New Egypt: President Mursi Strikes the Whip on Army Dominance
(BY DR. ABDUL RUFF)
Dr. Abdul Ruff, Specialist on State Terrorism;Chancellor-Founder of Centor for International Affairs(CIA); Independent Analyst;Chronicler of Foreign occupations & Freedom movements(Palestine,Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.) Former university Teacher; website: abdulruff.wordpress.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clipping the extra wings
Post-Mubarak Egypt is fast moving forward toward a system that cares for the peoples’ and nation’s requirements. Mohamed Mursi of Muslim Brotherhood having assumed presidency as the first ever elected leader after a general poll has proceeded further to smoothen the functioning of the system on democracy lines by reducing the sweeping powers of the military. In order to be seen as a statesman without petty interests, president Mursi has already resigned from his leadership positions within the Brotherhood, including his role as chairman of the FJP, immediately after he won the presidential election in June last year.
Recently with a view to strengthening presidency, Egypt's popularly elected President Mohamed Mursi dismissed Cairo's two top generals - defence minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and General Enan - and he also quashed a military order that had curbed the new leader's powers, in a move that further stamped his authority on the army which hitherto de-facto controlled the nation. In total, seven members of the military's top brass were removed from their posts. This is the first time in Egypt's political history that an elected civilian politician overrules the decisions of the heads of the military establishment.
President Mursi, whose election victory over former general prompted concerns in Israel and the West about alliances with Egypt, also appointed a judge, Mahmoud Mekky, as his vice president. Mekky had fought for judicial independence under Hosni Mubarak.Tantawi, 76, until Mursi's election in June had ruled Egypt as head of a military council since Hosni Mubarak was toppled last year. In his place as armed forces chief and defence minister, Mursi appointed General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, 57, from military intelligence. Enan was replaced General Sidki Sobhi, 56, who headed the Third Field Army based in Suez, on the border with Sinai. Both have been pushed into retirement, whose positions may have been weakened by the border debacle last week in the Sinai desert, were appointed as advisers to the president.
Tantawi, after serving Mubarak as a minister for 20 years, helped ease the ageing dictator out of office on February 11, 2011 in the face of the mass street protests of the Arab Spring. Reports suggest that Gen Annan and Field Marshal Tantawi have been appointed as presidential advisers and were given Egypt's highest state honor, the Grand Collar of the Nile. But it was not clear how far the generals, members of the Scaf, actually consented to a move that re-orders the country's political forces and gives Mursi more powers while a new constitution is mooted. “It can be considered a restructuring of the armed forces and an end to the role of Scaf in political life."
Speaking after replacing the powerful head of the armed forces Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the chief-of-staff, Gen Sami Annan, and Gen Mohammed al-Assar, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), President Mohammed Mursi has said his move to order the retirement of two of the country's top generals was for "the benefit of this nation". He said the decision had been "based on consultation with the field marshal, and the rest of the military council". Mursi himself explained further: "The decisions I took today were not meant ever to target certain persons, nor did I intend to embarrass institutions, nor was my aim to narrow freedoms. “I did not mean to send a negative message about anyone, but my aim was the benefit of this nation and its people," he said, praising the work of the armed forces and saying his decision would free them to focus on their professional tasks.
Sources reveal that Mursi had consulted armed forces chief Tantawi and General Enan, 64, before ordering both men to retire. Presidential spokesman Ali said the decision was a sovereign one, taken by the president to pump new blood into the military establishment in the interests of developing a new, modern state. It was a critical decision and the members of the military council understood this because they are patriotic and General Sisi is from the new generation of the patriotic men of the armed forces. He is responsible and well respected.
Thousands of Islamist supporters gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square and other cities to celebrate the latest developments, to back Mursi's decision. "President of the republic, your decree gets 100 percent," some chanted. The front-page headline of Monday's newspaper al-Tahrir is "Mursi declares revolution against Scaf".
The army should have returned to barracks once Mursi was elected. But it had instead sought to retain a role in politics: "The nation came to have two heads - the president and the military council," Brotherhood leaders said. The president had to act to recover his full powers from the hands of the military council.
The April 6 youth movement, which helped galvanize the revolt against Mubarak, described Mursi's move as the "first step towards establishing a civilian state", it said "we want a strong, national army to protect the nation and that does not intervene in politics".
Egypt cannot go on having "two heads". Mursi's spokesman called it a "sovereign" decision by the head of state, and aimed at "pumping new blood" into an army that has shown signs of hoping to control the novice president. “Secular” activists, wary of political Islam, nonetheless welcomed a "first step toward establishing a civilian state".
New Policy Perspective
The Presidential action in reducing the military power is viewed by many as constitutionally correct. However, the announcement that Egypt's armed forces chief Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi and his number two, Gen Sami Annan, were being forced to retire, however, caught the nation by surprise.
The move sidelines Tantawi, Mubarak's defence minister for two decades and whose continued presence had cast a shadow of military rule over the new democracy, and whittles away powers still held by the army, from whose ranks all Egyptian presidents for the past 60 years had been drawn until the voting in June. As head of powerful military council Scaf, Field Marshal Tantawi became Egypt's interim ruler after President Mubarak was ousted following last year's mass protests.
Politicians over years seem to have lost the right to challenge the military leaders. The military council in Egypt enjoyed full powers in all sectors of Egypt and after the presidential poll dissolved parliament, which is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Under the interim constitutional declaration issued by military body Scaf before Mursi was sworn in, the president could not rule on matters related to the military - including appointing its leaders.
The president, however, praised the armed forces, saying they would now focus "on the holy mission of protecting the nation". It was announced earlier that a career army officer, Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, would replace Field Marshal Tantawi as both armed forces chief and defence minister.
The dismissal of senior military officers would also be seen by Egyptians as a decisive move in a struggle for real power between the country's newly elected politicians and the generals who have exercised power for many years.
Presidency is soured with the military’s misbehavior even after the poll verdict. In June, the military council, backed by judges, dissolved the Islamist-led assembly elected in January - a move Mursi has challenged. President Mursi's move was triggered by an attack in the Sinai which saw 16 Egyptian soldiers killed. It also seems clear that other members of the Scaf gave their approval.
The generals assumed presidential powers after the fall of Hosni Mubarak. The armed forces, with vast resources in Egypt's economy as well as a military strength funded in part by Washington, remain a key institution in Egypt and the process of establishing full democratic control has only just begun.
The clash between the new president and the military council was expected - but not this fast. Tensions between the presidency and Scaf were further exacerbated after Islamist fighters in the Sinai Peninsula killed 16 border guards last week, in a raid that embarrassed the military. The president sacked Egypt's intelligence chief and two senior generals following the attack.
The timing of announcement to replace him as armed forces head was nevertheless a surprise. President Mursi's sack move was triggered by an attack in the Sinai which saw 16 Egyptian soldiers killed. It was an embarrassing debacle for the Egyptian army on the border with Israel, where 16 Egyptian troops were killed by Islamist fighters a week ago, which may have given Mursi the opening he needed to step up the pace in rolling back the military's influence, pushing aside Tantawi and military chief of staff Sami Enan.
The president, whose own Brotherhood movement renounced violence to achieve political change in Egypt long ago, sacked Egypt's intelligence chief last week after the attack in which Islamist militants killed the 16 Egyptian border guards before trying to storm the Israeli border. Mursi has shown impatience with the military following violence in the Sinai desert that brought trouble with Israel and the Palestinians' Gaza Strip enclave this month. The timing of the sacking of Tantawi will serve President Mursi as many Egyptians had blamed the military for the events on the border.
Tantawi's age had meant that his departure had been long expected in some form, and his appointment as an adviser to Mursi appeared to exclude the possibility he might face the kind of prosecution that saw Mubarak, now 84, jailed for life. Enan was long seen as particularly close to the Pentagon, the main sponsor of Egypt's armed forces. Washington gives Egypt $1.3 billion in military aid each year. It can be considered a restructuring of the armed forces and an end to the role of SCAF in political life. But it was not clear how far the generals, members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), actually consented to a move that reveals a reordering of Egypt's political forces as they all wait for a new constitution, shifting more powers towards Mursi and his long-suppressed Muslim Brotherhood.
Mursi may also have acted to ensure the military commanders did not recoup their lost credit after a military operation launched in Sinai to hunt down the militants, the biggest such operation since Egypt's 1973 war with Israel.
Mursi is committed to the cause of Palestine.
Today, anti-Islamic global media nuts, after having painted Islam and Muslims in dirty colors for years since the Sept-11 hoax, now generate fake fears of Islamists who are committed to Islamization of Muslim nations. For these human vultures Islam is a terrorist religion and Muslims and terrorists and so the Islamists should not protect the Muslims or Islam. Jews, Hindus and Christians (even some fake Muslims) in media have joined in attacking Muslims and Islamists.
The growing might of the Brotherhood Islamists is genuine because they for decades were hounded and jailed by Mubarak and his predecessors and as rulers they have to protect the Islamist and popular interests. But they have also been wary of the army's continuing role. Last week, Sunday, Egyptian troops had killed five Islamist fighters after storming their area near the isolated border with Israel.
The attempt by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), when it was still ruling the country, to limit the president's powers has now failed. This move will enter history as a significant shift in the civil-military balance of power towards the civilian side in new Egypt.
The new measures take effect just as Egypt's armed forces are involved in their biggest deployment in the Sinai region for decades. They were unprepared for an attack there last week that saw 16 Egyptian border guards killed by militants.
Mursi is said to have issued a new constitutional declaration giving him broad legislative and executive powers. By scrapping the army's constitutional declaration, Mursi can also take on the legislative powers the generals had sought to keep for themselves in the absence of a parliament. Mursi annulled a key constitutional declaration issued in June which gave the military legislative powers and budgetary controls as well as the right to oversee the process of drawing up a new permanent constitution.
Questions have been asked about Mursi's constitutional powers to act. But a retired brigadier general, Ayman Salama, who is also an expert on international law, says he went about things correctly. "He went about this in a constitutional way by cancelling the constitutional declaration in order to make these decisions," he told the BBC.
What is not clear is whether President Mohammed Mursi did coordinate his actions with the armed forces. Whether or not it was a plan by both president and military for the sake of a new strong Egypt is the issue. Analysts have suggested that he must have got the agreement of Field Marshal Tantawi and Gen Annan as it was said that they would continue to act as his advisers. It is also not clear how the Supreme Constitutional Court will react to Mursi's move to nullify the decree. Most probably Mursi would get the passage easily.
America, the cause of Mideast crises, has welcomed the Mursi's action.