Without firing a single shot, President Mohamed Morsy managed to neutralize the
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and complete his takeover of
Though the way he did it – with speed and efficiency – is worthy
of note, the move should come as no surprise.
Having at long last
achieved their goal after 84 years, the Muslim Brothers were not going to accept
any form of power-sharing with the army.
What happened, however, was not
a “civil revolution” doing away with the power of the generals, but rather a
coup d’état doing away with the constitution. Morsy unilaterally amended article
25 of the temporary constitution – adopted by referendum in March 2011 – which
defined the presidential powers, and revoked the so-called supplementary
constitutional declaration issued by the SCAF days before the results of the
presidential elections were published.
That declaration gave the army
extraordinary powers – including the right to decide on its budget and to
Morsy, who now holds all legislative and executive powers,
forced Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the minister of defense and head
of the SCAF, and Lt.-Gen.
Sami Enan, the chief of staff of the Egyptian
armed forces, into retirement. The two senior officers were given medals in
recognition of their long service to the state and were appointed “special
counsels to the president” – a hollow title.
The Egyptian president then
went on to fire several highranking officers, including the commanders of the
navy, the air force and the anti-aircraft unit. This was done in style, and the
three men were given cushy posts in military industries and on the board of
directors of the Suez Canal. Morsy thus brought to a successful conclusion the
“cleansing” of the army that started last week when the head of the intelligence
services and several generals were summarily dismissed.
Did Morsy also
guaranteed immunity to all these officers? It remains to be seen, and already
there are calls to have them answers for their crimes – meaning their corruption
during the Mubarak years and their part in the bloody repression of the protests
in the course of the revolution.
There has been no reaction to Morsy’s
moves from army circles still reeling in the wake of the disastrous August 5
Kerem Shalom attack that had taken them by surprise. The old guard is tired and
has no stomach for a fight for which there would be no popular
Besides, a look at the newly promoted generals, minister of
defense and chief of staff clearly shows that the Brotherhood had managed to
plant quite a number of “sleepers,” officers loyal to the cause and biding their
Morsy now holds dictatorial powers surpassing by far those of
erstwhile president Hosni Mubarak. They include direct supervision of the
all-important drafting of the constitution; he can dismiss the Constituent
Assembly if he is not satisfied with its progress and appoint new members tasked
with having a text ready within three months. The constitution will then be
submitted to the people for approval by referendum and new parliamentary
elections will follow.
Under Morsy’s “guidance,” the constitution will be
resolutely Islamic and the new laws will follow the Shari’a; already the
(disbanded) parliament had started discussing lowering the marriage age for
girls and introducing corporal punishment.
Will the courts now intervene
and protest Morsy’s blatant flouting of the judicial process? The supplementary
constitutional declaration had been duly endorsed by the Supreme Constitutional
Court – the court where Morsy was sworn in as president.
had acknowledged the declaration.
The judiciary has a long tradition of
independence, but it is hard to see what it could do, since Morsy in all
likelihood would disregard any ruling – or, in all probability, start replacing
top judges the way he replaced top generals. Time will tell.
In any case,
more and more Egyptians are uneasy.
They don’t want the Brotherhood to
have total power, they don’t want Egypt to become too religious and they don’t
want to see free speech curtailed. Yet this is already happening.
television channel has been shut down after it attacked Morsy and called for a
mass demonstration on August 24; the current issue of the daily Al-Dostour was
seized because it dared criticize the president.
We have seen that the
people are no longer afraid to demonstrate, but will they do so? They did
protest during the funerals of the soldiers slain in Sinai, jeering and
physically attacking the prime minister; shots were fired at the headquarters of
And the “spontaneous” demonstration of support for Morsy
in Tahrir Square gathered a few thousands at most. It remains to be seen how
many will come out on August 24.
The new state of affairs does not bode
well for the relations between Egypt and Israel. According to a number of
reports in mainstream Egyptian media, Morsy has decided to limit relations to
the strict minimum and vigorously prevent any manifestation of normalization.
Though military dialogue will go on, especially concerning the long border
between the two countries and the security situation, Israeli representatives
should not expect a warm welcome from their new counterparts.
Egypt will strive to maintain good relations with the United States in order to
continue receiving impressive sums in military and other aid, it is turning more
and more to Arab countries for help. Already the emir of Qatar has deposited $2
billion in Egyptian coffers, and Saudi Arabia did the same a few weeks ago.
Libya may do this as well.
Gaza will remain Morsy’s main stumbling block,
and he will do his utmost to persuade Hamas to tighten its control and prevent
further attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, to what effect is not clear.
many people are making money smuggling arms and ammunition.
Morsy’s Egypt is a new country, with a new religious agenda that it is eager to
implement. What is strange is that neither the United States nor the other
Western powers appear worried.
One wonders when the penny will
drop.The writer, a Fellow of The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is
a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.