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"There was a lot of protest from the outside and that document was withdrawn at the time," he said.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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs