Demonstrators let it be know their choice is Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the head of Egypt's military, during a rally in Giza.

Story highlights

Republicans praise tough Egyptian line on radical Islam

Potential 2016 GOP candidates use Sisi comments as cudgel against Obama

Comments mark latest twist in diplomatic dance between Washington and Cairo

Washington CNN  — 

He ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected president in a coup, crushed political dissent, let foreign journalists languish in jail and just jabbed the U.S. by greeting Vladimir Putin as a hero.

Yet Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is fast becoming the favorite Middle East strongman of American conservatives and Republican presidential hopefuls.

Jeb Bush says he can’t understand why the White House has told Sisi “you’re not on our team” as jihadism spreads like wildfire through the Middle East. Ted Cruz, another GOP 2016 pretender has also praised him, and key conservative media figures are lionizing Sisi.

The rush of affection for the former Army Chief contrasts with the strained relationship between Sisi and the White House, reflected in the Obama administration’s decision not to publicly back air strikes by Egypt on a common enemy – ISIS – in Libya this week.