At the White House on Tuesday, President Trump rightly doubled down on President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt.

Yes, Sisi is a dictator who has little regard for the rights of his people. He is not a natural American Arab ally like Jordanian King Abdullah II. But Sisi's government does assist three critical United States interests: countering Islamic terrorist groups, promoting regional stability, and limiting Russian influence.

This doesn't mean the U.S. should just ignore Sisi's excesses. His detention of thousands of political prisoners and journalists is morally wrong. Moreover, it degrades his own interest in attracting foreign direct investment. We should make that case repeatedly, if in private. Sisi's state security organs have also used indiscriminate force, helping his Salafi-Jihadist enemies' recruitment narratives. And the Egyptian economy also remains defined by the cronyism of oligarchs who control market entry and competition.

Trump should push Sisi to address these issues in his own interest. But Sisi's close relationship with America must also be considered in our interest.

Let's start with counterterrorism cooperation. As with its Jordanian counterpart, Egypt's General Intelligence Directorate service actively infiltrates terrorist groups and disrupts their plots against America and the west. These agencies retain close relationships and intelligence sharing protocols with their U.S. counterparts. While the Egyptian army could use more measured force, they have taken the fight to ISIS strongholds. And they deserve our respect for the casualties they have taken in these fights. Does this matter for America? Yes. ISIS in the Sinai has massacred Egyptian Christians and Sufi Muslims, brought down an international airliner, and plotted transnational attacks. Sisi's energetic confrontation of the group and other Salafi-Jihadists serves American and international security.

How about Sisi's impact on regional stability?

Well, here, Sisi has fostered deeper links with Israel while wisely maintaining influence over Hamas. This has allowed him to mitigate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and push back against Qatari and Iranian efforts to the contrary. Because of geography and relationships, only Egypt can play this constructive role. Sisi has also actively deterred Iran against attacks on the Sunni monarchies. Thanks to Sisi, Egypt is now overtly aligned with the U.S. regional security umbrella.

Then there's Russia. In the hedging of Obama administration support for Sisi, the Egyptian leader moved closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin. As evidenced by a Sisi-Putin strategic partnership agreement in October 2018, this is a continuing concern that matters for U.S. interests. Russia's Middle Eastern policy centers on playing off regional factions in competition for Putin's influence in their favor. That will mean more insecurity in the Middle East, more terrorism, and disrupted U.S. interests. Consolidating Sisi in a pro-American corner will obstruct Putin's effort to pull him under Moscow's control. But that requires Trump to show Sisi that he is a reliable ally.

There's one final issue here. Namely, that even if Sisi is an imperfect ally and leader, it's not as if there are better alternatives for Egypt. Take the leadership record of the man Sisi replaced, Mohammed Morsi. Morsi acted against U.S. interests in significant ways. He purged the military and intelligence leaderships of pro-American officers, and supported Hamas and other intransigent Islamic extremist movements. Before he was deposed, Morsi also took dramatic actions to insulate the Muslim Brotherhood from independent judicial scrutiny and political threat. He may have originally been elected, but by the end of his presidency, Morsi was simply a proxy for increasingly authoritarian Islamist domination of the Egyptian state and society. Incidentally or not, he also presided over the growth of Salafi-Jihadist groups in the Sinai.

So yes, the U.S. must cajole Sisi to open his society to more democratic governance and the advance of the rule of law. But U.S. interests demand that we be realistic and patient here. To push Sisi in ways he is currently unwilling to go is to push him against America. We should support him in our own interest.