News / Africa

    Ex-US Envoy: Egyptian Defense Shakeup Sign of Rift

    Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, right, presented with gift from Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, former head of  SCAF, Hikstep, June 30, 2012.Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, right, presented with gift from Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, former head of SCAF, Hikstep, June 30, 2012.
    x
    Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, right, presented with gift from Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, former head of  SCAF, Hikstep, June 30, 2012.
    Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, right, presented with gift from Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, former head of SCAF, Hikstep, June 30, 2012.
    Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Daniel Kurtzer says Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's surprise appointment of a young general as defense minister appears to be a sign of a long-running split in the country's top military council.
     
    Fifty-eight-year-old General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was sworn in as defense minister and military commander-in-chief on Sunday, replacing 76-year-old Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, whom Morsi ordered to retire.
     
    Morsi said the move was part of an agreement with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which led Egypt for 16 months until the president took office in June. But, some observers said younger SCAF members sided with Morsi to push out aging generals accused of mishandling Egypt's political transition.
     
    An apparent rift
     
    In an interview with VOA, Kurtzer said it was clear to him that there was "no unanimity" within SCAF's ranks from the time it took control of Egypt during a February 2011 popular uprising that ousted longtime autocratic president Hosni Mubarak.
     
    "We saw manifestations of that split in some of the decisions that were reversed by SCAF pretty quickly after they were instituted," said Kurtzer, who served as U.S. ambassador in Cairo from 1998 to 2001.
     
    "They were reversed under what looked like some pressure from the outside, but I think it also clearly showed that there was at least a faction from within that seized upon opposition from the outside to reverse decisions."
     
    Kurtzer, a Middle East policy studies professor at Princeton University, said those decisions include SCAF's November 2011 draft declaration of constitutional principles, under which the generals called for excluding civilians from oversight of military affairs and budgets.
     
    "There was a lot of protest from the outside and that document was withdrawn at the time," he said. "It came back into play in June 2012 and that's one of the documents that President Morsi has now abrogated."
     
    Lack of transparency
     
    Speaking by phone from Israel, Kurtzer said SCAF is an opaque institution whose key decision makers are hard to uncover. "But I would not be surprised if [General Sissi] was among those who didn't agree necessarily with everything that the very senior [SCAF] leadership was doing."
     
    General Sissi comes from a religious family and secular critics have accused him of having secret ties to Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement – an allegation SCAF has denied.
     
    Kurtzer said the general's background does not appear to have worried the United States, which provides Egypt with $1.3 billion in annual military aid.
     
    "I understand from contacts in Washington that [Sissi] has a good reputation among our military," Kurtzer said. "They've gotten to know him in a variety of roles, including one in which he spent about a year in the United States in training."
     
    Sissi had served as Egypt's military intelligence chief since the February 2011 uprising. In that role, he was one of the few SCAF members to meet with critics of military rule, defending military policies, but also acknowledging the need for change.

    Michael Lipin

    Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    August 17, 2012 6:08 AM
    You cannot measure friendship by the fact that you give and they receive $1.3bn. It is also a mistake to judge what stuff Sissi can be made of by his 2yrs sojourn in the US. Both are wrong assumptions. Weightier than anything else should be his religious leaning which has been the basis of all the troubles in the Middle and the world. If that does not concern the US, then USA does not understand the trouble in the world today and so cannot give appropriate leadership to tackles it. But to say the least, USA should stop all that so called aids to countries around the world and concentrate on its people's welfare, for those aids have only sent wrong signals and in some cases wrongly applied to counter the purpose for which they were meant. Division is the Morsi is a sign of democracy and should be seen as positive feature.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora