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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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"There was a lot of protest from the outside and that document was withdrawn at the time," he said.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

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains More

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.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid