Egypt: Is the military in cahoots with the Muslim Brotherhood?By DALLIA MONIEM in Cairo | Monday, August 13 2012 at 16:00
In a show of political muscle and sweeping change, Egypt's President Mohamed Morsy dismissed Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi from his post as the
Minister for Defence, appointed a vice-president in the shape of reformist judge Mahmoud Mekki, and rescinded the military order that curbed his presidential powers.
In one fell swoop, Morsy went from being a president with somewhat limited powers to one who has now taken full executive and legislative powers as well as grasping control of the drafting of the constitution.
Tantawi, who also headed the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), was 'retired' by President Morsy as was Army Chief-of-Staff Sami Annan, though both have been retained as special advisors to the president.
The head of Military Intelligence AbdelLatif El-Sissi, he who once said 'virginity tests' were necessary in order to protect the soldiers from being accused of rape by arrested female protesters, replaces Tantawi as the new Minister of Defence. Furthermore, the heads of every service of the armed forces (Air Force, Air Defences, Navy) were also retired but were given golden parachutes.
Whether these actions were unilaterally taken by the president and by association the Muslim Brotherhood or were taken in conjunction with the military remains to be seen. But one obvious factor that's emerged is: “The buck' does stop with President Morsy.”
On the face of it the recent changes are nothing more than the re-shuffling of army personnel, with former superiors pushed out to pasture to be replaced by their juniors. Some say the 'ouster' of Tantawi was inevitable due to his age and the fact he was very unpopular amongst activists, revolutionaries and within the circle of Islamists.
Though many pundits were quick to declare this move as a 'revolution' by Morsy, the fact that the president went out of his way to praise them and to award Tantawi and Annan Egypt's highest decorations - the Medal of the Nile and the Medal of the Republic respectively - suggests he is not pushing for a total break with the old order.
Indeed, it could be a pointer this “changing of the guard” could very well have been done in consultation with members of the military council and maybe even with their tacit agreement.
According to various reports, there was positioning going on for months within the military-intelligence nexus in what was a battle to succeed Tantawi. El-Sissi’s appointment is consistent with that notion as he was one of the most powerful (but less obviously so) members of Scaf.
As such it can safely be said Scaf's relationship with the presidential office isn't necessarily of one particular branch becoming more powerful than the other but rather an act of “reconfiguring”. In this reading, the military council remains a powerful entity and one that still holds powers parallel to President Morsi.
Only that new faces have replaced the old ones.
Unquestionably, this 'reconfiguration' does give President Morsy more powers and control if the cancellation of the SCAF-imposed constitutional decree barring the president from making military changes is anything to go by – or for that matter, if it is upheld.
Surprisingly, many of the country's political forces and analysts greeted the news of Tantawi's retirement with glee, seeing it as the end of the long rule of the military. Yet many others were cautious in their immediate reaction with some believing – conspiratorially – that it was “a pre-emptive coup against a coup-within-a-coup.”
The political site The Arabist reported: “El-Sissi and others led a coup against Tantawi and Annan in order to pre-empt a prospective coup attempt that could have gotten the army into uncertain political confrontation—specifically confrontation that could have led the military establishment to lose everything vis-à-vis the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Consistent with this theory is the fact that Al-Dostoor newspaper was confiscated after effectively making public call for a coup – which suggests that some elements within SCAF had been prodding their allies inside the media establishment to begin promoting the image of popular support for a coup.”
As the calls for mass protests against President Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood on August 24th were gathering momentum, a scenario as the one painted by the Al-Dostoor does seem plausible.
One certain factor is that the Islamists now have more control and power then ever before. What path President Morsy will take should become clearer once appointments for the constitutional assembly are made.
Whether it will be an Islamist-dominated body or one where non-Islamists have a majority will be closely watched.
Furthermore, removing the old military guard and replacing it with another seemingly more amenable to working with the Muslim Brotherhood and with President Morsy will be pivotal to how Egypt will be governed.
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