other national resources. He does it to benefit foreign and corporate interests who, in turn, line his pockets and legitimize his rule. (His actions bring to mind Trump’s selling off of public land to mining companies and his selling of foreign policy decisions for money and favors from foreign actors such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.)

Sisi’s voluntary concessions have had serious consequences for both Egyptian national security and income. Like other dictators, Sisi has made these concessions without following democratic norms. He never seeks approval even from Egypt’s fake “coup parliament.”

What he has done regarding the islands of Tiran and Sanafir, the Mediterranean Sea natural gas fields, and Chios Island are just a few examples of how he has put Egypt up for sale.

The two islands of Tiran and Sanafir lie southeast of the Sinai Peninsula at the northern end of the Red Sea, six miles away from the port of Sharm El-Sheikh. The sea around the islands is rich in coral reefs and sea life, making it a popular destination for divers and tourists, but the islands are also strategically important because they command the straits to the Gulf of Aqaba, along Egypt’s eastern border. On August 17, 2017, General Sisi signed a maritime boundaries agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. According to this agreement, he gave up the two islands to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The giveaway was a direct violation of the Egyptian Supreme Court judgment of Jan. 16, 2017 that ruled the islands were, beyond doubt, Egypt’s.

Sisi’s gift to Saudi Arabia resulted in Egypt’s loss of many rights and privileges. The country lost ownership of and sovereignty over a large part of its territorial waters.

Specifically, Egypt lost control of the Strait of Tiran, denying it the right to regulate access to the country by an important sea route in case of attack or some other type of emergency that might require intervention in the strait.

Because of Sisi’s unilateral action Egypt lost control over the Gulf of Aqaba and lost navigation rights through the Red Sea.

His unilateral action essentially ceded Egyptian control over the borders of the Sinai Peninsula. This exposes the region to the smuggling of illegal drugs and weapons into Egypt, which increases the threat of terrorism.

The Sisi giveaways result in Israel gaining unconditional access to the Red Sea. This allows the establishment of two potential Israeli projects that would endanger both Egyptian security and wealth, namely the Ashdod Railway and the Ashdod Canal. These projects will allow connection of the southern Israeli port of Eilat on the Red Sea with its northern port of Ashdod. These projects will create alternatives for international trade that replace the Suez Canal.

Losing both the strategic and economic value of the Suez Canal, which is one of the most important sources of Egypt’s national income, would be of enormous benefit to Saudi Arabia, Israel and western corporate oil interests.

With similar disregard for Egyptian security, Sisi signed a maritime boundaries agreement with Cyprus. This agreement reduced the size of Egyptian national waters in the Mediterranean Sea. Sisi ceded control over the natural gas fields of Samson, Aphrodite, and Leviathan. These fields lie in areas around Eratosthenes Mountain which has been under Egyptian control since 200 B.C.! The fields yield an annual profit of $200 billion now lost to Egypt.

Chios Island is still another example. The island’s strategic location and boundaries with the Aegean Sea, Chios Strait, and the Mediterranean Sea give it a great economic and historical value. The Island has many monuments from different civilizations. Chios Island is considered an open museum that attracts tourists from around the world. The Island was owned by and under the sovereignty of Egypt until it was rented to Greece in 1997 for $1 million a year with built-in annual rent increases of 10 percent. Sisi signed a maritime boundaries agreement with Greece, in which he conceded Chios Island to Greece.

To sum up, General Abdelfattah El-Sisi has been conceding Egyptian land and maritime borders, including natural resources, causing Egypt strategic and economic losses that impact on both the country’s national security and economy. Like any other dictator, Sisi has done this outside the country’s laws and without any concern for the Egyptian constitution. Sisi does so to obtain international legitimacy for the coup he led against Egypt’s newborn democracy. The beneficiaries are corporate and international interests who have anything but the interests of the majority of the people in the countries involved. And the big beneficiary is, of course, Sisi himself.

The question is what other concessions will Sisi make to try to legitimize the attack on democracy he is waging against the people of Egypt?


Aboulfotouh Kandil
Aboulfotouh Kandil

Aboulfotouh Kandil is a freelance writer on socio-political issues and human rights with a main focus on the Middle East.