The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged sami anan
Only room for one general

There has been much media focus lately on the ongoing, growing campaign to get defense minister and commander of the armed forces Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to run for president -- a bandwagon on which we can expect see many more flatterers and opportunists jump. El-Sisi's candid discussion with other officers on how Egyptian need to get used to paying more for services and talk on the phone less, how the army can get the media to practice some self-censorhip, and how military personnel will never be held responsible for killing protesters were recently leaked, and seen as evidence of his nefarious dictatorial tendencies by Islamists and of his economic genius and straight-talking by army supporters. 

It is also instructive to see the reaction to another possible military contender. Nour Youssef has this report. 

While it is generally good to be a soldier rather than another weakling civilian in Egypt, it has not been so for former Chief of Staff General, Sami Anan.

After news of Anan’s announcement of his run for president spread, and despite it being followed by a quick denial, the pro-military media began airing his dirty laundry and then tried to suffocate him with the clothesline. So far Anan, aka  The Bringer of the Brotherhood (or at the very least:  Key Person Who Helped Make Mistakes That Lead To MB Rule), has been accused of having an under-qualified son as head of the Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport, wasting state land (200 acres of it by Cairo-Alexandria desert road on himself and his wife), having grandchildren born in the US for the citizenship, buying a whole floor in a fancy hotel, among other things.

Although many, like Mahmoud Saad, perfunctorily expressed their respect for Anan's constitutional right to run before all but telling him not to, much of the talk about Anan has been focused on his newly published memoirs and his past.

In his memoir, Anan quotes the simple man, saying “If America’s got you covered, then you’re naked,” when he learns that Al Jazeera reported his US visit in January 2011 - which in case you're still wondering was a pre-planned military visit, not a pep rally for Operation Divide Egypt - a tip they must have gotten from a US official source, apparently. 

He goes on to paint the military as politically deaf, blind and mute institutionalized love for Egypt. For instance, he, along with Tantawi and Omar Suleiman, thought the NDP’s rigging in the 2010 elections was insultingly obvious, and separately warned Mubarak about it, but the former president was at ease because “Ahmed Ezz (had) everything taken care of.”

The military leaders never had any interest in politics, he maintained, before writing about the time when he suggested planning a soft coup to stabilize the country in 2011 to Field Marshal Tantawi, seeing how popular the army and “The people and the army are one hand” chant had become. Tantawi told him not speak of it again.

The intended takeaway from the memoirs seems to be that the SCAF did not strike any deals with the MB and that the Brothers won fair and square without their help. If the people still want someone to blame for the MB’s electoral winnings, other than themselves and the lack of political alternatives -- Well, let's not forget the media now. A denial statement even more belated, but probably more effective, than Anne Patterson’s response to the two-year-old US-put-the-Brotherhood-in-power conspiracy theory.

At some point, Anan recalls a conversation with Tantawi where the latter asks him if he would use violence against protesters, if ordered to do so, like his Tunisian counterpart, to which Anan said no, before adding that he was sure such orders would never be made. He cited the Palestinian incursion in Rafah as an example of a time when Egypt's political leadership demanded violence and the military didn't deliver. And they were Palestinians, so could he shoot Egyptians? Anan had a similar conversation with Gen. James Mattis, retired commander of U.S. Central Command, while waiting for his plane back to Egypt, which according to Abdullah Kamal, was suspiciously cut down to a four-sentence moment when it actually was an over-an-hour long meeting.

The fuss about the memoir and the denied announcement earned Anan a lot of belittling questions about whatever gave him the (false) impression of popular support anyway, where he would get the kind of money campaigning require, in addition to criticism about his timing, not to mention his writing, which could potentially "cause confusion" and risked national security by divulging “military secrets” without permission. This has lead some to believe that General Abdel Fatah el-Sisi’s recent remark about the army’s no-position position in the next elections was a message to Anan specifically, as opposed to everyone.

That being said, it is worth noting that Anan denied announcing the intention to run for president, but not the intention itself. When it came to that possibility, Anan always maintained a “Well, if the people asked me to...I mean, it would be rude not to” approach.

Gems from the memoirs include a time when parents called him saying that their civilian offsprings couldn’t come home because Brothers, desperate to make the mass hostage situation look like continued street resistance, wouldn’t let them out of Tahrir, and concluding that Mubarak's true mistakes in the 18 days was making the right decisions, like appointing Omar Suleiman as VP and Ahmed Shafik as prime minister, too late.