Morsi role at Syria rally seen as tipping point for Egypt army
Head of state had attended rally with hardline Islamists calling for holy war in war-torn neighbour
Speaking privately, officers in the secular-leaning military have said Egyptians did not want a religious state. Though the Brotherhood never said it wanted to set up a theocracy, such concerns reflect the army’s long-standing suspicion towards a movement banned by army rulers in 1954.
In public, Mr Morsi and the army have kept up appearances. The presidency has moved repeatedly to quash rumours of tensions with the generals.
And the constitution signed into law by Mr Morsi late last year protects the interests of the military, which oversees a sprawling economic empire that produces everything from bottled water to tablet computers.
“The presidency didn’t perceive the military as a threat,” added Shimy of the International Crisis Group.
The current head of the armed forces, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, was appointed by Mr Morsi in his second month in office after he sent into retirement Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Mr Mubarak’s defence minister for two decades.
Twenty years Tantawi’s junior, Gen al-Sisi was promoted from the position of military intelligence director. Analysts have described it as an arrangement that suited both Mr Morsi and a younger generation of army commanders seeking promotion.
He was trained in the United States and Britain, like many officers in an army that receives $1.3 billion (€1 billion) in military aid a year from Washington.
While saying the army was out of politics, Gan al-Sisi has repeatedly called on Egypt’s feuding politicians to settle their differences. In December, he chaired unity talks to ease tensions ignited by a decree that expanded Mr Morsi’s powers.
Earlier this year, Gen al-Sisi warned that unrest could bring down the state. He also responded to calls for the army to unseat Mr Morsi, saying: “No one is going to remove anybody.”
The army has not said what Mr Morsi’s fate will be under the plan it has said it will implement if the politicians fail to agree.
Gen al-Sisi is something of an Islamist himself, said Robert Springborg, an expert on the Egyptian military based at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He was citing materials written by Gen al-Sisi during his training in the US. “As I see it they are trying to assert as much pressure as possible to bring about a compromise settlement,” he said.
The military’s actions this week should be viewed as those of an institution, not individuals, added Nathan Brown, an expert on Egypt at George Washington University.
“The personal inclinations of individual members of the armed forces are not the issue and are not on display here.
“There is one thing we do know about the ideology of the military,” he said: “That it sees itself as having a mission to the state rather than the constitution.” Reuters