Apr 21, 2017

How Trump's approach to Egypt freed Hijazi when Obama failed

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Kiichiro Sato/AP

Aya Hijazi was the face of Egypt's crackdown on civil society while imprisoned the last three years, and now she's the face of two drastically different approaches to freeing American prisoners and foreign policy.

Why it matters: America is putting security cooperation in the Middle East first, a significant change from years of balancing military partnerships and showcasing a commitment to human rights.

Former President Obama temporarily stopped delivering weapons to Egypt in 2013, and later provided military vehicles and $1.3 billion annually in an attempt to pressure President el-Sisi to release prisoners. He refused to invite el-Sisi to the White House, showing his refusal to work with an administration that oversaw human rights violations. But the Obama administration remained largely quiet during the time Hijazi was held.

President Trump hosted el-Sisi at the White House earlier this month, which was seen as crucial leverage to shifting relations with Egypt. Trump had direct conversations with el-Sisi, who oversaw Hijazi's return home. The administration praised el-Sisi's leadership efforts, and is open to being allies in the fight against ISIS in the Middle East.

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