News / Middle East

    Egyptian Media: Military Shakeup 'Revolutionary'

    Supporter of President Morsi during celebration of his dismissal of former defense ministers, Tahrir Square, Cairo, Aug. 13, 2012.
    Supporter of President Morsi during celebration of his dismissal of former defense ministers, Tahrir Square, Cairo, Aug. 13, 2012.
    VOA News
    Egyptian media outlets are hailing as "revolutionary" a decision by President Mohamed Morsi to dismiss the once-powerful defense minister and curtail the military's authority.
     
    "It can be said that starting today, the country is no longer under military rule," said Cairo resident Badawi Sayed Mahmoud. "Military rule is now over and Egypt will become a civil state in which everyone will be entitled to their rights."
     
    On Sunday, President Morsi ordered Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi – a holdover from ousted President Hosni Mubarak's rule – to retire along with armed forces chief of staff Sami Enan. The president also canceled a constitutional declaration that had granted Tantawi and other top military officers in the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) wide powers.
     
    Both Tantawi and Enan were named as presidential advisors and received top medals for their military service. The military has not publicly reacted to Morsi's decisions.
     
    Morsi said he "did not intend to embarrass institutions," and that his decisions were for the benefit of Egypt and its people. He did not explain the timing of the decisions.

    U.S. reaction at the White House and State Department stressed the need for the Egyptian civilian and military leaders to work together to advance the democratic transition. Pentagon spokesman George Little said the changes were expected.
     
    "The new defense minister is someone who's known to us," said Little. "He comes from within the ranks of the SCAF and we believe that we will be able to continue the strong partnership that we have with Egypt."

    White House spokesman Jay Carney says the Obama Administration will reach out to Egypt's leadership.
     
    "It's important for the Egyptian military and civilian leadership to work closely together," Carney told reporters on Monday. "We hope President's Morsi's announcements will serve the interests of the Egyptian people and maintain good relations with Egypt's neighbors."

    Democratic Dream

    Essam Elarian, the head of President Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party, said Egyptians have been “dreaming of a fair democratic system for more than 60 years.”
     
    Some Morsi supporters celebrated in Tahrir Square late Sunday, but a VOA reporter in Cairo says there have not been a lot of people in the streets Monday, most likely due to the hot weather and the fasting associated with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
     
    "I don't see a lot of people out in the streets despite what they were saying about supporters of the president in Tahrir Square," VOA's Edward Yeranian said from Cairo. "It was kind of a very small crowd compared to what we had last year when people were out there demonstrating. So I assume that because it's very hot and because it's Ramadan."
     
    Not all Egyptians are happy with Morsi's decisions.
     
    "These people led the country through very difficult times," said Egyptian commuter Ahmed Sayed. "They shouldn't be put on retirement all of a sudden."
     
    Many in Egypt's upper economic brackets have been fearing Morsi's moves, Yeranian said.
     
    "Certainly people in the bourgeoisie that I spoke with this morning were a little bit worried," he said. "Certainly people that were sort of on the fence are also wondering where this is going to go ultimately."

    Impact Weighed
     
    Analyst Omar Ashour, who teaches plitical science at the University of Exeter in Britain, but lives in Cairo, says Morsi's politically assertive decision is a "positive step... which brings a balance to military-civilian relations."
     
    "The ultimate test for a democratic transition is whether the elected civilian leader has meaningful control over the armed forces and the security apparatus," he said. Ashour added that "it is the first time in Egyptian history that a civilian president overruled the heads of the military and removed them this way."
     
    But Egyptian editor and publisher Hisham Kassem has doubts about the president's decision and its implications on Egypt's political equation:
     
    "Normally, I would have been thrilled that an end has come to military rule, given that the military is now accountable to civilian authority," Kassem said. "However, I am quite disturbed by what is coming: the (Muslim) Brotherhood entrenching themselves in power to this extent."
     
    Several secular politicians told Arab media channels they were fearful the Muslim Brotherhood would extend its grip over the presidency, the parliament and the military and work to write a constitution in its favor.
     
    It remains unclear if Morsi will try to rein in the country's courts, which have ruled against him in the past.
     
    Some Egyptian commentators have expressed hopes since last year's revolution that the military would play a role of "check-and-balance" over Islamists in government, not unlike the role the military has played in Turkish politics.
     
    But Kassem says "there was a bet in the past on the military being the guarantor of the civilian state. This is no longer the case." 

    Military Long in Power

    • The Egyptian military seized power in 1952.
    • Every leader for the past 60 years until President Mohamed Morsi has been part of the military.
    • The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ruled Egypt after Hosni Mubarak's ouster as president early last year until Mr. Morsi's election this June.
    • During that time, the military council approved a constitutional declaration granting its top commanders wide powers and scaled back presidential powers.
    The Egyptian military seized power in 1952. Every leader for the past 60 years until President Morsi has been part of the military. 
     
    The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ruled Egypt after Mubarak's ouster as president early last year, until Morsi's election this June. During that time, the military council approved a constitutional declaration granting its top commanders wide powers and scaled back presidential powers.
     
    Morsi was shown on state TV late Sunday swearing in his new Defense Minister, Abdel Fattah al Sissi.
     
    The new defense minister said he swears to protect the nation and its presidential system and to respect the constitution and the law, to defend the people's interests and the borders of the country.
     
    It was not immediately clear if the president's decision would provoke a constitutional crisis. Field Marshall Tantawi and top generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had given themselves powers before the presidential election that some analysts compared to a “check-and-balance” system.

    Sinai Backlash
     
    The unexpected moves by the president came as tensions mounted between him and top officers of the armed forces council. Photos showed Morsi and Field Marshall Tantawi tense and unsmiling as they visited the Sinai in recent days, during a government military operation against Islamist militants.
     
    Morsi fired his intelligence chief and the governor of North Sinai last week.
     
    That reorganization – which also extended to replacing the commander of the military police – came days after militants launched their bloodiest attack ever on the army in the Sinai Peninsula, killing 16 Egyptian border guards.

    Photo Gallery: Egyptians Celebrate in Tahrir Square

    • Thousands of supporters celebrate with posters showing Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi in Tahrir Square, late Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012. Morsi ordered the retirement of the defense minister and chief of staff. Arabic reads: "We are all with you."
    • Thousands of supporters celebrate in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Aug. 12, 2012.
    • A child belonging to Morsi supporters looks at members of riot police guarding the presidential palace.
    • Morsi supporters listen to his speech on a microphone over a car in Tahrir Square.
    • A supporter raises a photo of Mr. Morsi during the celebration of his decision on the dismissal of Hussein Tantawi in Tahrir Square.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Micko from: Canada
    August 21, 2012 4:57 AM
    The Muslim Brotherhood are a sect that only understands democracy by terrorizing everybody. Morsi removed The Head of Intelligence, The Head of the Military Police, The Heads of Key Military Personnel/Officers, The Interior Minster, Changed all the heads of state run media, placed several Muslim Brotherhood figures in key government positions and added other government minsters who are Muslim Brotherhood allies. His next steps are to remove the Constitutional Court, The Judges and The Azahaar Clerics. Then he will have a Muslim Brotherhood Sultanate ruled and governed by him and his Klan, with nobody capable of stopping him or even having the right to go to court against is actions.

    I believe the old regime was more democratic at least people knew that when the president died/retired somebody else will come up, unfortunately this is not the case with the Muslim Brotherhood cult because if Morsi dies or leaves an new Muslim Brotherhood cult leader will take his place.

    Look at Iran, Afghanistan and other places that have Political Islamist running countries.

    by: ali baba from: new york
    August 15, 2012 4:14 AM
    although i do not like militry,i believe they are less evil than muslim brotherhood whom want establishing islamic dictatorship by steps.it is worst than iran and stalin russia combined. we are going to foworad for another tragdy

    by: Nora Lynn Boner from: USA
    August 13, 2012 3:30 PM
    Hey Habita, a word of advice... what makes you think that Obama does not want the Muslim Brotherhood to destroy you...?? if you look carefully you will see that and his "secretary of state" have aided and abetted the Muslim Brotherhood to assert control and dominance over all Egypt... sorry, but you will have to get used to have America turn a death ear to your cries...

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    August 13, 2012 2:55 PM
    Revolution? All the people out there understand is violence, and Morsi isn't like going to be different. Welcome to Egypt. We wait to see where this leads. But without consultation with the courts Morsi seems to be playing with the cobra's egg. Next is going to be a sweeping move that will take the entire Middle East by the wind. His next move in the foreign arena is predictable. Morsi is going to make a move Iran would love so much and the arab world is going to applaud with very high ovation that will not last too long before it is overtaken by fear of domination, although Morsi will make much effort to douse, but not everyone out there will not believe him. Trust the Arab people, his intention will not be lost to them for too long and there will be distrust.

    by: Abdel Suqat from: Egypt
    August 13, 2012 2:33 PM
    why not report to the world that Egypt is very unsafe for people? why everybody is so concerned about the lawless Sinai (i think i know - because of Israel) but Cairo is very very unsafe - murder, rapes, kidnapping, theft... no law in Cairo Egypt
    In Response

    by: ali baba from: new york
    August 15, 2012 12:58 PM
    i agree with you that whole egypt is not safe .moesy will make it worst

    by: Hambita Allawi from: Egypt
    August 13, 2012 2:28 PM
    hey, America, i am telling you - Egyptians are arming themselves... everyone knows what comes next... "emergency laws" have been reinstated by the Muslim Brotherhood that affect and suppress all people who are not "Islamic Brothers" ... hey, Obama, this is not good for America - do you see what is going on???

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