Egypt's Morsi Makes His Move

Winnipeg Free Press, August 14, 2012 | Go to article overview

Egypt's Morsi Makes His Move


Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's spokesman did not mince words. He said the "retirement" of all the senior military commanders in the country represented the completion of the Egyptian revolution. And guess what? The rest of the officer corps accepted Morsi's decision.

Even as the spokesman was announcing Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the defence minister, and General Sami Enan, the army chief of staff, were being retired, state television was showing other military officers, Generals Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi and Sidki Sobhi, being sworn in by President Morsi as their successors.

You could not ask for clearer evidence of the Egyptian officer corps' collective decision to accept the results of last year's popular revolution and the subsequent election that brought Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to power. Especially since the heads of the air force, air defence system and navy were removed from their posts at the same time.

Egyptian military officers are a privileged caste who enjoy a far better living standard than other government employees of comparable education and skills, but nobody (at least for the moment) is trying to take that away from them. So if their lifestyle is secure, why risk it all by attacking an elected government and bringing the mobs back out into the streets?

Egyptian officers are also, in most cases, patriots who want to see their country become a prosperous, honestly run place. They knew very well the old regime (whose remnants, like Tantawi, still controlled all the senior military posts) had failed dismally in that regard. Many were reluctant to let an Islamic party like Morsi's take full control of the country even though the voters chose it, but they now seem willing to take the chance.

Tantawi, 76 years old and defence minister for the past 20 years, was probably surprised to find himself practically alone in trying to sabotage the newly elected civilian government. He was chosen by former dictator Hosni Mubarak to keep the military on top, and he worked hard for that goal. However, most Egyptian military officers are between 30 and 50 years younger than him, and they see the world differently.

Just two months ago it looked like game, set and match to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), led by Field Marshal Tantawi, which was essentially the old regime minus its former head, Hosni Mubarak.

Only 48 hours before the results of the presidential election were to be announced last June, the Supreme Constitutional Court (whose judges were all appointed by the old regime) issued a decree dissolving the parliament that was elected eight months ago. …

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