Egypt's Morsy appoints new VP, defense minister, army chief

Removal of defense minister Tantawi, Chief of Staff Enan marks "completion of Egyptian revolution," says spokesman.

Morsy swears in Minister (R370) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Morsy swears in Minister (R370)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Egyptian president Mohamed Morsy chose two religious military men to replace defense minster and armed forces chief Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Sami Enan.
Tantawi’s replacement, 57- year-old Gen. Abdel Fattah Sisi, denied links to the Muslim Brotherhood, after an Egyptian television host, Tawfiq Okasha, accused him of having close ties to the Islamist group when Morsy was declared the winner of the presidential elections.
Sisi first served in the infantry and became a military officer in 1969, but unlike Tantawi has no combat record.
Since then, Sisi has served in a number of leadership positions including chief of staff and later head of the army’s Northern Command. When the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces took power in February 2011, Sisi – one of the junta’s youngest members – was appointed head of military intelligence and reconnaissance.
Although Sisi has not appeared frequently in the Egyptian media, his name hit headlines in early 2011, after he admitted that the army had used the “virginity tests,” causing SCAF considerable embarrassment.
Months later, in June 2011, Sisi pledged to Amnesty International that the army would no longer carry out forced “virginity tests” on female detainees, which the military had previously said were conducted to protect soldiers against rape allegations.
According to Amnesty, Sisi also said the army should change its culture and that he had instructed soldiers not to use violence against demonstrators.
Another religious military man, Gen. Sidqi Sobhi, was Morsy’s choice to replace Enan, who had been a favorite of the American military and was previously considered Tantawi’s likely successor.
Sobhi, aged 56, had headed the Third Field Army based in Suez, across the Gulf of Suez from Sinai. He began his military career in the 19th Infantry Division of the Third Field Army, which is noted for achieving strategic objectives against Israel in the Yom Kippur War.
As commander of the Third Field Army, he was responsible for securing Egypt’s Suez and Red Sea provinces.
Sobhi was widely quoted in the Egyptian press earlier this year, after accusing Israel of a “Zionist plot” to weaken national identity among Egypt’s youth.
According to Egyptian daily Al-Masry al-Youm, Sobhi said that “Tel Aviv” had mobilized political organizations to confuse young Egyptians and encourage them to adopt “subversive ideas.”
As chief of staff, Sobhi will now have to oversee the Egyptian army’s operations against Islamist terrorists in Sinai, following the August 5 attack that killed 16 soldiers.
Morsy also appointed a senior judge and Muslim Brotherhood favorite, Mahmoud Mekki, as vice president.
Mekki’s elder brother is Ahmed Mekki, who was appointed justice minister in Prime Minister Hesham Qandil’s cabinet on August 2.
Mahmoud Mekki began his career as a police officer, later qualifying as a lawyer and working as a prosecutor, rising to vice president of Egypt’s Court of Cassation.
Known for leading calls for an independent judiciary, Mekki is seemingly unafraid to speak his mind. In 2005, he faced a disciplinary court for complaining that the presidential elections were marred with irregularities. He was charged with insulting judges over that matter, but after a 2006 trial in which he received support from the Muslim Brotherhood, Mekki was acquitted of all charges. Later that year Mekki led demonstrations calling for Egypt’s judiciary to be independent.