July 2, 2013 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 992

Chronicle Of An Inevitable Intervention: The Egyptian Military Moves In To Direct Egypt's Political Process

July 2, 2013
Egypt | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 992


Following the mass protests that erupted throughout Egypt on June 30, 2013, which are part of the Tamarud campaign to oust President Muhammad Mursi upon his completion of his first year in office,[1] and also due to Mursi's refusal to meet the protestors' demands for his resignation and for new presidential elections, the Egyptian Armed Forces intervened in an attempt to resolve the crisis, ultimately removing Mursi from office.

On July 1, 2013, Defense Minister 'Abd Al-Fatah Al-Sisi announced, on television, a 48-hour ultimatum for Mursi to meet the people's demands. Al-Sisi said: "The Armed Forces appeal to all parties concerned that if the demands of the people were not met within these 48 hours the Armed Forces will find themselves obliged, out of their national and historical responsibility and out of respect to the demands of the great Egyptian people, to announce a road map for the future along with measures that will be carried out under the Armed Forces' supervision with the participation of all the patriotic and sincere trends and spectra, including the young people who have been and are still the spark plug of the great revolution, without any exclusion to any party."

The announcement also clarified that the army sees itself as a "major party to the equation of the future," but noted that it "will never be a party in the circle of politics or rule."[2]

Some four hours later, the army issued a second announcement, that noted that "[i]n light of what has been allegedly repeated by some people in mass media, seeking to interpret the statement of the General Command of the Armed Forces as 'a military coup,' the military establishment would like to highlight" that "the doctrine and culture of the Armed Forces do not allow the adoption of any 'military-coup-based' policies." It added that the announcement had been aimed at "push[ing] all political parties nationwide to quickly find solutions for the current crisis and reach a formula of national compromise that complies with the demands of the Egyptian people."[3]

Furthermore, on July 3, 2013, prior to the expiration of the army's ultimatum and the announcement that Mursi had been removed, the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported that the road map that will be presented by the army when the ultimatum expires will include the removal of Mursi, and the establishment of a presidential committee, to be led by the head of the High Constitutional Court, which will run the country for a period of nine to 12 months. In addition, an apolitical interim government will be established and headed by one of the military commanders. The constitution will be redrafted, and brought to the approval of Al-Azhar and then to a referendum. In accordance with the new constitution, new parliamentary and presidential elections will be held, supervised by the army; the army will also be in charge of security operations in coordination with security apparatuses. Al-Ahram also reported that the army had even barred several Muslim Brotherhood (MB) officials from leaving the country, placed some of them under house arrest, and imposed oversight on the movement's finances.[4]

With the army's announcement of the expiration of the ultimatum, Al-Sisi anounced the publication of the road map of steps to be taken in the country after being agreed on by "some of the leaders of the national and political forces and the young people" in Egypt. These steps included transferring administrative powers for running the country to Supreme Constitutional Court head Adli Mansour, until early presidential elections can be held; temporarily suspending the constitution and giving authority to Mansour to issue constitutional decrees during the interim period; establishing a national government; establishing a committee that will include all levels of society in a discussion of amendments to the constitution; calling to begin preparations for parliamentary elections; establishing a supreme committee for national reconciliation; calling for the drawing up of a media code of ethics that will ensure freedom of the Egyptian media; and taking steps to include young people in decision making in the country and to integrate them into key positions in running the country.

Also, Al-Ahram reported, on July 3, that Al Sisi said in the announcement that before removing Mursi, the army had invested great efforts in arriving at national reconciliation, but the presidency had rejected its initiatives. He said that the military had responded to the calls of the people, had sensed that the people were asking it to help them and to defend the demands of the revolution, but that the people were not calling on the army to take power. Likewise, he stressed in his announcement that the army will not be involved in political activity.

Al-Sisi: "It Is More Honorable For Us To Die Than It Is For The Egyptian People To Be Threatened Or Intimidated"

Al-Sisi's statements on the eve of Mursi's removal indicated the moves that would be taken by the army. On July 3, Al-Sisi was quoted in the media as having made harsh statements praising the protests in Egypt and condemning Mursi's supporters: "It is more honorable for us to die than it is for the Egyptian people to be threatened or intimidated. We swear before God that we will redeem Egypt and its people with our blood against any terrorist, extremist, or anonymous [enemy]. Long live Egypt and its people, which stands up for itself."[7]

In effect, a week before the unrest began, at a June 23 conference held by the army, Al-Sisi had warned of the possibility of military intervention: "The only thing we respect and abide by is the will of the Egyptian people. We do so with the purest, objective, and genuine intentions. It would be wrong for anyone to think that this will could be confronted with violence. We bear complete responsibility for protecting the will of this great people. Let me ask you: How can we, the officers of the military, feel like real men, when we sense that the entire Egyptian people lives in fear and terror? We would rather die...

"In the past months, the military has refrained from intervening in public political affairs. It is clear that things are going the way they are going right now. But I'd like to say that we all bear moral, patriotic, and historical responsibility. We also bear a higher responsibility towards our Lord, and we will be held accountable for our deeds now and in the future. We will not allow Egypt to enter a dark tunnel of conflict, internal fighting, civil war, sectarian strife, or the collapse of state institutions..."[8]

Support For The Army, Alongside Harsh Criticism

The army's intervention in the crisis sparked various responses among Mursi's supporters and his opponents, because such intervention on the part of the military constitutes an act of support on its part for the protest movement and against the Mursi regime. Along with the harsh criticism leveled by MB officials, who saw this intervention as a "military rebellion" and even as a coup, the Egyptian press published articles praising the move.

Articles In Support Of The Army: The People's Army, Not The Regime's; The Hope Of The Egyptian Nation

Egyptian media published articles supporting the army's intervention in the crisis. In his column in Al-Yawm Al-Sabi, titled "The Army Toppled Mursi And The MB," 'Abd Al-Fattah 'Abd Al-Mun'im wrote: "In its recent communique, published two days ago, after the protests on June 30, the army favored the people... thus toppling the regime of Mursi and the MB. This is the same scenario as in 2011, when a communique by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] favored the [Egyptian] street, and Mubarak and his party were toppled... The Egyptian army has become the nation's hope in changing the face of all of Egypt. [This is] because this army is not owned by a particular stream, party, or movement... but rather is a national army that supports the people. This is what happened in 2011, [this is what is happening now] in 2013, and [this is what happened] even prior to that in the eternal and honorable military revolution of July 23, 1952 [The Free Officers Revolution], which is the only revolution that brought substantial achievements for the Egyptian people... The Egyptian army has become the people's only refuge..."[9]

Another Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' columnist, 'Adel Al-Sanhouri, wrote: "...Was there any doubt that the Egyptian national military establishment would favor the people and defend its revolution for life, liberty, and social justice, in order to restore the revolution taken from it by the forces of ignorance, darkness, destruction, and intimidation? ... The army is always the people's sword and shield against the tyranny of the external and internal occupier since the days of Ahmed Orabi,[10] through the [era] of Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser, and up to the January 25 revolution, which will be completed by [this] June 30 revolution against the ignorance and failure of the [Muslim] Brotherhood's tyrannical regime... Now everyone knows who conspired against both the army and the people, and we must learn a lesson from the events of the not-so-distant past and trust our honorable army, [which is] the people's army, not the regime's army, regardless of which regime [rules Egypt]..."[11]

MB: The Era Of Military Coups Is Over

The MB and its supporters were angered by the army's intervention, which they saw as an illegitimate and anti-democratic move. Issam Al-Arian, deputy chairman of the Freedom and Justice party and a senior MB official, referred on his Facebook page to the army's involvement as "a military coup" and even as a "military revolt." He wrote:

"The people are the master and the ones to decide. The era of military coups has gone, never to return. No unelected ruler or unelected council will be capable of governing Egypt." He added, "The Army's unity, its inner steadfastness, its preserving a distance from politics and freeing itself for the defense missions imposed upon it – [all these] are more important and more worthy than propitiating a faction that has failed in its democratic attempt or [displaying] partisanship in favor of a tyrant who is attempting to kill his people because he is apprehensive over strategic changes [in the country]." Al-Arian further noted that "the dangerous adventure of military revolt is dissimilar to a civilian revolt because its results are unforeseen and any wager that this will result in calming the people may produce a situation where the bettors will lose their entire stake."

Yasser Hamza, a member of the Freedom and Justice Party, said that everyone objects to the army's announcement and that the era of military coups is over. He added that no force in Egypt should take chances with Egypt's future.[12]

April 30, 2013 MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis Report On Calls For Egyptian Military To Intervene

The issue of the Egyptian military intervening in the crisis in the country is not new. MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 960, In Egypt, Tension Between Mursi Regime And Military, And Calls To Restore Armed Forces To Power, published April 30, 2013, extensively discussed this issue. This report presented an overview of calls in the army and opposition raising the possibility that the military should again run the country's affairs. Following are excerpts from the report:

Top Military Echelon Comments On Possible Intervention Seen As A Threat To Mursi

In addition, statements by military leaders on Egypt's deteriorating security situation and the possibility that it would intervene to prevent anarchy raised claims that it was interfering in the internal political struggle in favor of the opposition.

On January 28, 2013, Defense Minister Al-Sisi warned that the ongoing political conflict over managing the country could lead to its collapse.[13] This warning was interpreted in the Egyptian media as criticizing Mursi's conduct in managing the crisis. Al-Watan columnist 'Imad Al-Din Adib wrote: "The statements by the minister of defense are a clear warning shot by the military establishment... and reflect its concerns regarding the risks of this mismanagement of the current dialogue between the regime and opposition... Even if the military returns to its bases after the election of the first civilian president in the country, it does not mean it will be eliminated from the equation of forces operating in the country..."[14]

Islamic writer Fahmi Huwaidi, who is close to the MB, wrote in the independent Egyptian daily Al-Shorouq: "The military establishment is not neutral among the hawks in the political arena" – implying that Al-Sisi's statements serve Mursi opponents, instead of the military that is "standing by the legitimate [regime] with which the people is pleased..." Huwaidi added: "We must avoid military interference in the political games and upheavals, but some among us ignore this and strive to turn the military into a means of applying pressure to tip the scales of the political game..."[15]

Following the spreading attempts at popular rebellion, military leaders again warned that a deterioration in the situation could force military intervention. On February 17, army chief of staff Sidqi Subhi said that the military expects political groups to resolve their differences using dialogue, and that the military would never support any political party since military men are not politicians and do not wish to participate in the political game. However, he said that the military could occasionally assist with problems and even play a specific role if the situation becomes complicated.[16]

Calls For Military Intervention To Prevent Anarchy And Civil War, And For Its Return To Power

The wave of violence throughout Egypt and the spread of attempts at popular rebellion, along with warnings by military officials about the country descending into chaos, and reports that the country's economy is headed towards bankruptcy,[17] led both the regime and the opposition to request military intervention to avert anarchy and civil war. However, both sides object to a full return to power by the military, claiming that this would endanger both the revolution and democracy.

In contrast, there were explicit calls by the public for the military to return to power in place of Mursi.

Petition To Appoint Al-Sisi To The Presidency, Demonstrations In Support Of The Military

Citizens throughout Egypt began signing petitions calling for Al-Sisi to replace Mursi in running the affairs of state, starting in Port Said and then moving to governorates, including Cairo.[18] The Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution issued a communique calling for military intervention and for the ouster of the current regime. It declared an open sit-down strike to be continued until the regime is toppled, and asked the public to sign petitions. Signs were also posted in the streets of Port Said calling for the military's return, with the slogan "We have learned our lesson."[19]

In recent months, hundreds of citizens and military retirees have demonstrated in support of the military and in protest against the reports of Mursi's intention to fire Al-Sisi and his alleged attempts to engineer an MB takeover of the military; some of the protestors have called for the military to return to power.[20] The oppositionist April 6 Youth Movement in Bani Sweif objected to demonstrations in support of the military and called for refraining from participation in them; it said that the military was not an alternative to Mursi and that if it returned to power, it would mean the death of the revolution.[21]

Protestors call for the military to return to power: "We call on the military to save us from the rule of the [MB] General Guide."[22]

Concurrently, campaigns began appearing on social networks calling on the military to take to the streets and return to power with Al-Sisi at its head.[23]

Facebook page: "General Al-Sisi, Egyptian President."[24]

Facebook page: "We are all against an MB takeover of the military."[25]

Statement on the Facebook page "Lovers of the Egyptian army": The people call on the military to oust the president and run the country.[26]

Articles In Egyptian Press: Army Intervention Preferable To Civil War

Calls for the military to return were also seen in opinion pieces in the Egyptian press. Sami Sabri, assistant editor of the weekly supplement to the daily Al-Wafd, wrote: "Once more, the desire for the military to take [to the streets] and leaving its bases is legitimate and popular... Our military's intervention is preferable to civil war that would shatter us, deepen the schism among us, and serve as a pretext for international military intervention that would take us back to occupation, or at the very least, turn us into another Iraq..."[27]

In an article in the oppositionist daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm titled "Calling The Armed Forces," Dr. Salah Al-Ghazali Harb called on the military "to rush to intervene so as to stop the ongoing violence and bloodshed that is anticipated... with the increase in popular fury and waves of popular rebellion, which could hasten the economic and social collapse of the country, alongside chances for a hunger revolution... I demand that you [military men] intervene and take the reins of power for a limited time, during which you will reorganize state affairs, restore the 1971 constitution after making several amendments, and declare early elections for president and later for parliament, as well as establish a high-ranking constituent assembly to draft a new constitution agreed upon by all Egyptians... President Mursi's legitimacy effectively ended when Egyptian blood began flowing... This is not a call for the return of military rule... but rather an honest call to stop the downslide and restore Egypt to all Egyptians..."[28]

National Salvation Front: It Is The Military's Duty To Intervene In Case Of Anarchy – But Should Not Return To Politics

Officials in the National Salvation Front – the umbrella organization of opposition forces in Egypt – called for military intervention in the case of anarchy, some stressing that they object to the military's return to power and are only speaking of security intervention to restore public order.

A National Salvation Front leader, 'Azazi 'Ali 'Azazi, told the weekly Roz Al-Yousef that "it is the military's right to intervene if it is faced with the collapse of the country," stressing that he did not mean "a return to the militarization of the country."[29] Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, another leader, told the BBC that if the country is on the verge of bankruptcy and there is no law and order, "the military has a national duty to intervene."[30] National Salvation Front member Mohammed Abu Hamed said that when the question of the military's return to power came up during a March 2013 meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Egyptian political activists, Kerry objected and added that the return of the military is not the solution.[31]

These statements by the heads of the National Salvation Front regarding military intervention show the ongoing crisis in the organization. While it calls for military intervention in order to politically attack the regime, depict it as incapable of handling the country's problems, and possibly even help remove the regime, it does not seem to actually desire broader military involvement in politics, lest the military recapture the regime. The front's call is its admission of failure, as an organization, to unite the opposition forces and to prove itself as an alternative to the regime it seeks to replace.

Al-Ahram columnist Muhammad Sabreen wrote: "The leaders of the National Salvation Front should reexamine their conduct, since the citizenry, or part of it, seeing the military establishment as their alternative means that [the National Salvation Front's] platform and personnel are not the proper alternative for this sector of the people..."[32]

Regime Supporters: We Will Strongly Oppose The Military's Return To Power

Calls for the military to intervene in running the country also prompted objections from regime supporters. In an article in the daily Al-Shorouq, journalist Fahmi Huwaidi, who is close to the MB, wrote that the calls for the return of the military are "against history and against democracy." He said that "those who call for military intervention merely to topple what they call the MB regime are not only involving it in a political dispute, but are [also] sending it into the unknown, without offering a possible scenario for the day after... Even worse, they strive to involve the military in a marginal and tactical campaign... They are willing to oust the MB regime at any price, even [the price of] the military and its future – making us wonder whether these calls serve the revolution or its opponents."[33]

MB member Muhammad 'Abd Al-Quddus wrote: "I say to those who dream that the military will retake the regime as the last chance to overcome the deteriorating state of our country... that their dream is a nightmare, not a happy dream that one wishes on his country. If this disaster does happen, heaven forbid, I will be the first at Al-Tahrir [Square] to protest... A smart man is not fooled twice, considering that the attempt [of SCAF rule] was a total failure... The world has changed with time, the barrier of fear has been breached, and the military regime will meet with very strong opposition, even if tanks are on the streets..."[34]

Former presidential candidate Hazem Abu Isma'il condemned the calls for the military to return to power, saying: "We will run a popular struggle against any attempt to impose a regime of opposition forces or the return of military rule." He added: "Talk of the military's return as a result of the current vacuum is not only a red line, but a burning one, which we will fight against with all our might."[35]


[2] An English translation of the announcement was posted on, July 1, 2013

[3] An English translation of the announcement was opsted on, July 1, 2013.

[4] Al-Ahram (Egypt), July 3, 2013.

[7] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), July 3, 2013.

[9] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), July 3, 2013.

[10] Ahmed Orabi was a nationalist and officer in the Egyptian army who led a revolt in 1879 against Khedive of Egypt, Tawfik Pasha, and against the increasing European involvement in Egypt. However, this revolt eventually failed and led to Britain invading Egypt at the request of Tawfik Pasha.

[11] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), July 3, 2013.

[12], July 2, 2013.

[13] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 29, 2013.

[14] Al-Watan (Egypt), January 30, 2013.

[15] Al-Shorouq (Egypt), February 4, 2013.

[16] Al-Masri Al-Yawm; Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), February 18,. 2013.

[17] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5132, Mursi Regime Rejects Claims Egypt Is On Verge Of Bankruptcy, Bread Revolution, January 11, 2013.

[18] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), March 3, 2013.

[19] Al-Watan (Egypt), March 1, 2013.

[20] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), March 3, 2013.

[21] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 28, 2013.

[22];, March 1, 2013.

[23] Al-Watan (Egypt), February 24, 2013.




[27] Al-Wafd (Egypt), February 28, 2013.

[28] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), March 1, 2013

[29] Roz Al-Yousef (Egypt), February 2, 2013.

[30] Al-Watan (Egypt), February 25, 2013.

[31] Al-Misryoon (Egypt), March 3, 2013.

[32] Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 3, 2013.

[33] Al-Shorouq (Egypt), February 27, 2013.

[34] Al-Wafd (Egypt), February 10, 2013.

[35] Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 9, 2013.

Share this Report: