Escalating Tension between People, Army
On July 8, 2011, Egypt saw a new wave of mass protests in squares throughout the country. These demonstrations, some of which are still ongoing, marked a turning point in the relationship between the people and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The protestors called for a "second revolution" against the Egyptian authorities, headed by the SCAF, in order to defend the January 25 revolution.
The SCAF, headed by Gen. Muhammad Hussein Tantawi, which initially enjoyed the support and appreciation of the Egyptian protesters and masses, has recently come under severe criticism, to the extent that it is being compared to the hated Mubarak regime. It has been accused of dragging its feet in realizing the revolution's aims, and even of working against them. According to the protesters, the SCAF is not doing enough to settle scores with Mubarak and his associates, or with those responsible for the killing of protesters during the revolution, while at the same time it oppresses the protesters and has them prosecuted in military courts (while corrupt officials are prosecuted in civilian courts).
The SCAF, for its part, has begun to take a harsher tone with the protesters and to challenge the legitimacy of their actions. While stressing its support of the people and the revolution, it has demanded that the protesters leave Al-Tahrir square and return to their everyday lives, and has even questioned the motives of some activists.
At the same time, the Egyptian authorities have taken a number of steps in order to alleviate the tension and appease the protesters. These include the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Yahya Al-Gamal; the announcement of an impending reshuffle among government ministers and province governors, and of plans to dismiss over 500 police officers; the publication of prison sentences that have been meted out to three officials in the former regime – prime minister Ahmad Nazif, former interior minister Habib 'Adli, and former finance minister Yousef Boutous Ghali – who have been convicted of corruption; and an announcement that persons suspected of responsibility for protester deaths will soon be placed on public trial.
Despite these measures, some protesters have refused to quit the squares, promising to stay until all of their demands are met and even threatening to escalate the protests.
The events sparked a heated public debate over the SCAF's performance and legitimacy. The Egyptian press published numerous articles reviewing the reasons for the protests and the criticism against the SCAF. Other articles condemned the protesters for making excessive demands, and praised the SCAF's performance. Many of the articles warned that any further deterioration in the relations between the authorities and the protesters could lead to chaos and bloodshed.
This report will review the growing tension between the protesters and the SCAF, as reflected in the press.
A "Second Revolution" – Against the SCAF
The protest currently underway in Al-Tahrir square is directed at the Egyptian officials, and especially the SCAF and its head, Gen. Tantawi. In addition to demanding the realization of the revolution's goals, the protesters also called out "Down with Field Marshal Tantawi," and "The People Want to Overthrow the Field Marshal" – slogans similar to those chanted against Mubarak. Dozens of Facebook pages have been opened calling to overthrow the military regime and Tantawi himself.
Articles in the Egyptian press noted that the demonstrations were directed mostly at the SCAF, not at the government. 'Abd Al-Halim Qandil, editor of the paper Sawt Al-Ummah and the spokesman of the Kefaya movement, wrote: "The SCAF needs to realize how the people really feel. We are [witnessing] a second revolution aimed at rescuing the goals of the first. There is open anger towards the SCAF, and [the demonstrations constitute] an ultimatum by the people to the generals, a last warning for the SCAF..."
Columnist Muhammad 'Ali Khair wrote in Al-Akhbar that the protests are "directed at the SCAF, which is running the country," and that the millions of protesters are waiting for "a prompt answer from Gen. Hussein Tantawi," not from anyone else. He added: "Those who have received an ultimatum from the protesters – do they understand the [protesters'] goals, or do they need another ultimatum as a last warning before they are kicked off the playing field? The ball is now in the SCAF's court, and it is required to respond immediately to the demands coming from Al-Tahrir square – because it derives its legitimacy from [the protestors], not from Mubarak."
Banner at Al-Tahrir square: "The People Want the SCAF Dismissed"
The SCAF Is Not Doing Enough to Realize the Revolution's Goals
Sensing that the goals of the revolution are not being realized, the Egyptian protesters returned to the streets. They accused the SCAF of dragging its feet in implementing these goals, and even of working against them, either because of its ties with the former regime or in capitulation to foreign dictates.
Some of the parties and organizations involved in the demonstrations have promised to keep protesting indefinitely until all their demands are met, publishing several demands that are agreed upon by all the protesters. One of these demands is "to redefine the authorities of the SCAF so that they do not conflict with those of the government and allow the prime minister to appoint his deputy, his ministers and his aides, after his government is purged of loyalists of the former regime." Other demands are to stop prosecuting civilians in military courts, and to release them immediately and prosecute them in civilian courts; revoke laws banning peaceful demonstrations; dismiss security officers suspected of responsibility for protester deaths and give them a public trial at a special court established for this purpose; dismiss the interior minister (who is a former police chief) and replace him with a civilian; reorganize the interior ministry and subject it to supervision; replace the current prosecutor general with an agreed upon candidate; place Mubarak and the members of his regime on public trial; and withdraw the current draft budget and formulate another that will be presented for public debate.
Many articles in the Egyptian press reflected the public's frustration with the lack of progress. Mustafa Al-Naggar, a columnist for the daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' and the founder of the liberal party Al-'Adel, wrote: "The people are following the developments, hoping that salvation is near. But the wait is getting long, and [the people] are amazed to discover that [their] rights are not being realized and that justice is being carried out slowly – so slowly as to cast doubt on the [authorities'] ability to mete out justice. The people feel that the revolution is in jeopardy, so they have decided to take to the streets in order to defend it and complete [the realization] of its goals."
Egyptian writer Alaa Al-Aswany, author of the famous novel Yacoubian Building, which criticized the Mubarak regime, wrote in a similar vein in the daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm: "Though it has been a full six months since the revolution, not even one of its goals has been realized. In fact, it sometimes seems as though the SCAF is pulling in the opposite direction. On Friday, July 8, the people conveyed a firm message to the relevant parties. Millions took to the streets throughout Egypt demanding that the SCAF realize the demands of the revolution...
"The SCAF's administration [of the country] since the revolution has not been revolutionary in the slightest. It is leading the country into a dead end and towards dangerous conflict. Millions of Egyptians, who carried out one of the greatest revolutions in history, were [initially] happy to place their revolution in the hands of the SCAF. But six months later, they have discovered that nothing has changed, so they have taken to the streets, demanding to implement the goals of the revolution – but the SCAF, it seems, does not wish to comply.
"The demands of the revolution are clear. We have written them down and called them out repeatedly. They are all simple and legitimate: [we want] justice, democratic reform, and [the country] purged [of corruption]. We are entitled to know where Hosni Mubarak is, what the real state of his health is, and why he is not treated like any other prisoner. We are entitled to know where [his sons] Gamal and 'Alaa Mubarak are, and to send someone to verify that they are really in prison.
"[Also,] there is no choice but to purge the police force of corrupt [officers] and murderers, to purge all state institutions of Hosni Mubarak's associates, and to hold fair public trials for all the corrupt [officials] and murderers, starting with Hosni Mubarak [himself] and his interior minister, the arch-murderer Habib 'Adli. There is no choice but to establish a minimum wage that will ensure a dignified life for the poor, as well as a maximum wage, that will prevent the robbing the state coffers. These are the demands of the revolution, which we will not relinquish, whatever the sacrifices.
"I hope the SCAF heeds the voice of the people before it is too late. The Egyptian people, hundreds of whom have died and thousands of whom have been injured for the sake of the revolution, is willing to sacrifice [even] more lives for the sake of liberty. Democracy is the solution."
Sign: "The People Want the Deposed [President] Tried. Foot-Dragging Is the Beginning of Conspiracy"
Columnist Muhammad 'Ali Khair wrote: "People have many doubts about what they see around them. They feel that the state institutions have conspired to spare the members of the former regime from lawsuits, especially [those suspected of] killing demonstrators... Is it conceivable that Sharaf's government includes 13 ministers from the former regime, yet is still called a revolutionary government? [Those] interior ministry officials who have been accused of killing protesters – why are they still serving [in their posts]? In the morning, they come to court [as defendants], and in the afternoon they return to their ministries. Moreover, why are the leaders of the former regime being tried behind closed doors, [so that] the public does not even see their pictures in the papers?... Why does the prime minister decide to replace a few ministers, only to have the SCAF oppose this [decision]? Is Essam Sharaf really the prime minister of Egypt? Why does the SCAF refuse to meet his demands?...
"If the SCAF does not change its position... we will all pay the price: destructive chaos that Egypt and its revolution do not deserve."
The SCAF No Different from Mubarak's Regime
The harshest accusation leveled at the SCAF was that it is no different from the regime of the hated Hosni Mubarak. It is noteworthy that none of the critics pointed out that both Mubarak and the members of the SCAF belong to the selfsame military elite that ruled Egypt for over 60 years.
Alaa Al-Aswany stated that the military regime is employing the same methods as Mubarak, practicing autocratic rule, failing to promote the independence of the branches of government, and persecuting demonstrators, while at the same time boasting of Egypt's democracy. He wrote: "Hosni Mubarak always made decisions on his own. He never thought he had to explain them to the people... Today, we notice that the SCAF is employing the same governmental approach... It constantly makes decisions that can hardly be characterized as reflecting the will of the people or the spirit of the revolution...
"Mubarak used to exert heavy pressure on judges, so as to transform them into tools for his own use. Most of the judges resisted these pressures, but some succumbed, and oversaw the electoral fraud... [Today,] six months after the revolution, despite repeated calls from senior judges to purge the judiciary system [of corruption], the SCAF has yet to make a decision regarding the independence and the purging of the judiciary...
"In Mubarak's era, the security apparatuses behaved with complete barbarity. Tens of dozens of Egyptians were subjected to [human rights] violations and to torture at the police headquarters and branches, [yet] Mubarak never missed an opportunity to brag about the democratic change that Egypt had seen in his era. Today, we find that the SCAF's announcements praise the revolution and stress the rule of law, yet at the same time, it [tries] thousands of civilians in military courts. They are arrested for participating in a demonstration or protest rally, and then face military courts that can send them to a military prison for several years. This, while those who killed the Egyptians, robbed them, and violated their honor are being tried in civilian courts.
"Ultimately, what hobbles the SCAF and prevents it from realizing the demands of the revolution is the fact that it is employing the same policy as Hosni Mubarak... However pure its intentions, it cannot do away with Mubarak's regime and found a new one when it is using the same methods that Mubarak used."
Columnist 'Aisha Al-Jiyar wrote: "O gentlemen of the SCAF, who govern the country and manage the affairs of its citizens, who are you? Are you [really] the commanders of the army that declared its complete support for the revolution... or are you commanders of the Mubarak regime and cogs of [his] governmental mechanism, that must be replaced en bloc in order to transform this mechanism as a whole?
"Were you [among] those who opposed the passing of the presidency [from father to son], or were you [among those who] thought that the real danger lay not in hereditary rule but in the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis, the liberals, or any other [force] that might emerge out of the chaos of the revolution? Do you believe that [Mubarak's regime,] which fell and passed from the world, was [actually] the best for Egypt? Do you believe that what happened was indeed a revolution, whose demands are legitimate in reality and not just in [hypocritical] announcements, and that these demands must be met without delay? Or do you believe that it is merely a youth intifada, and 'intifada of thieves' as [former Egyptian president Anwar] Sadat [described the food riots of January 1977]...?
"Do you believe in democracy and regard it as the way to advance Egypt? [Do you] think that the people should live in freedom and elect its rulers? Or do you renounce democracy and believe that it is not suitable for us Egyptians, that ballots will [only] yield an electoral [victory] for the Islamists, that Egypt will become [another] Iraq or Afghanistan, and that a rule of the military or of your loyal [followers] is the way to guarantee a [stable] future? Are you recreating the Mubarak regime?... That will never happen. We will not let you..."
There Is a Difference between the SCAF and the Army
One of the ways in which Egyptians attempted to resolve the contradiction between their harsh criticism against the SCAF and their general esteem for the country's military was by claiming that the SCAF and the Egyptian military were separate entities that should be distinguished. 'Abd Al-Halim Qandil, editor of the weekly Sawt Al-Umma, wrote: "The ball is now in the SCAF's court, and we [deliberately] do not say the court of the Egyptian military. The Egyptian military is part of the Egyptian people. The people and the military are united as one. The SCAF's actions, unfortunately, conflict with the unity of the people and the military..."
Columnist 'Aisha Al-Jiyar drew a similar distinction: "The SCAF is not the Egyptian military. The Egyptian military is the gift to Egypt. It is more important than the Nile and nobler than the pyramids. It is Egypt – all its strata, geography, and history. I have no doubt whatsoever that the SCAF wants the best for Egypt, and the best is [the demands issuing] from [Al-Tahrir] square. Gather in the square. If Egypt is in danger, [that danger] is not coming from the square. Egypt's youth in the square will protect Egypt and protect you. If you want the best for Egypt, take to the square."
Sign: "The Military Is Ours, the [SCAF] Is Theirs"
SCAF Announcement Increases Tensions
An official SCAF announcement issued by Gen. Mohsen Al-Fangari on July 12, 2011, only increased tensions between the council and the protestors, due both to its content and to its threatening tone. In the announcement, the SCAF expressed its support for the Egyptian people and its legitimate demands, but cautioned against protests by those with ulterior motives who wish to sow anarchy in the country.
The announcement said: "From the outset of the revolution, the SCAF announced its complete support for the people, and promised to stand alongside [the people] with the aim of meeting its legitimate demands within the legal framework of the constitution and the law." At the same time, the SCAF stressed that "it will not neglect its duty to manage the country's affairs in this decisive period of Egypt's history."
The announcement claimed that some of the protestors were overstepping the boundaries of peaceful protest and harming the interests of the country and its citizens, and that they were motivated by personal interests, giving them precedence over the supreme interests of Egypt. The announcement also criticized those who are working to undermine stability in the country and spread false slogans and reports that lead to schism, civil disobedience, and the destruction of the homeland.
The SCAF called for citizens to oppose anything that impedes the return to everyday life, warning that "the armed forces will not allow anyone to circumvent the authorities and the law," and that the necessary legal steps will be taken against "the threats posed to the homeland that are affecting the citizens and national security."
The announcement added that "the SCAF is committed to its plan of managing the country's affairs during this transitional period, and of holding elections to the People's Assembly and subsequently to the Shura Council. Only after this will a new constitution be drafted and presidential elections held." This came in response to numerous calls from Egypt's political forces to postpone the parliamentary elections and precede them with the drafting of a new constitution.
Egyptian writer Mahmoud Al-Wardani told the daily Al-Ahram, "The announcement brings us back to square one, long before January." He added, "It is not fitting to address the uprisers in a threatening tone."
Wael Qandil, columnist for the Egyptian daily Al-Shurouq, wrote: "The mere fact that Al-Fangari chose to deliver this angry announcement conveys more than [one] message. When [one] whose face is burned into the people's memories [as the figure] closest to the spirit of the revolution [chooses] to speak in such an angry tone – which stinks of threat against the revolutionaries and protestors – all those concerned must understand the SCAF's [attitude] to the public's activities and demands... as a word to the wise.
"That is as far as the manner in which [the announcement was delivered]. As for its content, the most dangerous thing in Al-Fangari's announcement were his words: 'The armed forces calls on the honorable citizens to stand up to any phenomena that impede our great people from returning to normal life, and to oppose the misleading rumors'... The attempt to blacken the noble image of the protests in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez, and to play to the emotions of the so-called 'silent majority,' will not bear fruit. This behavior is immoral and unprofessional, and assumes that the thousands protesting for the completion of the revolution are detached from the Egyptian people, [while, in fact,] each of these honorable protestors is an ambassador of the [great] Egyptian family, the rest of whose sons sit at home and recite the same slogans and demands as those who have taken to the squares. Therefore, the incitement against [the protestors], and the call for the people to stand up to them, entail many dangers that the homeland cannot bear should they, God forbid, come to pass."
From a Facebook page launched in protest of Al-Farangi's announcement: "Fangari's finger"
Writers in SCAF's Defense: Without It, Egypt Would See Massacres like Those in Yemen, Syria, and Libya
Other articles in the Egyptian press praised the SCAF and its conduct. Salama Ahmad Salama, editorial board director at the Egyptian daily Al-Shurouq and former editor of the daily Al-Ahram, wrote: "The truth is that no revolution can achieve anything if it dances to the tune of the street, [a tune that is] sad but shrill... The man on the street knows that, even if they are accused of acting slowly, the armed forces are the only ones backing up the people's interests. If this were not true, Egypt would witness massacres like those in Yemen, Libya, and Syria.
"The revolution is not just for the revolutionaries. That is, the revolutionaries must [also] feel the pulse of the people, [sense] the people's problems, and represent their pain and hopes if they truly want for the revolution to continue without relinquishing their principles. How many revolutions devoured the revolutionaries [themselves] through disputes, lust for power, and thirst to rule?
"It must be admitted that we do not all move at the same pace. There is a difference between the speed at which the revolutionary movement progresses, and the speed at which the SCAF can respond in running the country... [Likewise,] the legal system must remain solid even if faults in it are starting to surface. The most dangerous thing is for the legal system to be exposed to shocks or pressures likely to upset the scales of justice. We can demand to purge [those loyal to the previous regime] and expedite their prosecution and sentencing, but we cannot use the guillotine or the methods of sweeping purges used in other revolutions, among them the July [1952 Officers'] Revolution, which left behind it tragedies and injustices which we have regretted for many years."
Ahmad Moussa, editorial board director at the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, wrote: "The SCAF's messages were meant to block the way to those wishing [to cause] anarchy through pressure, threats, intimidation, and by harming the citizens' interests and the state resources. This is likely to affect the [country's] economic situation, stability, stock exchange, investments, and flow of exports, and to bring production to a halt, drive away numerous investors, and freeze the tourism industry.
"No one, no matter who he is, will hijack this country. As the SCAF said, it will under no circumstances allow the authorities and the law to be circumvented. This is a message to those who are working day and night to sow schism and strife and to spread rumors in the service of a plan carefully mapped out to promote their personal interests rather than those of the homeland, which is home to 85 million people. Only the ballot box will reflect the will of these millions, [and their results] will be honored by all... The Egyptian people will not allow doubts to be cast over the SCAF, [whose members] stood alongside the demands of the people from the beginning. And we must act wisely so as not to harm the image of the country."
The Muslim Brotherhood Maneuvering between Protesters and SCAF
Of particular interest was the stance of the Muslim Brotherhood vis-à-vis the conflict between the SCAF and the protestors, especially in light of allegations that the Brotherhood has formed an alliance with the SCAF. The Brotherhood initially declared that it would not take part in the July 8 protests but, in a surprising move, changed its mind one day prior to the protests. According to reports, the change came after the protest organizers agreed to waive the demand to draft a new constitution prior to holding elections. The Brotherhood, it should be added, did not support continued sit-in strikes in the squares following the July 8 demonstrations, nor did it sign the document delineating the protestors' demands.
In light of the increasing tensions between the protestors and the SCAF, the Brotherhood is trying to maneuver between the two sides: its officials are voicing support for those protestors whose demands match the Brotherhood's policies, while expressing their faith in the SCAF's capacity to meet these demands, and these demands alone.
Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Muhammad Badi' called on Egypt to unite and stand alongside the armed forces and the SCAF, "and to appreciate its role in preserving the revolution rather than criticizing it." Dr. Mahmoud Ghozlan, a member of the Supreme Guide's office and the Brotherhood spokesman, expressed support for the SCAF's July 12 announcement, especially in regard to the SCAF's intention to hold elections prior to drafting a new constitution. Ghozlan claimed that the SCAF had secret information regarding threats to the country which must be dealt with by any means possible. Likewise, he called on Egypt's youth in Al-Tahrir square to disperse and not to clash with the SCAF, in order to ensure a peaceful transitional period.
In an article, Dr. 'Issam Al-'Arian, deputy chairman of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party, called on the SCAF to meet some of the protestors' demands and expressed his confidence that it would. He wrote: "The message of the July 8 [protests] was aimed at those responsible for managing the country – the SCAF; the government ministries and in particular the interior Ministry; and the Egyptian legal system, which has the confidence of the people.
"The importance of the message [conveyed by] the July 8 [protests] lies in the fact that it reflects a consensus between all the political and national forces – [a consensus] for which we waited several months, for there were some who tried to unite against the clear will of the people during the March 19,  referendum, and who still insist on challenging the popular will and on dividing the [united] national ranks anew...
"July 8 was truly a historic [day]. I recited the Friday prayers in Al-Tahrir square along with my son. In the square, I met groups that had come there from all [Egypt's] provinces. The spirit of January and February had returned to the square. There are those who insist on killing this spirit once again by raising contentious issues and disputed demands...
"But we know that you [the members of the SCAF] are sons of this nation who were born of its womb, nursed on the milk of its mothers, and drank [the waters of] its Nile. You grew up on its land, under whose skies you swore allegiance to the homeland and not to the president, to the people and not to the regime – and you will fulfill your obligation to the people. We followed your announcements one after another, and you were as clear as possible during the revolution. Have you [now] changed? Or have conditions changed? Do you still stand by your commitment? Or has something happened [to shake that commitment]?
"We want a clear answer from you. We are confident that you will listen to the conscience of faith, to the national conscience, and to your own instinct for peace. We say to you: the people swore to purify the country, to topple the regime, and to do justice. The people will fulfill its oath, and it wants you by its side."
 See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 663, "Chronicle of a Doomed Uprising: The Egyptian Revolution as a Microcosm of the Arab Masses' Quest for a Share in Power and Resources," from February 7, 2011, which predicted a revolution against the military regime.
 For example, some threatened to obstruct traffic through the Suez Canal. Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 13, 2011.
 Quoted in Hasanein Kuroum's column, Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), July 13, 2011.
 Al-Akhbar (Egypt), July 10, 2011.
 Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 13, 2011.
 Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), July 10, 2011.
 Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 12, 2011.
 Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 13, 2011.
 Al-Akhbar (Egypt), July 10, 2011.
 Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 12, 2011.
 Al-Dustour (Egypt), July 10, 2011.
 Quoted in Hasanein Kuroum's column. Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), July 13, 2011.
 Al-Dustour (Egypt), July 10, 2011.
 Al-Ahram (Egypt), July 12, 2011.
 Al-Shurouq (Egypt), July 13, 2011.
 Al-Ahram (Egypt), July 13, 2011.
 The SCAF was criticized for overly involving Muslim Brotherhood members in various political moves in the country, while excluding revolutionaries. As proof, critics cited the makeup of the committee formed to draft amendments to the constitution, which included Muslim Brotherhood members, one of whom, Tareq Al-Bishri, chairs the committee. Also noted was the joint opposition of the SCAF and the Brotherhood to postponing the parliamentary elections, a demand raised by the country's secular and liberal forces.
 Al-Hayat (London), July 14, 2011.
 Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), July 13, 2011, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 14, 2011.
 The March 30, 2011 referendum on constitutional revisions was at the center of a political conflict, on both religious and sectarian lines, between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis on the one hand, and the secular, liberal, and Coptic forces on the other. The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis supported the limited amendments to the constitution, which left in place Article Two which defines Islam as the country's main source of legislation. They issued fatwas in favor of the amendments, presenting opposition to them as opposition to Islam. The amendments passed, and on March 23, a temporary "constitutional declaration" was published, valid until the elections of a new parliament, which is to draft a new constitution. Recently, a debate has started regarding the election date, and whether the new constitution should be drafted before the elections take place. Those who support postponing the elections argue that it will allow the new political parties to prepare for them, thus giving these parties a fairer chance to compete with the established powers – the Muslim Brotherhood and the National Democratic Party.
 Ikhwanonline.com, July 10, 2011.