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World reports on possible “coup” by Egyptian army – website
BBC Monitoring Middle East
February 20, 2013

A boy standing behind a barbed wire barricade looks at members of the Republican Guard who have closed a road leading to the presidential palace in Cairo, December 6, 2012. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Private Al-Fajr news website quoted “international intelligence reports published in London” as saying that there are indications that the Egyptian army will take over power again in Egypt soon.

The website, which focuses on investigative and sensationalist news reports, said that all indications and givens “reassure the imminent re-transfer of power to the Egyptian army” which has been ruling Egypt from 1952 to 2011 when President Mubarak was ousted.

“There are monitored moves and efforts inside the military establishment for a coup that ousts the current regime and drives the Muslim Brotherhood away from power,” the website quoted reports as saying.

It further said that such a coup will be welcomed worldwide.

“Decision-making circles worldwide see that the army will restore calm and stability in Egypt after two years of instability,” it said.

“World countries will recognize the army`s power if it is temporary and paves the way to the rule of a retired general who enjoys military`s support as was the case with former presidents: Jamal Abd-al-Nasir, Anwar al-Sadat and Muhammad Husni Mubarak,” it also said.

Al-Fajr news website is affiliated to a paper whose editor-in-chief is Adil Hamudah, a staunch opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Source: Al-Fajr, Cairo, in Arabic 19 Feb 13

© 2013 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Egypt`s military signals impatience with Islamist president and his Muslim Brotherhood group
By Hamza Hendawi
February 20, 2013

Soldiers stand guard outside the presidential palace in Cairo December 6, 2012. Egypt`s Republican Guard restored order around the presidential palace on Thursday after fierce overnight clashes killed seven people, but passions ran high in a struggle over the country`s future. Hundreds of supporters of President Mohamed Mursi, who had camped out near the palace overnight withdrew before a mid-afternoon deadline set by the Republican Guard. Dozens of Mursi`s foes remained, but were kept away by a barbed wire barricade guarded by tanks. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

CAIRO (AP) - Egypt`s powerful military is showing signs of growing impatience with the country`s Islamist leaders, indirectly criticizing their policies and issuing thinly veiled threats that it might seize power again.

The tension is raising the specter of another military intervention much like the one in 2011, when generals replaced longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak after they sided with anti-regime protesters in their 18-day popular uprising.

The strains come at a time when many Egyptians are despairing of an imminent end to the crippling political impasse between President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood group on one side, and the mostly secular and liberal opposition on the other.

The tug of war between the two camps is being waged against a grim backdrop of spreading unrest, rising crime and a worsening economy.

“In essence, the military will not allow national stability or its own institutional privileges to come under threat from a breakdown in Egypt`s social fabric or a broad-based civil strife,” said Michael W. Hanna, an Egypt expert from the New York-based Century Foundation.

“This is not an ideological army or one that seeks to destabilize civilian governance. ... But it is also not an army that will sit by while the country reaches the tipping point on the path to civil strife.”

The latest friction began when a rumor circulated that Morsi planned to replace Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, his defense minister and the army chief, because of his resistance to bringing the military under the sway of the Brotherhood-dominated government.

El-Sissi may have angered Morsi last month when he signaled the military`s readiness to step in, warning that the state would collapse if no solution was found to the political crisis. Pointedly, he also spoke of how the military faces a dilemma in marrying the task of protecting state installations in restive locations with its resolve not to harm peaceful protesters.

In another provocative comment earlier this month, el-Sissi was quoted as saying he would never allow the armed forces to be dominated by the Brotherhood, or any other group, stressing the military`s national identity.

A Brotherhood spokesman, Yasser Mehrez, dismissed claims that the group sought to bring the military under its sway. “This is old talk that has been repeated over and over again,” he said.

The rumor about el-Sissi`s dismissal was widely suspected to be a trial balloon floated by the Muslim Brotherhood to gauge military and public reaction.

The military did not officially respond. But widely published comments attributed to an anonymous military source threatened that any attempt to remove the military`s top commanders would be “suicide” for the government and spoke of widespread anger within the armed forces.

The source was quoted as saying the public will not accept any meddling in the military and will close ranks to counter any pressures or challenges.

The military distanced itself from the comments on a statement posted on its official Facebook page. But the situation was deemed serious enough for Morsi`s office to issue a statement late Monday that appeared aimed at calming the military.

It reassured commanders of the administration`s appreciation of the armed forces and said the president had confidence in el-Sissi.

But the statement, which blamed media for spreading “lies and rumors,” may have done little to ease the tension.

“The two sides may be publicly dismissing reports of tension, but the army is making it very clear to the presidency that any attempt to dismiss el-Sissi would backfire,” said military analyst and retired army Gen. Mohammed Qadri Said.

“They claim mutual love and respect, but what is happening is not indicative of this.”

The military also handed Morsi a public humiliation when army commanders chose not to enforce a night curfew he imposed on three restive Suez Canal cities in riots last month.

In a direct challenge to the president, several top field commanders said they would not use force against civilians in the three cities. Residents openly defied Morsi by staging demonstrations during the curfew hours, playing soccer in the streets and setting off fireworks.

El-Sissi`s top lieutenant, Chief of Staff Sedki Sobhi, delivered another implicit warning to Morsi and the Brotherhood this week.

While the military was not currently involved in politics, he said: “It keeps an eye on what goes on in the nation and if the Egyptian people ever needed the armed forces, they will be on the streets in less than a second.”

Significantly, Sobhi made his comments in the United Arab Emirates, whose government accuses Egypt`s Brotherhood of meddling in its affairs and has arrested 11 Egyptian expatriates there for their membership of the group.

Morsi and the Brotherhood have made it clear that they do not want the military to play any political role.

But that did not stop el-Sissi from extending an invitation to the opposition and Islamist leaders loyal to Morsi to sit down informally over lunch to defuse a crisis over presidential decrees issued in November that gave Morsi near absolute powers. The decrees have since been rescinded.

Under pressure from the Brotherhood, el-Sissi withdrew the invitation just hours before the meeting was to start.

Morsi appointed el-Sissi less than two months after taking office as Egypt`s first freely elected president. The Aug. 12 appointment followed Morsi`s bold decision to retire the nation`s two top generals, restoring the full powers of the president`s office and ending a months-long power struggle between the two sides. Before Morsi`s move, the military had the power to legislate since the legislature was dissolved in June by a court ruling. The military also held veto power over a panel that was drafting a new constitution at the time.

Still, few ever took el-Sissi to be the president`s man. And there were doubts that six decades of de facto military rule had come to an end or that the military had been relegated to playing second fiddle to civilians.

Morsi and his Islamist supporters passed up a major opportunity to curb the military`s power -- something that would have meant a major confrontation with the generals.

The new constitution drafted by Islamists enshrined the military`s near-complete independence and kept its vast economic interests above oversight, against the wishes of many who participated in the 2011 revolt.

With chaos in the country deepening, chants calling for military intervention during street protests, last heard en masse during the uprising, are making a timid comeback.

“Millions of Egyptians want the army to come back and deliver us from chaos,” Ibrahim Issa, host of a political talk show on television, said this week.

“This is the sentiment on the Egyptian street, and ignoring it is stupid,” said the popular Issa, a harsh critic of Morsi, the Brotherhood and the military when it was in power.

Since taking office in June 2012, Morsi has made little progress in tackling Egypt`s pressing problems -- steep price increases, surging crime, deteriorating services and fuel shortages.

The Brotherhood, which dominates parliament and the government after winning every election since Mubarak`s ouster, is accused of monopolizing power. And Morsi has been criticized for failing to deliver on a promise of an inclusive government representing the Christian minority, liberal and secular political factions, and women.

The highly charged political climate and the collapsing economy could make a military takeover seem like a welcome development in some corners of Egypt -- or at least a necessary evil that could salvage the nation.

But the military may not be willing to insert itself directly again in politics or governance. Its prestige was badly tarnished by scathing criticism of its handling of the post-Mubarak transition period.

A few days into the uprising, Mubarak ordered the army into the streets to replace a police force that melted away when confronted with massive public outrage over decades of abuse.

With the country in chaos and paralyzed, the military later sided with protesters who demanded that Mubarak leave office. A council of ruling generals took over the reins of power, but the relationship soon turned sour.

Activists and pro-democracy groups accused the generals of widespread human rights violations during their rule, including the torture of detainees and the trial of at least 10,000 civilians before military tribunals.

The military later made good on its promise to hand over power to an elected government, although Morsi and his Brotherhood would clearly not have been the generals` choice if they had to make one.

With that history in mind, there are serious questions about whether a military intervention can even solve any of Egypt`s problems in a time short enough to satisfy a population seething with anger over the chaos and hardships of the last two years.

The military would be risking more vilification if it does not move the country onto firmer ground quickly.

Nevertheless, there may be enough goodwill toward the military and popular discontent to give it another chance.

© 2013. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Egyptians losing faith in army and brotherhood
Michael Jansen
The Irish Times
February 12, 2013

Members of the Republican Guard blocks off a road leading to the presidential palace in Cairo, December 6, 2012. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

The two-year anniversary of the dramatic fall of Egypt`s 30-year president was marked by protests and a candle-lit vigil yesterday in Tahrir Square, the cradle of the unfinished revolution gripping the country.

Military men and Muslim brothers who were dragged into the 18-day mass uprising and took over from Hosni Mubarak are blamed for disrupting the transition from autocracy to democracy.

During the uprising the military refused to act against the millions of Egyptians in the streets who believed the army supported them, prompting the chant: “The army and people hand in hand!”

Mubarak clung to the presidency until, on February 11th, 2011, his grim-faced vice-president Omar Suleiman, flanked by an officer, announced his departure.

The military high command assumed his powers, dismissed parliament and suspended, then amended, the constitution with the backing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Once enemies, soldiers and brothers became reluctant partners. During the 17-month rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the brothers, Egypt`s sole organised political force, won elections to the lower and upper houses of parliament and the presidency.

While in power the soldiers provided for reasonably fair elections, but did not tackle the revolutionaries` demand that Mubarak regime figures should be prosecuted for repression and corruption, reform of the security forces and judiciary and economic relief for the poor.

Instead, Mubarak-era figures were acquitted by judges appointed under his watch, only two ordinary policemen were jailed for killing protesters, hundreds were detained and 120 killed during demonstrations. Enormous crowds in the streets chanted, once again: “The people want the fall of the regime”, meaning the SCAF rather than Mubarak.

Vast economic empire

When the brotherhood`s Mohamed Morsi was elevated to the presidency at the end of June last year, the generals retained key executive and all legislative powers until he and the SCAF`s younger generals retired the service chiefs.

Morsi assumed these powers, consolidated the brotherhood`s control and rammed through a fundamentalist-drafted constitution that gave the soldiers full control over the military`s vast economic empire and budget and the defence ministry.

However, the soldiers and brothers are uneasy partners. Under Morsi, the divided opposition has been sidelined and the “street” has become increasingly angry, frustrated, and violent. The chant raised in protests is: “The people want the fall of the regime”, this time the regime of the brothers.

The army is caught between the brothers and the people, who are abandoning the brotherhood because of its failure to deliver security, basic services, and accountability for Mubarak regime members and, now, senior officers. Army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has warned Morsi, the opposition and the “street” that the state is in danger of collapsing into chaos and suggested that the army could intervene to halt the downward slide.

Post-Mubarak transition

Intervention could be risky because the SCAF has lost cre- dibility with the “street” due to its mismanagement of the post-Mubarak transition.

Although the army took power in 1952 and top officers headed Egypt`s governments for 60 years, the SCAF played a supporting rather than decision-making role on the political front. This explains why, when generals appointed by Mubarak had the power to take decisions against members of his fallen regime, they failed.

Furthermore, since Egypt`s unpopular 1979 peace treaty with Israel, the military has been transformed.

Billions of US dollars have been invested in the armed forces, which were restructured to keep the peace and, Egyptian pundits argue, “protect US interests in the region”.

At this point in time Washington provides the military with $1.3 billion (€969 million) in annual aid. Last week, as protesters gathered at the presidential palace, Morsi and the SCAF took delivery of four US F-16 fighter jets.

Army split possible

This suggests that the generals and brothers alike do not take into account popular resentment of Egypt`s alliance with the US and the West, and remain largely isolated from the country`s turbulence.

During recent clashes in Port Said army officers and soldiers rolled into the streets in tanks and took up positions around government buildings but refused to crack down on protesters.

Since common soldiers are conscripts, there is concern that they and junior officers could side with protesters, splitting the army, the only institution that the generals believe can maintain the country`s integrity.

© Copyright (c) 2013, News Corporation, Weekly Standard. All Rights Reserved

© 2013, The Irish Times.

Egypt Against Itself
By Lee Smith
The Weekly Standard
February 18, 2013

This week marks the second anniversary of the fall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Two years after the refrain “the people want to topple the regime” filled Tahrir Square, it is now Egypt itself that is toppling. Street violence has pitted various groups against each other—anarchists against Islamists, policemen against protesters, men against women—and has left scores dead throughout the country.

The economy is hemorrhaging reserves and incapable of securing foreign investment, while Egypt`s currency tumbles to record lows. The international community, captivated two years ago by the revolution, has little confidence that Egypt`s new rulers can make peace between the country`s feuding factions. If the conventional wisdom among Western policymakers holds that Egypt is too big to be allowed to fail, the stark reality is that by many measures it is already failing.

A $4.8 billion IMF loan has been put on hold pending President Mohamed Morsi`s stabilizing the political situation. The catch is that the loan requires a host of reforms, like slashing subsidies for fuel and household staples, that will cause yet more suffering across a wide swath of Egyptian society, most likely bringing further instability. Much of Egypt`s technocratic class is in exile or in jail, charged, often spuriously, with corruption under the old regime. Any of the liberal reform measures that might actually help set Egypt back on its feet are associated with precisely those figures that the revolution sought to punish.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised to extend Egypt a line of credit last week during his visit to Cairo, the first by an Iranian leader since the 1979 Islamic revolution. However, Iran`s currency has taken an even steeper plunge than Egypt`s. Under heavy U.S. and EU sanctions, Tehran needs cheap agricultural imports to keep food prices down and unrest at bay, but Egypt doesn`t even feed itself.

During his tour of Cairo, Ahmadinejad was accosted by a Sunni Islamist who rapped him on the head with his shoe in a piece of Middle Eastern political theater that illuminates the key differences between Egypt and Iran. To be sure, the ruling regimes of the two countries share an abiding hatred of Israel, but the more important issue for both right now is the civil war in Syria, where Tehran needs to prop up Bashar al-Assad and Cairo is sickened by his regime, which has targeted tens of thousands of fellow Sunnis for death. Moreover, Iran has put Morsi in an awkward position by continuing to send arms to Hamas through the Sinai. As much as Morsi may want to join Hamas`s war against Israel, he can`t lest he forfeit American and European backing. There is no alternative superpower for Cairo to turn to. Inasmuch as Morsi is tied to Washington`s apronstrings, Iran`s active support of Hamas only highlights his impotence.

The good news regarding Egypt is brief, but noteworthy: Those forecasts auguring from the entrails of Mubarak`s demise the birth of a universal Muslim Brotherhood-run caliphate stretching from North Africa to the Persian Gulf were off by a very wide mark. The Islamist organization, which has been building its political base and waiting in the shadows to take power since its 1928 founding, turns out to be incapable even of governing Egypt.

Contrary to the reading of many Western academics, the Brotherhood did not win the presidency because of its long history of grassroots work, its social activism, or its political acumen and organization. Rather it came to rule Egypt simply because everyone else—from the secularists and liberals who kicked off the revolution to the military—was that much more incompetent. The fearful notion, still held by many in the West, that the Brotherhood plots to own the hearts and minds of the world`s billion-plus Muslims comports not with reality but only with the Brotherhood`s preening and now patently absurd self-image. Under Morsi`s stewardship, the Muslim Brotherhood model has been shown to produce poverty, hunger, instability, and violent internal conflict. Who among the umma would seek to unify under such a banner?

Understandably, some U.S. policy-makers want to wash their hands of Egypt. The White House, after Obama leased a place on the right side of history by demanding that Mubarak step down, has yet to tailor a policy suited to the changed circumstances. Egypt is no longer a pillar of regional stability but must itself be stabilized. Sen. Rand Paul wants to ban sales of advanced weapons—tanks, F-16s, etc.—to a country whose rulers allowed a mob to overrun the U.S. embassy and threaten our diplomats in September. Sen. James Inhofe just wants to suspend sales of those arms, but is perhaps the frankest in his appraisal of Egypt`s president. “Morsi`s an enemy,” Inhofe said during secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel`s confirmation hearings. Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has a point.

Since the signing of the Camp David accords in 1978, Egypt has been one of the cornerstones of the U.S. position in the Middle East. By lavishing arms, money, and political and diplomatic prestige on the largest and most influential of Arab states, Washington showed what prizes were in store for any Arab power that chose to make peace with Israel. Conversely, massive American airlifts to Israel during the 1973 war had shown what any Arab regime could expect if it chose to make war on the Jewish state.

Morsi threatens to undo this arrangement. Anti-Semitic remarks of his that have recently come to light, calling Jews the “sons of apes and pigs,” lend weight to the concern that the Egyptian government is looking for a way out of the peace treaty. In the aftermath of Israel`s operations in Gaza in November that degraded Hamas`s arsenal and decimated its leadership, the White House billed Morsi as a peacemaker, but that increasingly looks like wishful thinking. If Morsi doesn`t do more to shut down the smuggling tunnels from Egypt, Israel will soon be back in Gaza.

Moreover, it`s not clear that the second half of Inhofe`s assessment—Egypt`s “military is our friend”—is accurate, or that it matters. Last week, General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt`s defense minister, spoke with outgoing secretary of defense Leon Panetta and affirmed Egypt`s commitment to the 1978 treaty. However, whether Egypt will adhere to the accord is subject to the same winds of fortune that have buffeted virtually every political decision Cairo has taken in the last two years. Sisi recently noted that “the struggle between political forces .  .  . may lead to the collapse of the state,” a statement some have read as a warning to Morsi: If the government cannot ensure stability the military will take over. But the last two years have shown that the military does not want to run Egypt and may be incapable of it. Even worse, a coup might leave the army split, like the rest of Egyptian society, and fighting itself.

Indeed, pitting the army and Morsi against each other would widen yet another fissure in a country that has long been at war with itself. Muslims against Christians. The regime and its security services against its own people. Urban against rural. Secularists against Islamists. Muslim Brotherhood against Salafists. It is hardly any wonder that the country`s first elected president evinced the same anti-Semitic sentiments that poison almost all of Egyptian society. Egyptians don`t like Jews, and they don`t much like each other either. Anti-Semitism has therefore functioned something like an escape valve, and blaming Israel, and/or the United States, for everything wrong with Egypt was the most practical way to keep Egyptians from each other`s throats.

The immediate cause of the recent violence is a court decision in January against the supporters of a soccer club. Last year, the fans of the Port Said team ambushed the fans of a Cairo team, Al Ahly, at a game in Port Said, killing 74. The Ahly supporters claimed that security forces were in on the plot, seeking revenge against them for their role in the revolution and their violent clashes with the police. (The Ahly supporters also played a large part in storming the Israeli embassy in 2011.) When the court handed out 21 death sentences to the 73 accused, including police officers, riots ensued, leaving 39 dead. The violence spread to nearby cities, like Suez, where 9 were killed, as well as Ismailia, which saw another fatality.

In Cairo, protesters fought with security forces and armed gangs, who also stormed hotels firing automatic weapons at tourists. The head of Al Azhar, the mosque-university that for hundreds of years has served as a seat of authority in Sunni Islam, convened a meeting between Morsi`s representatives and the opposition. It`s a useful first step but probably won`t change the fundamental antagonisms. The opposition believes that Morsi has too much power, and the Brotherhood believes that the opposition just wants to seize on the streets the power it couldn`t earn at the polls.

Morsi is not the problem, then, he is merely the president of the problem, which is Egyptian society itself. After two years of upheaval, the question is, how long can this go on? Will Egypt explode at a certain point? If so, what will touch it off and what will be the repercussions?

Already, a friend from Cairo laments, Egyptians are growing accustomed to daily violence. The problem is not just the people who are committing the violence, he says, but that everyone else is gradually acclimating himself to chaos and failure on a massive scale.

Lee Smith is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard .

© Copyright (c) 2013, News Corporation, Weekly Standard. All Rights Reserved




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