TIME Egypt

After the Revolution: Sitting Down With Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi

Abdul Fattah al-Sisi
Peter Hapak for TIME President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt in New York City on Sept. 23, 2014

In one of his first interviews with the U.S. press, Egypt's President pushes for a wider war on terror in the Middle East

A shorter version of this interview appeared in the Oct. 6 edition of TIME magazine:

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi won an election in May — but the former army chief has been essentially in charge of the country since ousting Egypt’s first democratically elected President, Mohamed Morsi, last summer. Al-Sisi remains mostly popular at home, where he is pushing reforms to jump-start Egypt’s moribund economy. But he’s been criticized for his crackdowns on Morsi’s Islamist supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood and on journalists and free speech in Egypt.

In one of his first interviews in the U.S., al-Sisi spoke with TIME on Sept. 23 about the America’s war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), Egypt’s economy and the influence of Islam in his life.

On U.S. action against ISIS: Imagine what would happen if you leave it without action. We still need more effort — it should not be limited to Iraq and ISIS. This is a threat not just to the Middle East but to the whole world … I want to be clear with you that this ideology constitutes a problem. There’s a fine line between extremism and killing. If we hadn’t saved Egypt, there would have been a major problem created. The U.S. did not pay attention to that.

On ousting Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood: You dealt with the developments in Egypt as a movement by the military. But the military was not thinking of making a coup. It was the Egyptian people who demanded that change of identity … A country like Egypt caught in a vicious cycle of extremism would be a threat to the whole world. The U.S. would have felt the need to destroy Egypt.

We have been fighting terrorism in the Sinai [Peninsula] for a year and four months. If the Muslim Brotherhood had been in office for another year, Sinai would have become something like Tora Bora [in Afghanistan]. It would have been civil war in Egypt. Egyptians wouldn’t have stood still, [and] on the other side, the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were ready to fight.

On Egypt’s domestic challenges: Egypt has not faced problems of this scale for over 40 years. [We have] striking poverty, unemployment, idleness of the young people. This is fertile soil for problems. Our population growth is 2.6 million people a year. In 10 years time, we expect to have 30 million people more. This is a reason for the revolution in Egypt. They want change and to move forward to a brighter future. Unfortunately, Morsi did not deal with the magnitude of the problems. The government alone in Egypt won’t be able to tackle all of the problems, [but] Egypt cannot afford to fail. Two revolutions is more than enough.

On the future of the Muslim Brotherhood: Our first elections were free and fair. The result of that free choice was the Muslim Brotherhood and the Muslim Brotherhood was accepted. But I say that in any election to be held [in the future] the Muslim Brotherhood will not be fortunate to have a share.

On the risks of foreign jihadists in the battle against terrorism: Watch out for your citizens who join jihad. When they come back to their communities, they will pursue the same practices. This is why we can’t just limit the effort to the military. The actions taken over the past year are not enough to terminate this … No one country is immune to this ideology. The foreign fighters will come back to your country. I’m afraid it will be disastrous.

On the role of Islam in his life: I simply represent moderate Islam. I’m concerned about the challenges of poverty and ignorance in the Muslim world. I can’t be against Islam — I consider myself a devout Muslim — but the reality poses a challenge.

TIME Environment

See the Worst Place to Breathe in America

It's not Los Angeles

If you think about smog, you’re probably picturing a major city like Los Angeles, where in the 1960s and ’70s the air was so bad that smog alerts telling people to avoid outdoor activity were regular occurrences. The air has improved in L.A. and other big cities in recent years, thanks to cleaner cars and air-pollution regulation.

But the real capital of air pollution in the U.S. is a farming city that sits to the northwest of L.A.: Bakersfield.

Bakersfield is in the San Joaquin Valley, a major agricultural area that stretches through much of California. The San Joaquin Valley contains some of the richest, most productive agricultural land in the country. But its geography — the valley is surrounded on all sides by mountains — creates a bowl that traps air pollution. Levels of soot and ozone — which in warm weather, which the valley has much of the year, can create smog — are some of the highest in the country. And while air in much of the U.S. has improved, in Bakersfield and other towns in the southern San Joaquin Valley, the air quality is as bad as ever — if not worse.

How bad? School officials in Bakersfield have used colored flags to indicate air quality: green for good, yellow for moderate, orange for unhealthy for sensitive groups and red for unhealthy for all groups. But this winter, the air became so bad that officials had to use a new color on the worst days: purple, even worse than red. Because of high levels of air pollution, asthma is prominent throughout the region, and the bad air can also raise levels of respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

Photographer Lexey Swall grew up in Bakersfield, and in this collection of photographs, she shows the human cost of living in one of the most polluted cities in the country. For Bakersfield residents, there’s simply no room to breathe.

TIME Travel

Tokyo: What to See and What to Skip

There's nowhere else quite like Tokyo, so here's what you need to know to plan your visit

Frederic Soltan—CorbisAerial view of Tokyo and its Tower from the World Trade Center Building. April 2014

What is it about Tokyo that can make visitors feel as if the city belongs not in another country, but on another planet? Perhaps it’s the schizophrenia at the heart of what was once Edo—stately, tree-lined Omotesando giving way to the pinball frenzy of Shibuya, Tomorrowland Shinjunku meeting the timeless Meiji Jingu shrine. Tokyo contains multitudes, which we mean literally—the metro are is home to more than 35 million people, and on a muggy day in August you can feel nearly every one of them. Forget about navigating above ground—even the taxi drivers are dependent on GPS. But there is truly no other place on Earth—or elsewhere—like it, and those who can endure the over-stimulus will find themselves drawn back again and again.

  • What to see:

    -Meiji Jingu (1-1 Yoyogi-Kamizono-cho, Shibuya-ku. Meijijingu.or.jp): Tokyo doesn’t have many green spaces, which is a serious problem for a recreational runner. So you can imagine my pleasure on one of my first days there when I found a shady green park not far from where I was staying in Shibuya. Just one problem: the park housed Meiji Jingu, one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan, and the white-gloved Japanese policeman who began whistling furiously at me was not happy to see a sweaty gaijin lumbering into a sacred space. Provided you’re not working out, however, Meiji Jingu is a rare oasis of tranquility amid the constant buzz of Tokyo.

    Edo-Tokyo Museum
    Angelo Hornak—CorbisEdo-Tokyo Museum in Tokyo, Japan.

    -Edo-Tokyo Museum (1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku; edo-tokyo-museum.or.jp): Today Tokyo is the center of Japan, home to about a quarter of the country’s population, but that reign is relatively recent. The city was founded in the 1600s as Edo, the seat of the shoguns (as opposed to the emperor, who reigned in Kyoto to the southwest). This museum details ordinary life in the city from the time of the shoguns through the firebombing during WWII to today, giving a sense of history to a city that sometimes seems to live in a perpetual present. As a bonus, the museum is located in the Ryogoku neighborhood, home to the main sumo-wrestling arena.

    -Tokyo Skytree (1-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida-ku; www.tokyo-skytree.jp/en): Visitors who believe Tokyo is a vertically-aligned, Blade Runner-esque city of skyscrapers are surprised to find that most of the capital is made up of squat buildings rarely more than a few stories high. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t towers, and at 2,080 ft., the new Tokyo Skytree is the tallest freestanding tower in the world. While the top-viewing level is only 1,480 ft. above the ground, that’s more than enough height to get a view of Tokyo’s endless sprawl.

  • What not to see:

    J
    Yuya Shino—Reuters/CorbisPedestrians walk past a show window of a clothing store at Harajuku shopping district in Tokyo February 28, 2014.

    -Harajuku: The origin point of Japan’s youthquake, the Harajuku neighborhood was played out back when Gwen Stefani appropriated Japanese girl street style for her 2004 song “Harajuku Girls.” You can still check out the pedestrian-only Takeshita Dori if you want to find an overpriced designer T-shirt, but you’d be better off strolling nearby Omotesando, one of the few tree-lined boulevards in Tokyo.

     

  • Where to eat and drink:

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    Greg Elms—Getty ImagesDetail of sushi at Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market.

    -Sushi Dai (5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo): It may be clichéd, but you can’t go to Tokyo without stopping by the Tsukiji fish market, where the daily catch that will find its way to sushi plates around the city is auctioned off early in the morning. Get the freshest of the fresh at nearby Sushi Dai, where you’ll discover that raw fish makes for a surprisingly good breakfast.

    -Gonpachi (1-13-11 Nishi Azabu, Minato-ku): If the cavernous Gonpachi looks familiar, that’s because it is said to have inspired the Tokyo restaurant where Uma Thurman slices through the Crazy-88s at the end of the first Kill Bill. But Gonpachi isn’t just about the scenery—it serves dressed up izakaya food, popular in Japanese pubs, and was good enough for former President George W. Bush when he visited Japan in 2002.

    -New York Bar (Park Hyatt Hotel, 3-7-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku): Tokyo is a barfly’s delight, with drinking establishments that range from back-alley beer joints to cocktail lounges where your whiskey comes with perfectly spherical balls of ice. The New York Bar is more the latter—you’ll recognize it from the 2003 film Lost in Translation—and it’s not cheap. But you can’t put a price on the view from the top of the Park Hyatt Hotel.

  • Where not to eat or drink:

    148631016
    Greg Elms—Lonely Planet Images/Getty ImagesA bar in the Roppongi district, Tokyo.

    -Roppongi: This seedy district has been the foreigner’s first stop in Tokyo since American occupiers set up shop there after World War II. Roppongi has its own kind of charm, if your thing is loud bars, expensive drinks and nights that end after sunrise. It’s not as dangerous as it’s often made out to be—though there are occasional reports of spiked drinks and inflated bar tabs—and the sheer frenzy of the neighborhood makes it worth visiting once. But only once.

  • Where to stay:

    The Park Hyatt Hotel, location of the film Lost in Translation, and busy traffic at night, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, Asia
    Christian Kober—Robert Harding World Imagery/CorbisThe Park Hyatt Hotel, location of the film Lost in Translation, in Tokyo, Japan.

    -Park Hyatt Hotel (Park Hyatt Hotel, 3-7-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku): If you’re coming for the New York Bar, why not cut down the commute and stay a night? Possibly the price—even the least expensive rooms cost nearly $500 a day. But the Park Hyatt is the rare landmark in Tokyo—a city that has been lacking in great international hotels—that has stood the test of time, even before it was immortalized in film. And if you can swim, don’t miss a dip in the sky pool, on the 47th floor of the hotel, which has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city.

TIME remembrance

Goodbye Jim Frederick: Writer, Editor, Mentor, Friend

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Peter Hapak for TIME Jim Frederick

TIME Senior Editor Bryan Walsh reflects on the life of former TIME Editor Jim Frederick, who passed away Thursday at the age of 42. Read some of Jim's most memorable work below.

When a writer dies young—and Jim Frederick, who died Thursday in Oakland at 42, was very young—we mourn the work that will never be. As a writer and editor at Money and TIME magazine, Jim produced penetrating stories about whatever caught his attention. While TIME’s Tokyo bureau chief in 2005, he co-wrote the autobiography of Charles Jenkins, an American soldier who wandered across the de-militarized zone during the Korean War, and who was held captive for half a century. It was the story every reporter in Japan wanted to get—filling in for him in Tokyo while he wrote the book, I used to field calls from Japanese TV networks desperate to interview him—and Jim had it. He always did.

As a writer he’ll be remembered for his masterpiece, the Iraq war book Black Hearts. The Guardian called it the best book to come out of the conflict, no small feat as bookshelves groan from volumes of memoir, reportage and fiction gleaned from those years and that place. Black Hearts stands apart, and as time passes its stature will only grow—particularly, I think, among those who fought in Iraq. My younger brother, an Army officer and Ranger who served in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, called Black Hearts the truest thing to come out of that war. Despite the fact that the book detailed some of the blackest deeds done by American soldiers in Iraq, veterans thought highly of Black Hearts, a fact that I know Jim was rightly proud of.

Black Hearts Excerpt: Crimes in Iraq’s “Triangle of Death”

Some of the mental states that the men described are well documented by psychologists studying the effect of combat on soldiers. The men talked about desensitization, how numbed they were to the violence. They passed around short, graphic, computer-video compilations of collected combat kills and corpses found in Iraq. Iraqis were not seen as humans. Many soldiers actively cultivated the dehumanization of locals as a secret to survival. “You can’t think of these people as people,” opined Sergeant Tony Yribe, another member of 1st Platoon. “If I see this old lady and say, ‘Ah, she reminds me of grandmother,’ but then she pulls out a f___ing bomb, I’m not going to react right.” Children were considered insurgents or future insurgents, and women were little more than insurgent factories.

But for those who knew Jim, the loss of the work is secondary. Even more than his prodigious abilities as a reporter, a writer and an editor, Jim had an enormous talent for friendship, which is why so many people, in so many places, are bereft today. It was hard enough—impossible, really—to replace Jim as a journalist when I succeeded him as TIME’s Tokyo bureau chief in 2006, when he moved to London to work as an editor for the magazine. But as a person—forget it. Jim was a born connector, the life of the party in all the best ways. If any friend or colleague passed through the city Jim was living in—London, Tokyo, New York—it was an occasion to be celebrated. He made sure it was big, and he made sure it was fun.

Black Hearts Excerpt: The Downward Spiral of Private Steven Green

Twenty-one-year-old Steven Green was one of the weirdest men in the company. He was an okay soldier when he wanted to be, but the oddest thing about him was that he never stopped talking. And the stuff that came out of his mouth was some of the most outrageous, racist invective many of the men had ever heard. Green could discourse on any number of topics, but they usually involved hate in some way, including how Hitler should be admired, how “white culture” was under threat in multi-ethnic America, and how much he wanted to kill every last Iraqi on the planet. He would go on and on and on like this until somebody literally would have to order him to shut up.

For younger colleagues, like myself, Jim was a big brother. Not long after he moved to Hong Kong to work as a writer for TIME in 2002, Jim took me out to lunch, something that at the time utterly baffled me. I was an awkwardly introverted 24-year-old reporter who’d been at the magazine for less than a year; I knew next to nothing about anything. But Jim asked me about what I thought, why I’d gotten into journalism, what I wanted to do with my career—things, looking back, that no one in my life had ever really asked me. In Tokyo, in London, and in New York, where Jim would return after writing Black Hearts, he would do the same for countless others journalists, serving as a mentor and as a role model. When Jim took over as the international editor of TIME in 2011, I asked for a transfer to that side of the magazine, almost solely for the chance to work with Jim. I’m glad I did.

Special Ops: The Hidden World of America’s Toughest Warriors Excerpt: How Mavericks Reinvented the Military

The first time most Americans heard the name Stanley McChrystal was in mid-2009, when President Obama promoted him to four-star general and commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan. The appointment took many in Washington by surprise too: Stanley who? McChrystal was not a man accustomed to the schmoozing rituals of the Beltway. But national security cognoscenti knew exactly who he was: a killer. Having just completed a five-year stint as the chief of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which oversees America’s most secret military units, like SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force, Stan McChrystal was the quintessential black-ops warrior. McChrystal was one of a new generation of military leaders who became top commanders in the post-9/11 era and completed the transition from a military run by Cold Warriors like Norman Schwarzkopf, Tommy Franks, and Colin Powell to one focused on terrorism and the so-called small wars that prevail today.

It wasn’t easy being a journalist of Jim’s generation, coming at a time when staffs were far and large, and then seeing it all change. But he was never daunted. I remember being in Austin with Jim in 2013, shortly after he had decided to leave TIME. He talked about his desire to try something new, to take advantage of the changes happening to our profession. He and his wife Charlotte, whom he met in London when both were TIME editors, were putting that plan into action when they settled in San Francisco, where they launched Hybrid Vigor Media. I regret that I won’t get to see the next phase of Jim’s amazing career, to see his next step. But I’ll miss him more.

More by Jim Frederick: A Lone Madman or a Broken System?

TIME Environment

Florida’s Attempt to Ban This Fish Has Virtually No Chance of Working

A winged lionfish at the Beijing Aquarium on May 30, 2012.
Mark Ralston—AFP/Getty Images A winged lionfish at the Beijing Aquarium on May 30, 2012.

Why the lionfish is here to stay

If you were trying to create the perfect invasive aquatic species, a fish capable of out-eating and out-breeding anything it comes across, chances are you wouldn’t be able to improve upon the lionfish. The spiny, venomous fish can produce up to 15,000 eggs every four days, and feed voraciously on small fish, invertebrates and mollusks. They also tend to have a hostile territorial attitude to other reef fish and scuba divers alike. Introduce a lionfish into a coastal coral reef, and it can quickly clear the habitat of any competitors.

Since the lionfish—which is native to Indo-Pacific waters—was accidentally introduced off Florida in the 1980s or 1990s, that’s exactly what has happened. The lionfish has been identified as a major threat through the coastal waters of the Atlantic, from North Carolina to the Caribbean. There have been sponsored lionfish derbies, underwater hunts where divers stalk the invasive fish, and restaurants have even tried to make an industry out of harvesting the lionfish, serving them to diners. (They’re not bad, provided you remove the poisonous spikes.)

And starting on Aug.1, Florida will no longer allow the importation of invasive lionfish—though that might seem like closing the barn door after the horse has left, given that the first lionfish introduced into the Atlantic likely came from aquarium, and the population has since exploded. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will also allow lionfish to be hunted by divers equipped with a rebreather, a machine that recycles oxygen so that divers can remain below the surface for much longer. That might help divers spear a few extra lionfish, but given that a female can produce as many as 2 million eggs in a year, divers will need to be awfully busy to keep up.

The reality is, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said, “it is unlikely that the lionfish invasion can be reversed.” Which means divers should get used to the sight of the striped-lion fish, fins open like a sail, patrolling its new territory. That’s the challenge of responding to invasive species—there is no cure. There is only prevention.

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