May 1, 2013 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 960

In Egypt, Tension Between Mursi Regime And Military, And Calls To Restore Armed Forces To Power

May 1, 2013 | By L. Lavi*
Egypt | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 960


After months in which the Egyptian military kept a low profile and refrained from direct involvement in politics, its reentrance into political matters has recently become apparent, and some in the armed forces and the opposition are even raising the possibility that it could return to power in the country.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) ruled Egypt for 18 months, starting with the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in January 2011 and ending with President Muhammad Mursi's victory in the June 2012 election. During its rule, the SCAF was widely criticized publicly; mass protests were held and there were calls for its removal.[1] In mid-August 2012, Mursi, to establish his status, removed the military's top echelon;[2] this move was not strongly opposed, and even led to speculation that there was an alliance between the new leadership of the military and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). It seemed that the military had returned to its previous role – defending national security, and distanced from political affairs – and thus it regained the public's trust and regained its image as the people's military.

Recently, there have been many reports in the Egyptian and Arab media of tension between the Mursi regime and MB and the military leadership. It should be noted that despite the reports, neither side has officially confirmed that there is any tension. The reports indicate disagreement between the sides on various matters in the running of the country – such as the investigation of the August 2012 Rafah terror attack, dealing with Hamas and the smuggling in tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, relations with Iran, and the military's involvement in the suppression of protests throughout the country.

Concurrently, fears arose in the military and in the Egyptian street regarding the intention of Mursi and the MB to replace the top echelon of the military with one loyal to the MB. These fears emerged following statements by MB officials that were interpreted as criticism of the current military leadership. Furthermore, recent rumors indicate that the regime intends to remove Defense Minister 'Abd Al-Fatah Al-Sisi. These rumors were interpreted in the Egyptian media as an MB trial balloon meant to test the public's reaction to such a move, which could bring the military under their control. Although regime circles denied any such intention, the rumors were enough to spark protests in support of the military and against it being turned into a tool of the MB.

Among regime opponents, especially in the Canal Cities – which since the January 2013 verdict in the matter of the massacre at Port Said stadium[3] has become a center of ferment and rebellion against the regime – there were even calls to appoint Defense Minister 'Abd Al-Fatah Al-Sisi president in place of Mursi; Facebook campaigns also promoted this call. As part of its struggle to topple the regime, the National Salvation Front, which is the umbrella organization of opposition forces, also called for military intervention in the event of chaos, but stressed that this referred strictly to security intervention, not political intervention, because it did not want the military restored to full power. Military officials also reiterated warnings that if they felt that Egypt was sliding into chaos, they would intervene in order to prevent it. However, many Egyptians, including regime opponents, reject the idea of bringing the military back into a political role as a response to the disappointment with the MB.

On April 18, 2013, in a statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised the Egyptian military for maintaining the security of Egypt and the revolution, and criticized the Mursi regime. This was viewed by some Egyptian analysts as indicative of a retreat in the U.S. administration's support of the MB regime in Egypt and its support of the military in its disagreement with Mursi.

This document will review the dispute between the military and the regime in Egypt, and will show examples of calls supporting and opposing a return to power by the military.

Fear Of MB Takeover Of The Military

MB Implicitly Criticizes Military Leadership

The first signs of tension between the MB and the military could be seen back in December 2012, when in his weekly sermon MB General Guide Dr. Muhammad Badi' included a sentence that was interpreted as criticism of the military leadership.[4] In the sermon, which was posted on the MB website on December 20, 2012, Badi' said: "In his precious last will, the Prophet describes the sons of Egypt as the best army on the face of the Earth – meaning that they are obedient soldiers in need of leadership. Because there have been corrupt leaderships that these soldiers followed, there is need for a wise leadership along with soldier awareness..."[5] This caused a stir in Egypt, since it was seen as criticizing the current military leadership and implying that the MB intends to replace it.

In an attempt to calm these fears, Badi' stressed that the MB loves and appreciates the military, and would never let anyone cause a rift between them.[6] He even praised the "national role" of the military leaders; these statements were viewed as an apology for what he said in his sermon.[7]

But the military leaders were not convinced. A senior military source said in response to the sermon that the military establishment would not allow "the Muslim-Brotherhoodization of the armed forces" or permit a particular stream or political faction to impose itself on the military. He added, "There are strict orders in the military to prevent a specific political or religious trend, and any attempt to spread a certain thought within the military is a violation..." Badi's accusations of corruption against the military and its leadership, he said, were "a miserable attempt to prey on the current military leadership and to forcefully insert the MB into matters that are the sole concern of the military establishment..."[8]

On April 7, 2013, the Egyptian daily Al-Watan reported that another MB official had made a statement similar to that of Badi'. According to the report, MB Shura Council member Mouhi Al-Din Al-Zait, who is known to be the author of Badi''s weekly sermons, recited a poem that stated, "What is the value of the military if it is led by a mouse?" and "Our military is dear, but it requires leadership."[9] Responding to these remarks, a military source said that the MB itself were the mice, and that their past is drenched in the blood of innocent Egyptians – but that the military always protected the people and continues to do so. He added that if the MB does not stop making such statements, it will see the other face of the military's fury.[10] On April 9, 2013, Al-Zait said in a YouTube video that he wrote the song in 2002 and that it refers only to the political leadership at the time – meaning the Mubarak regime – and not the military leadership.[11]

Rumors That Mursi Intends To Remove Defense Minister

The fear of an MB takeover of the military increased when in February 2013 rumors began to spread that Mursi intended to remove Defense Minister 'Abd Al-Fatah Al-Sisi. The Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' quoted a senior military source who said that the military was furious over the rumors that senior military commanders, chiefly the defense minister, would be removed as part of a MB takeover of the military establishment, and that laying a hand on the military at this stage would be "suicide" for the current political regime. The source added that public opinion would not stand for any harm to the military and its commanders, and would mobilize to fight it. There are, he said, a number of Facebook pages that are recruiting young people for a rebellion that will take place if military commanders are removed, and that if this scenario comes about, the rage of these young people will be uncontrollable.[12]

However, the military spokesman issued a statement on Facebook saying that the remarks attributed to this military source were not made by official military elements and therefore did not represent the military's position.[13]

For his part, Mursi quickly denied the rumors and several times emphasized his confidence in Al-Sisi. The presidency's Facebook page also published a statement saying that the presidency expressed its confidence in Al-Sisi and its appreciation of the SCAF and of all officers and soldiers.[14] Mursi also made similar statements directly to Al-Sisi in a February 21, 2013 meeting, held only a few days after the rumors began to surface.[15] In a February 24 television interview, Mursi praised the military, the intelligence apparatuses, and Al-Sisi himself, saying that it was inconceivable that he would remove military commanders and denying that he has any plans for an MB takeover of the military.[16] Also, in an Al-Jazeera interview on April 20, 2013, Mursi said that talk of tension between him and the military would have been true if they were two separate entitites, but that as president he himself is part of the military establishment.[17]

Despite Mursi's denial of the rumors that he intended to remove Al-Sisi, some in the Egyptian press claimed that these rumors were an MB trial balloon in advance of just such a move. Egyptian journalist Assem Hanafi wrote: "I would wager my own arm that Al-Sisi will leave the armed forces... Clearly, the MB has been planning to take over the military for many years, just as it took over the Interior Ministry and parts of the justice system, and just as they strive to take over other institutions, chiefly the media... Al-Sisi should beware of the plot against him, sleep with one eye open... and count his fingers every time he shakes Dr. Mursi's hand..."[18]

It should be noted that in March 2013, and along with many reports of tension between the sides, Al-Sisi accompanied Mursi on his visit to Pakistan. The Egyptian press gave several explanations for this: the two went together to show that there was no tension between them, or Mursi took Al-Sisi with him because he feared that the latter would carry out a military coup if he did not.[19]

Al-Sisi and Mursi in Pakistan[20]

On April 6, 2013, the Saudi Al-Arabiya TV reported that information leaked from the Egyptian military exposed an MB plan to remove Al-Sisi and take over the military, with the blessing of several Western countries, chiefly the U.S. The channel cited sources in the military who said that the military would not allow Mursi to repeat with Al-Sisi the scenario of his August 2012 dismissal of SCAF head Gen. Muhammad Hussein Tantawi. [21] According to these sources, Al-Sisi was heavily pressured to accompany Mursi to Pakistan in an attempt to show that there was no tension between them. [22]

Points Of Contention Between The Military And The MB Regime

In recent months, the tension between the regime and the military has flared on several occasions, underlining the disputes on various issues:

Reports: Military Fears Mursi Regime Covering Up Hamas Involvement In Rafah Attack

Reports in the Egyptian media indicate that one of the main causes of tension between the military leadership and the Mursi regime in recent months is the investigation of the August 2012 terrorist attack in Rafah, in which 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed.

Since the attack, there are widespread claims in the media that Hamas was involved in carrying out the attack, so as to give Mursi a pretext to remove the Egyptian military leadership – which he did several days after the attack.[23] In contrast, in late February 2013 it was reported that at a conference in the Al-Beheira Governorate MB official 'Ali 'Abd Al-Fattah said that the attack was organized by members of the SCAF. 'Abd Al-Fattah later denied making the statement, but the military spokesman said in response that such irresponsible statements angered the military establishment, and warned that "the military establishment's patience will not last long." He even demanded an official apology from the MB.[24] In an attempt to calm the situation, the MB party issued a statement praising the military and promising to investigate the remarks attributed to 'Abd Al-Fattah.[25]

In recent weeks, tensions between the military and Mursi regime escalated even further, following new reports in the Egyptian press that the investigation of the attack showed that those who planned and executed it were Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.[26] The Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram Al-Arabi devoted two issues to listing the names of the 11 members of Hamas's 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades whom it claimed are behind the attack.[27]

According to several reports, the military was furious that the authorities have yet to publish the results of the investigation;[28] the delay in the investigation of the attack is sparking fears that the MB is covering for Hamas.[29] For its part, the military leadership stressed that despite the delays, the truth would eventually come out, and that it will insist that those responsible be punished. In a March 14, 2013 meeting with officers, Defense Minister Al-Sisi said: "We will never forget the Egyptian soldiers who were killed in Rafah," adding, "The betrayal will inevitably come to light, and the armed forces will take vengeance on their murderers."[30]

In mid-March 2013, a Hamas delegation headed by Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mash'al arrived in Egypt, apparently in an attempt to calm fears in the Egyptian military regarding Hamas's involvement in the Rafah attack. The Egyptian oppositionist daily Al-Watan reported that the military leadership rejected Hamas's request for a meeting – a request that was delivered via Mursi himself. It was also reported that the military told Mursi that the support for Hamas from him and from the MB has fueled Hamas's aspirations to dispatch terrorist elements to the Sinai and to use the region as a base of operations for their fight against Israel.[31]

Military, Regime Clash On Egypt-Gaza Tunnels

Another cause of the tension in recent months between the military and the MB regime are the tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. According to many reports, while the military launched operations against the tunnels, including flooding them with sewage and demolishing them,[32] the Mursi regime has preferred to delay any such moves for now.[33] Citing a senior military source, the Al-Watan daily reported that the military told the presidency that it objects to the MB's attempt to force its guardianship over the military's Sinai policy, especially regarding tunnels to the Gaza Strip. According to the source, the military has evidence that MB General Guide Muhammad Badi' and his deputy Khairat Al-Shater promised the Hamas leadership that they would intervene with Mursi to stop operations against and destruction of the tunnels in the Sinai, but that the military insists on continuing them.[34]

The Military Objects To Forging Closer Relations With Iran

The editor of the Egyptian weekly Al-Usbua, Mustafa Bakri, wrote on reports of disagreement between the Mursi regime and the military regarding relations with Iran: "The military expressed concern over statements [attributed] to Iranian President Ahmadinejad during the Islamic Summit in Cairo in February 2013, according to which his country can defend Egypt and will defend it from any danger it faces."[35] Bakri added: "The defense minister [Al-Sisi] told the Egyptian president that the military objects to these statements, which constitute an insult to the Egyptian military, and a questioning of its power and ability to face any threat to the security and stability of the country..."

According to Bakri, Al-Sisi asked the presidency to state its position regarding the reports of the intention to sign a strategic military alliance with Iran in the near future, and stressed that the military would reject any agreement like this that could drag the country into danger and crisis, and any Iranian attempts to infiltrate its ranks.

Bakri also said that the military expressed concern regarding reports in Egypt from January 2013 that the MB regime had asked Iran to help it strengthen its grip on the regime. According to these reports, a secret meeting was held in Cairo between Mursi advisor 'Issam Al-Haddad and Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in the matter of the development of Egypt's intelligence apparatus.[36]

In another recent manifestation of the military's objection to the ties with Iran promoted by the Mursi regime, following reports on the renewal of Iranian tourism to Egypt in late March 2013, sources in the Egyptian military were cited as warning against Egypt joining Iran's regional "axis of evil."[37]

The Egyptian oppositionist daily Al-Watan, citing knowledgeable sources, reported that in an April 11, 2013 meeting between Mursi and Al-Sisi, Al-Sisi said that the military has no nothing to do with foreign and economic relations between Egypt and Iran, but insisted that there are no Egypt-Iran military ties, because Iran has major aspirations in Egypt that could harm the latter's relations with other countries.[38]

Tension Regarding Military's Involvement In Suppressing Anti-Regime Protests

The regime's decision to involve the military in ongoing security actions due to the instability in Egypt starting in late January 2013 sparked another disagreement between Mursi and the military. Around that time, violent clashes broke out throughout Egypt in advance of the second anniversary of the January 25 revolution, and continued with clashes in Port Said between police and the families of the defendants sentenced to death in the Port Said soccer stadium massacre events. These events created concern for the security of the Suez Canal and led to attempts to start a popular rebellion in the Canal Cities and elsewhere.

On February 17, 2013, the Ultras fans of the Al-Masry soccer team declared a popular rebellion in Port Said, and began shutting down life in the city, demanding vengeance for those killed in clashes with security forces in the city in late January.[39] Calls for rebellion spread to Alexandria, Ismailia, and Cairo, but they were not met with the same support as in Port Said and Suez.[40] The instability forced the Mursi regime to mobilize the military to restore calm in Port Said and to participate in security operations.

To that end, on January 28, 2013, the Shura Council approved a bill submitted by the government under which "the military will support police forces and act in full coordination to maintain security and protect essential facilities in the country until the conclusion of the parliamentary elections..."[41] This situation, in which the military was now required to stand alongside the police during popular protests against the MB and Mursi, is another source of tension between the regime and military, since it left open the question of which circumstances would merit military intervention – placing the matter at the center of the political confrontation between the MB regime and its opponents.

On one hand, the defense minister supported military intervention in cases of grave danger to national security – as with the Port Said events. Al-Sisi said that without the military's intervention on presidential orders at the proper time, there would have been a catastrophe, especially in Port Said, because it was feared that the protestors would stop shipping traffic in the Suez Canal.[42] He added that the military presence in the streets of Port Said and Suez was aimed at protecting the country's vital strategic interests, chiefly the canal, and to assist the Interior Ministry.[43]

However, on the other hand, there were reports in Egyptian media that Al-Sisi had said that the military refuses to be a tool for the oppression of the people, and expressed his objection to the military taking to the streets in certain situations. According to a military source, disagreements and recriminations between Mursi and the head of the SCAF occurred on February 4, 2013, when the military requested to not be deployed on the streets, fearing that its status with the citizenry would be compromised. Following the meeting, Al-Sisi said that the military would not suppress protests, would not become a tool for repressing the people, and would not fire a single bullet at an Egyptian citizen. He added that the military was not responsible for securing the presidential palace, but rather that this is the duty of the presidential guard and civilian police.[44]

According to Al-Usbua editor Mustafa Bakri, military officials at the meeting objected to involving the military in suppressing riots, and expressed apprehensions that "Egypt was headed for chaos" and called for "ending the MB's involvement in regime matters." Bakri explained, "They repeatedly said that the military does not aspire to rule, but would not remain silent in light of the danger facing its country..."[45]

The daily Al-Watan reported that at a April 11, 2013 meeting between Mursi and Al-Sisi, Al-Sisi objected to the military taking to the streets at this stage, in a likely reference the sectarian riots that erupted on April 6 between Muslims and Copts in the city of Al-Khusus in the Al-Qalyubia governorate, which later spread to the Al-Abbasiya governorate as well.[46]

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.[47] 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..."[48]

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..."[49]

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.[50]

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,[51] 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.[52] 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."[53]

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.[54] 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.[55]

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."[56]

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.[57]

Facebook page: "General Al-Sisi, Egyptian President."[58]

Facebook page: "We are all against an MB takeover of the military."[59]

Statement on the Facebook page "Lovers of the Egyptian army": The people call on the military to oust the president and run the country.[60]

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..."[61]

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..."[62]

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."[63] 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."[64] 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.[65]

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..."[66]

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."[67]

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..."[68]

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."[69]

Is The U.S. Taking Sides In The Disagreement Between The Regime And Military?

On April 18, 2013, in comments to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised the Egyptian military's role in preserving the security of Egypt and the revolution, and criticized the Mursi regime. He said: "But for the army, you probably would have had civil war in Egypt. You would have had massive bloodshed. The army not only kept the peace, but it did what it said it would do. It created the capacity to have an election, had an election, and gave up power. Turned it over to the people who won the election." He said further: "The relationship we have in the junior officer level and on the way up within the army is terrific…The army is also helping us enforce security in the Sinai… [and] enforce the Gaza peace [meaning the ceasefire declared after Operation Pillar of Defense]… On balance, I believe we are getting a return on [our] investment [in the Egyptian military] that is not inconsequential." About the Muslim Brotherhood, he said: "The [Muslim] Brotherhood won [the election]. The Brotherhood that had organized for 80 years and that was waiting in the wings, that didn't have much to do with the bringing of the revolution…" In addition, he said: "We have been very clear with the Brotherhood. [We have] had very direct conversations with President Mursi and others about the need for inclusivity [and] the need for recognition of the opposition… I would express here today concerns about the direction [in which] they appear to be leaning, which is not… that inclusive…"[70]

Several Egyptian analysts saw these statements as attesting to a downgrade of the U.S. administration's support for the MB regime in Egypt and its bias towards the military. Hussein Haridi, former aide to the foreign minister, estimated that Washington regrets its previous calculations and its support of political Islam.[71] In an article in the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Egyptian writer Yahya Mustafa Kamel wrote that he is not surprised at the esteem Kerry showed for the role of the military during the revolution, but that he is surprised by Kerry's "implied recognition" of Egypt's "two regimes": the civilian regime elected by the citizens, which disappointed the hopes of the U.S. administration, and a military regime that is linked "organically" with the U.S., on which it can rely. Kamel went on to muse: "In light of Kerry's statements (which almost constitute a green light)... should we expect a military announcement... of a coup by 'a gang of esteemed officers'?"[72]

Kerry's statements embarrassed MB officials and associates. 'Issam Al-'Aryan, deputy head of the MB party, said that the statements reflected a misreading of the situation in Egypt.[73] Former presidential candidate 'Abdallah Al-Ash'al, who is close to the MB, assessed that Kerry said what he said because the U.S. fears that following Mursi's visit to Russia, he will choose Russia over the U.S. as a strategic ally. Al-Ash'al added that the U.S. could be inciting the military against the Mursi regime, which is not submitting to its dictates.[74]

* L. Lavi is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[1] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 748, In Egypt, Criticism of SCAF Intensifies, October 11, 2013; MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 708, The Egyptian Protests: A Second Revolution - Now against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, July 15, 2011; and MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 3963, Disappointed with Revolution's Gains, Egyptians Renew Protests, July 3, 2011.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 4908, Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi Rescinds The SCAF's Authority, August 24, 2012.

[4] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), December 21, 2012.

[5], December 20, 2012.

[6], January 3, 2013.

[7] Al-Hayat (London), January 13, 2013

[8] Al-Watan (Egypt), December 24, 2012.

[9] Al-Watan (Egypt), April 7, 2013.

[10] Al-Watan (Egypt), April 8, 2013.

[12] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), February 18, 2013.

[13], February 18, 2013.

[14], February 18, 2013.

[15] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 22, 2013.

[16] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), February 25, 2013. Mursi sent a thank you letter to Al-Sisi for the security provided to the Islamic Summit in Cairo in early February, 2013, which was also seen as a method of alleviating tension with the military, since it was sent some two weeks after the summit itself. Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 19, 2013.

[17] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), April 21, 2013.

[18] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 26, 2013.

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

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

[21] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 4908, Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi Rescinds The SCAF's Authority, August 24, 2012.

[22], April 4, 2013.

[24] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), February 25, 2013.

[25] Al-Shorouq (Egypt), February 26, 2013.

[26] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), March 1, 2013.

[27] Al-Ahram Al-Arabi (Egypt), March 14, 2013; March 23, 2013.

[28] Al-Watan (Egypt), February 20, 2013.

[29] For example, Hussein Haridy, a former assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister, said that the investigation has concluded, and that the Egyptian government knows exactly who is responsible for the attack. Military expert Mahmoud Khalaf affirmed reports that the investigation was stopped following pressure from high-ranking officials in the country. Al-Dustour Al-Asly (Egypt), April 6, 2013; in an article in the Egyptian daily Al-Wafd, columnist 'Alaa 'Aribi wondered whether Mursi objected to publishing the names of those involved in the attack in order to cover for Hamas and maintain the movement's good name. Al-Wafd (Egypt), March 18, 2013.

[30] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), March 15, 2013.

[31] Al-Watan (Egypt), March 15, 2013.

[32] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 936, To Hamas's Chagrin, Egypt Increases Anti-Tunnel Activity On Gaza Border, February 20, 2013.

[33] Al-Watan (Egypt), March 20, 2013.

[34] Al-Watan (Egypt), March 12, 2013.

[35] In an interview with the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen TV channel in early February 2013, Adhmadinejad said: "If one day Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or any other country in the region was attacked, the Iranian nation would stand by them and support the nations' resistance against the occupation just as it supported the Afghan and Iraqi nations against the occupiers, and just as we support the Palestinian nation against the Zionist regime." To the interviewers question on whether such support would be merely political or practical as well, Ahmadinejad said: "Iran will undoubtedly support any country that is attacked, but the type of support depends on the decisions of that same country.", February 5, 2013.

[36] Al-Ahram; Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), January 8, 2013; Al-Watan (Egypt), February 20, 2013.

[37], April 6, 2013.

[38] Al-Watan (Egypt), April 12, 2013.

[40] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 18, 2013; Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), February 20, 2013; Al-Misryoon (Egypt), February 25, 2013.

[41] The military was also given the authority to conduct arrests without a legal warrant., January 28, 2013.

[42] Al-Masri Al-Yawm; Al-Watan (Egypt), February 6, 2013.

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

[44] Al-Masri Al-Yawm; Al-Watan (Egypt), February 6, 2013.

[45] Al-Watan (Egypt), February 20, 2013.

[46] Al-Watan (Egypt), April 11, 2013.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[56];, March 1, 2013.

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[70], April 18, 2013.

[71] Al-Watan (Egypt), April 20, 2013.

[72] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), April 23, 2013.

[73], April 24, 2013.

[74], April 19, 2013.

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