Morsi and the Military

Morsi and Egypt's Military - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

Good piece by Yezid Sayigh on Egypt's military and the deal it made with Morsi on the constitution, which grants it unprecedented autonomy:

The Muslim Brotherhood’s detractors have repeatedly accused it of concluding a secret deal with the EAF to allow it to assume office. But Egypt is nothing like Sudan, for example, where a tight-knit alliance between the National Islamic Front and Gen. Omar al-Bashir reshaped state power as well as the legal and constitutional frameworks, and moreover purged non-Islamists from the military from 1989 onward.
In any case, the deal in Egypt is anything but comfortable. The Brotherhood and Morsi may interpret the constitutional provisions relating to the EAF as demarcating and separating the military and civilian spheres, as a precursor to asserting civilians’ political preeminence. But the formal autonomy granted to the EAF extends well beyond its own “professional” affairs — such as doctrine and arms procurement, or even the defense budget — and will be very hard to roll back in future.
This is not a challenge for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood alone, nor is it a problem only of their making. The transfer of power from military rulers to civilians always involves compromises backed by explicit and implicit understandings: whoever won last year’s parliamentary and presidential elections was going to have to grapple with the EAF’s privileged position. And with the exception of the Tahrir Square revolutionaries and Constitution Party head Mohamed ElBaradei, none of the principal political parties or presidential candidates since the ouster of Mubarak proposed curtailing the EAF’s prerogatives and immunities any further than Egypt’s new rulers have done.

One point of disagreement I have is with another passage:

Unlike other parts of the state apparatus, the EAF sees itself as an autonomous institutional actor with a privileged political role. This was made evident on Dec. 11, when Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi invited Morsi, cabinet ministers and a wide spectrum of “political parties and forces” and public figures to what he called a “social dialogue.” Although El-Sisi’s spokesperson insisted that this was not a “national political dialogue,” issuing the invitation was an unmistakably political act, undertaken unilaterally and without prior consultation with either the president or the head of the cabinet of which the defense minister is a part.

Actually I think other parts of the state apparatus — the Interior Ministry, the judiciary, the ministry of foreign affairs, the intelligence services — see themselves as deserving of similar autonomy, they're just less able to get their way. And al-Sisi's invitation for dialogue was as much about the army's interference as the sense, at the time, that the crisis and division was unnecessary and dangerous.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region,