Magazine article Newsweek

Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi

Magazine article Newsweek

Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi

Article excerpt

Byline: Christopher Dickey

In Egypt, a crucial changing of the guard.

A remarkably quiet revolution recently took place with the naming of Gen. Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, 57, as Egyptian defense minister and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The man he replaced, 76-year-old Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, had held the post for more than two decades. Indeed, since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak early last year, Tantawi had seemed to be the ultimate maker and breaker of governments. But now Tantawi, too, is gone.

The sudden ascent of Al-Sisi from the shadows of military intelligence is part of a calculated power play by newly elected President Mohamed Morsi. And given the conspiratorial history of Morsi's organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, some Egyptian commentators speculated that the new defense chief was an Islamist mole in the officer corps all along. But there's no proof of that, and some of his most revolutionary notions, in army terms, may have come from the United States.

As head of military intelligence, Al-Sisi was high command's "key guy for maintaining the loyalty of the military," says Robert Springborg of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. And Al-Sisi clearly knew he was able to count on broad support from career soldiers who had been nursing deep professional frustrations for years.

Tantawi was trained by the Soviets, when Cairo was aligned with Moscow in the 1960s and at war with Israel, and although he was willing to take tens of billions of dollars in U.S. military assistance over the years, he and his cronies remained deeply suspicious of underlings who got too close to the Americans. …

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