About the delegation
Washington, D.C., September 27, 2013 – On Tuesday, October 1, at 9:00am in the Winners Room of the National Press Club, the leaders of an American delegation of Middle East and counterterrorism experts – most of whom are former U.S. military officers – held a press conference to discuss findings and policy recommendations based on a September 27-30 visit to Cairo that included meetings with Egyptian Minister of Defense el-Sisi, Egyptian military leaders, the head of Egypt’s constitution-drafting body and several leaders of various faiths.
This was the only delegation of U.S. experts on the Middle East, counter-terrorism and democracy development to have met with Minister el-Sisi and other leaders of the Egyptian government since former President Morsi was removed on July 3rd.
The delegation was sponsored by The Westminster Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan think-tank established in response to the growing threat of ideological extremism and to the perceived need to better understand and engage in the war of ideas. The Institute, which does not accept any government funds, works with the U.S. military, FBI, local law enforcement, NCTC, and DHS, as well as with the State Department and Congress.
WHAT: Press Conference On Findings & Policy Recommendations From Westminster Institute’s Delegation Visit to Egypt On Sep. 27-30
WHO: Delegation leaders, including:
- Lt. Col. Rick Francona (US Air Force, Ret.), a retired intelligence officer with extensive work throughout the Middle East and military analyst for CNN.
- Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, a former Deputy Commanding General for the U.S. Army, Pacific, Command, with expertise in Special Operations, Civil-Military Operations, and counter-terrorism.
- Col. Ken Allard (US Army, Ret.), a former Dean of the U.S. National War College and a widely known commentator on foreign policy and security issues.
- Lt. Col. Bill Cowan (Ret.), a FOX News Channel contributor and internationally acknowledged expert in the areas of terrorism, homeland security, intelligence and military special operations.
WHEN: Tuesday, October 1, 2013, 9:00 a.m. EDT
WHERE: National Press Club — The Winners Room
529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor
Washington, DC 20045
The delegation was led by Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, Chairman of the Board of the Westminster Institute, and retired Major General Paul Vallely, US Army. Other members included Tera Dahl, Westminster Institute, Dr. Sebastian Gorka of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, retired Colonel Ken Allard PhD, former Dean of the National War College, retired Lt. Colonel Rick Francona, military analyst with CNN, retired Lt. Colonel Bill Cowan and KT McFarland, both with FOX News, and Scott Taylor, former Navy SEAL.
Egypt is a key strategic partner of the United States and the most populous of the Arab nations. Its stability and prosperity are a primary concern for Americans. However, the violence in Syria as well as the budget crisis in the United States, have pushed Egypt to the sidelines at a crucial time in its own history. This lack of attention is being exploited by extremists who wish to regain control of this ancient nation. Still fragile from its recent overthrow of the Mubarak regime, Egypt is struggling with a severe downturn in its economy, a rise in violence, and an influx of foreign terrorists and weapons into the Sinai as a result of the fighting in Syria. The delegation’s visit was driven by the conviction that America must not turn its back on Cairo since the loss of Egypt would be a major victory for Al Qaeda and its allies.
The members of the delegation met with the President of the new Constitutional Committee of 50, His Excellency Amr Moussa; with His Holiness, Pope Tawadros II, Head of the Coptic Christian Church; General Abdel Fattah el Sisi, Commander of the Egyptian Armed Forces and Minster of Defense; local businessmen, and leaders from Tamarod (Rebellion) the movement whose collection of 22 million signatures led to the recent removal of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of Mohammad Morsi.
The key point of contention over Egypt today is the interpretation of the events of the summer. Did the ouster of Morsi constitute a coup or a revolution? Among those with whom the delegation met there was compelling unanimity that the Muslim Brotherhood government had thoroughly betrayed the people’s expectations for democratic rule and were serving solely their own narrow interests.
While it is true that the Muslim Brotherhood had been freely elected after Mubarak left office, in the twelve months that Morsi was President it became clear that his administration did not represent the people of Egypt but instead the religiously fundamentalist and undemocratic objectives of the Brotherhood. When Morsi issued a presidential decree that gave him unlimited powers – which could not be reviewed by any judiciary – Tamarod, a new civil movement, called the people to the streets, and Egyptians responded in the millions.
By April of this year 22 million signatures had been collected calling for Morsi’s resignation and new elections, but the President refused to recognize his loss of legitimacy. By the end of June, millions of Egyptians were on the streets again. The military, fearing a civil war, asked Morsi to call a new election, but again Morsi refused. As a result, General Sisi publicly asked the people of Egypt to come out once more as a sign of whether the government should go.
Eventually 33 million citizens took to the street, more than one third of the population, with a clear message: Morsi and his administration no longer represented the people of Egypt. Morsi was removed and his government replaced not by a military junta but by a civilian interim government of technocrats, which is today in power and which has invited representatives from across society – including the Brotherhood – to participate in drafting a new constitution. The MB has boycotted this body.
Members of the Westminster delegation were told that the new constitution would include an impeachment mechanism, since it was the absence of such a recall option that necessitated Morsi’s removal with the support of the armed forces.
Key Findings of the Delegation
·The events of July 2013 should not been seen as a coup, but as a result of the loss of popular mandate by the Brotherhood and the absence of an impeachment process.
·The interim government has the support of the majority of the Egyptian people and is therefore legitimate.
·The security of the United States and her citizens is intrinsically linked to the stability of Egypt. As a result of the events in Libya and the war in Syria, weapons and jihadists have penetrated into Egypt through the Sinai. If these groups are not neutralized then we may lose the biggest Arab state in the world, a state that has been a close ally of the US since the Camp David Accords.
·One of the foundations of the U.S./Egypt relationship is the military partnership. Since the Camp David Accords, Egypt has been modernizing its military and relying more heavily on the United States. Today, less than half of Egypt’s armed forces’ hardware is Soviet-pattern weaponry, but its reliance on Moscow and other non-American suppliers may rapidly increase unless Washington lifts its embargo on U.S. military aid and equipment.
·US-Egyptian relations must not be held hostage to a false narrative that speaks of military coup and sees the Muslim Brotherhood as just another political organization. The MB is, and always has been, committed to establishing exclusively Muslim regimes which deny the rights of minorities, especially Jews and Christians, and is defined at its core by its hatred of America and the West.
·Egypt needs America’s help to stabilize the country, defeat the jihadis and build a free Egypt. The economy is in dire straits since the main source of income, tourism, has ground to a halt as a result of misrepresentation of the truth on the ground.
Members of the delegation were available for press interviews.
Members of the Delegation at their Washington press conference Sep 3. (Rt to lt: MG Vallely, Dr Gorka, COL Allard, LTC Francona)
Alright, welcome. I am Katie Gorka, Executive Director of the Westminster Institute. The Westminster Institute was a sponsor of this delegation that went to Egypt. They arrived Friday. They had two very intensive days of meetings, which they will tell you about. The Westminster Institute, for those of you who do not know it, is a nonprofit think tank based in McLean, Virginia. We only take funding from private individuals and foundations and we were started five years ago out of concern for protecting the freedom and dignity of people across the globe. We have a particular concern about the rise of radical Islamist terrorism.
In the case of this delegation, we were interested in putting this together because we had a big concern about what’s been happening in Egypt. We feel that Egypt is pivotal to the United States as well as to the Middle East and the Arab world, so I’m very grateful for the extraordinary experts who went over there. I think they really deserve credit for the boot camp they’ve just been through, the travel, I don’t think they were even allowed to sleep while they were there. And with that I’m just going to introduce General Vallely.
So, the format here is General Vallely will just say a few words about their meetings. I think then each of the other participants will say a few words as well. Hopefully, a fourth member of the delegation, Sebastian Gorka, will come in and join them. He’s just signing his furlough papers and then he will be here and then we welcome you to ask questions and just would ask that before asking a question, you identify yourself. And with that, let me give it over to General Vallely.
General Paul E. Vallely:
Thank you, Katie. Well, good morning everybody. I am glad to see none of you have been furloughed or signed your furlough papers like Dr. Gorka. So the government has shut down but here we are. We are still existing and breathing and so on.
Well, we left Cairo yesterday at 4 o’clock in the morning, which meant we had to be at the airport at 2 o’clock, so we flew from Cairo to Frankfurt to here, got in last night and we’re still await. My cohort’s here: Colonel Ken, as well call him, and his bio is in there, and Rick Francona, Air Force, and a friend of General Soyster, from years back. I see some friends in the audience here, so welcome. Thank you for taking the time. We’ve had quite an experience the last three days on this trip.
Now, about six weeks ago I was inside Syria and that was quite an experience, meeting with the Free Syrian Army and then to come back and then be asked to go over to Egypt and my wife says, “What are you doing? Are you crazy?” She cannot quite figure it out yet. I said I probably am, but it has been a tremendous experience going back into the Middle East and looking at two of the hotspots over there, Syria and Egypt, has been a really enlightening experience.
I will say that you have to get on the ground in the Middle East to know what’s going on, to touch and feel people and look into their eyes and talk to them. You cannot do it from in the beltway here and all of you who, you know, watch the media every day and you get a lot of dialogue on these interviews from people that seem to be reading other peoples’ information, going on the web, but no people of solid, real boots on the ground as they like to say.
The impact agenda that we had over there was set up by Westminster and Tara Dahl, who worked on Capitol Hill, and Tara did a fine job, by the way. She really put this together. We had an opportunity to meet with a cross section of the people that participated in what we will call the second revolution over there. The first was Mubarak, and then the second revolution being of course what they call the ousting of Dr. Morsi.
So we met with the Chamber of Commerce, wonderful luncheon with them in dialogue. Leaders of the commerce in Egypt, so they were able to tell us the situation of the economy and what they’re looking forward to in the next year. We met with ambassadors, we met with academicians, professors, military political science over there.
Probably the most enlightening part were three other meetings, one day with 30-year olds who were part of the second revolution over there. The next day we met with a group of 20-year olds. I guess about twelve of them. So hearing from the youth over there of what was going on and what had happened was most revealing.
Then the day we left we had two hours with General Sisi and his staff. That is the biggest time period that he has given anybody. No other leader of any other country has been in there for more than forty-five minutes. We spent two hours and I think he wanted to spend more time with us.
It was historical what has happened and the change in government in Egypt, absolutely historical. Our government completely misread what was going on. It was not a coup. The Army assisted 33 million who protested against the Muslim Brotherhood, and what they had done, and what they were doing with the Egyptian culture and the politics over there.
So from that standpoint you have to understand how close the majority of the population is with the armed forces in Egypt. They have a relationship I have never seen in my life. It is true, it is solid. They are concerned, of course, about the perception from the West and from the United States. And I can tell you they are very upset with the United States, that we did not do our homework better, that our State Department did not do their homework better, and it sided with the Muslim Brotherhood during the protest.
We still have s great relationship with the military. Many of the generals who we met with had gone to the war colleges here, the National War College, the Army War College, Naval, Air Force. And the respect they still have – I want to make that clear, they respect the American people, but they cannot figure out what our government is doing and why they are doing it.
What we had hoped to accomplish over there was to listen a lot, understand what had happened in the last year in Egypt, and to bring back that message to the American people from their eyes. I say that because they are tired of I guess the United States as they see the rest of the world, trying to push our values, push everything in our eyes on other people. They would really want to say look at it from our perspective, be there with us and look, and then you can make your analysis.
I discussed with Ken this morning and Rick some of the key words from the impressions I received over there. Number one, the humility of these people. I found the same thing with the Syrian Generals who had defected. The amount of humility that they have between each other, no arrogance, very sincere about what they are doing and how they are doing it, but very unsettled with the support that they have not gotten from say, the United States and other Western countries.
So historical is another word. What had happened in Egypt has not been done. I cannot remember historically the change of government that has been done this way. You have to remember that they had no impeachment in their constitution. They did not have an impeachment vehicle. They will be putting that into their new constitution, which they are working on.
And we met with the Ambassador who is in charge of rewriting the Constitution. It has pretty much been done. They hope to have it finished and out after the first of the year. But they have gone to the people and said what do you want in our constitution? They have gone to the young people. They have young people absolutely sitting on their board of about fifty-eight who are working on this new constitution for Egypt. So that is sort of an overview. We are happy you could be here today. Ken?
Col. Ken Allard:
Thank you, sir. First of all I must thank the Westminster Institute for giving us this incredible chance to do what we did for the last three days. It was amazing. I mean I lived in this town for twenty years, so I know how the powerful give time or do not give time to people like us to have access right across the board, and Egypt was amazing. Thank you so much to the Westminster Institute for setting this thing up. It was incredible.
I will focus initially in my brief remarks on two things. We must remember I am no longer a Washingtonian, I am a Texan, okay? I come from Texas where the blondes tell Rick Perry jokes.