Egyptian army warns of intervention as unrest spirals

posted at 8:41 am on June 24, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The Arab Spring has turned to a bitter autumn in Egypt, as unrest grows over the authoritarian rule of the Muslim Brotherhood-controlled government in Cairo.  Opponents of the regime plan widespread protests next week in an attempt to wrest back the momentum of reform from Mohamed Morsi and his regime.  As both sides prepare for a momentous confrontation, the Egyptian military sent out a warning yesterday that it will intervene to prevent the collapse of Egypt — but for which side was that warning intended?

Egypt’s army chief warned on Sunday that the military is ready to intervene to stop the nation from entering a “dark tunnel” of internal conflict.

Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi spoke a week ahead of mass protests planned by opponents of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. There are fears the demonstrations calling for Morsi’s ouster will descend into violence after some of the president’s hard-line supporters vowed to “smash” them. Others declared protesters were infidels who deserve to be killed.

El-Sissi’s comments were his first in public on the planned June 30 protests. Made to officers during a seminar, they reflected the military’s frustration with the rule of Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president who completes one year in office on June 30.

When first reported yesterday, the warnings sounded as though they were aimed at Morsi’s opponents.  Morsi has had enough time to co-opt the military’s leadership, and it was more or less assumed that he’d have worked to do that immediately. El-Sissi himself is a Morsi appointee, filling the roles of both military leader and defense minister. However, that co-opt project has apparently been left incomplete, and Morsi might regret that as well as the El-Sissi appointment.

As CBS points out, the clash may be in part the fault of Morsi’s allies.  The Muslim Brotherhood, perhaps emboldened by their success over the last couple of years, has recently made a series of comments about the military that the latter perceived as insults.  As a result, El-Sissi has focused his attention not on defense from outside attack — a very unlikely scenario anyway — to preserving internal stability.

That makes El-Sissi a very consequential player in the drama about to unfold over the next week. The Egyptian military played the role of kingmaker for decades before Morsi’s arrival, and in this case they may well decide to act in the tradition of their Turkish counterparts, but for practical rather than ideological reasons.  Morsi can’t afford to remove El-Sissi at this point, nor can he afford to ignore him, which means that Morsi may have to start accommodating his opposition more than the Muslim Brotherhood might want or tolerate.

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If I was the head of the Egyptian Army, I’d be thinking: There’s nothing wrong with Egypt that the summary execution of 10,000 muslim brotherhood supporters can’t fix.

well, that number may be a bit on the low side. Just have to keep at it till you get it right.

Tom Servo on June 24, 2013 at 8:52 AM

Egyptian army is Muslim Brotherhood controlled.
One of the first things Morsi did was replaced top commanders that were not of Muslim Brotherhood thinking.

albill on June 24, 2013 at 8:56 AM

As they say in the musicals-”Spring has Sprung!”

Don L on June 24, 2013 at 8:59 AM

If you think the Muslim Brotherhood is going to relinquish power they’ve taken 70 plus years to accumulate, without a lot of dead bodies, you are mistaken.

Sort of like our American Democrat Party.

Cleombrotus on June 24, 2013 at 9:03 AM

National death spiral—-check.

Radical muslim sympathizer leading country—-check.

Ineffective political opposition—–check.

Economy struggling—-check.

Politicians spending time ripping off the people and taking care of their rich donor buddies—-check.

Oh, wait are we talking about Egypt?

PappyD61 on June 24, 2013 at 9:05 AM

The general should just replay Bark’s Cairo Speech, everyone would settle down, shake hands, and sell balloons.

Bishop on June 24, 2013 at 9:05 AM

But on whose behalf?

Well, on the Egyptian Army’s behalf, of course.

dissent555 on June 24, 2013 at 9:09 AM

PappyD61 on June 24, 2013 at 9:05 AM

The one GLARING difference is that, in Egypt, there’s the possibility of popular unrest.

Cleombrotus on June 24, 2013 at 9:11 AM

No oil, no tourists, are we the only thing keeping this country going?

Cindy Munford on June 24, 2013 at 9:13 AM

When first reported yesterday, the warnings sounded as though they were aimed at Morsi’s opponents. Morsi has had enough time to co-opt the military’s leadership, and it was more or less assumed that he’d have worked to do that immediately. El-Sissi himself is a Morsi appointee, filling the roles of both military leader and defense minister. However, that co-opt project has apparently been left incomplete, and Morsi might regret that as well as the El-Sissi appointment.

Egypt has had a succession of military strongmen, going back to Nasser, and the Army has been a major power player even when they had an allegedly elected President, like Sadat. And today’s ally is tomorrow’s enemy, to quote an old Bedouin proverb.

This means that just because Morsi put el-Sissi in, doesn’t mean that el-Sissi doesn’t have ambitions about taking Morsi out.

As with most Islamic state coups, potential or otherwise, the real question is which way will the bulk of the officer corps jump. Remember, Qaddafi was a Libyan Air Force lieutenant when he led the plot that overthrew King Idriss.

Since the MB has had considerable strength at the operational command level in the Egyptian Army for quite some time (LTCOL and below), there’s a good chance that if el-Sissi tries to unseat Morsi, he may face a mutiny in the ranks. Morsi may in fact be counting on this factor to keep el-Sissi “honest”.

Then again, if el-Sissi is perceived as the “strong horse”, there could very well be a brutal crackdown on Morsi’s opposition, followed by Morsi and his upper echelon being rounded up and ‘dobe-walled. It wouldn’t be the first time.

clear ether

eon

eon on June 24, 2013 at 9:31 AM

One of the first things Morsi did was replaced top commanders that were not of Muslim Brotherhood thinking.

albill on June 24, 2013 at 8:56 AM

He did but the old commanders are still around. The MB commanders will have problems controlling their subordinates.

That situation will get messy quick. Ah that Arab Spring! Good job Barry Numbnuts.

dogsoldier on June 24, 2013 at 9:32 AM

If our own glorious leader had waited until October and the announce elections, after Mubarak said he was through, and his son would not be on a ballot…things out in Pharoah land would be cooking along nicely….

But, no…Obama had to dump Mubarak immediately. Obama had to pull the rug out from Omar Suleiman’s attempt to cobble together a transitional government. Just had to usher in the brotherhood, grease the skids for them. Just had to show solidarity with the Islamists…no matter the cost…because our glorious leader has this thing about Islam.

Representative democracy? The rule of Law? The Constitution? Not so much.

But the sweet lilting sounds of that call to prayer…the most beautiful sound on earth?

Kinda partial to the Star Spangled Banner, myself.

Call to prayer? Meh. I’ve heard better.

coldwarrior on June 24, 2013 at 9:50 AM

Hey Barky, about those arms headed for Syrian rebels, how ’bout sending them to Egyptian opposition groups instead?

Steve Z on June 24, 2013 at 9:50 AM

But the sweet lilting sounds of that call to prayer…the most beautiful sound on earth?

Call to prayer? Meh. I’ve heard better.

coldwarrior on June 24, 2013 at 9:50 AM

Maybe like “Amazing Grace”?

Steve Z on June 24, 2013 at 9:55 AM

Let’s not overlook the possibility that Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi might be a lot more militant than Morsi in the long run…in the style of a Saddam Hussein.

coldwarrior on June 24, 2013 at 9:55 AM

Steve Z on June 24, 2013 at 9:55 AM

With bag pipes…

coldwarrior on June 24, 2013 at 9:56 AM

That situation will get messy quick. Ah that Arab Spring! Good job Barry Numbnuts.

dogsoldier on June 24, 2013 at 9:32 AM

That’s just disrespectful. Don’t call him “Barry”.

Squiggy on June 24, 2013 at 10:32 AM

That situation will get messy quick. Ah that Arab Spring! Good job Barry Numbnuts.

dogsoldier on June 24, 2013 at 9:32 AM

That’s just disrespectful. Don’t call him “Barry”.

Please, call him PRESIDENT Numbnuts.

He’s hardly worked for that title.

hawkeye54 on June 24, 2013 at 11:23 AM

Name one nation, I triple dare you, which is free/freer, due to obama.

Schadenfreude on June 24, 2013 at 2:31 PM

Name one nation, I triple dare you, which is free/freer, due to obama.

Schadenfreude on June 24, 2013 at 2:31 PM

Well, at least two countries in the Islamic Crescent (Libya and, now, Syria) are wholly or partly “free” of leaders who were suspected of being “insufficiently Islamist” by their more radical constituents. Who are now “free” to kill anyone they feel like, whenever they get the urge. Thus doing it a capella instead of having to get their (former or soon-to-be-former) Fearless Leader’s permission first.

In The One’s mental parallel universe, and that of his supporters, I’m sure that counts.

clear ether

eon

eon on June 24, 2013 at 3:26 PM