Egyptian President Mohamed has forced the retirement of many of the most powerful senior military officials, the Guardian reports.The news seems to suggest that a power struggle pitting Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has ended. The leader of the SCAF, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, was amongst those forced from office in what appears to be a big blow to the military.
Even before Morsi took office in June as Egypt’s first post-Mubarak leader, the SCAF had tried to strip the presidency of its influence and power. Two weeks before Morsi was officially inaugurated, SCAF issued a constitutional declaration removing the presidents role as commander-in-chief of the military, and giving SCAF veto powers over the drafting of the new constitution. International observers watched anxiously to see how, and if, the democratic transition would play out.
Tantawi, the most symbolic and surprising of those ousted, was accompanied by army chief of staff Sami Hafez Anan, the man many believed was set to replace the 76-year-old Tantawi, who had hinted at retirement before. Both were kept as presidential advisers, though their roles are unclear thus far. The chiefs of the air force, navy, and air defence, were all ousted as well, reports the New York Times.
Morsi replaced Tantawi with the head of military intelligence, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, whom was close to Tantawi. Gen. Mohamed al-Assar, a member of the military council, took the office of assistant defence minister. In possible preparation for a fight with Egypt’s politicized court, Morsi also announced his pick for vice president, Mahmoud Mekky, whom was formerly a senior judge.
While speculation still surrounds this ordeal, many believe a recent militant attack in the Sinai Peninsula may have something to do with it. On August 5th, armed militants attacked Egypt’s border guards whom were protecting the contentious line between Egypt and Israel, seizing Egyptian armoured vehicles, ramming them through border gates, and eventually, into Israel. The attack, which resulted in 16 dead Egyptian guards, embarrassed and politically weakened the army generals, reports the Washington Post. It appears Morsi pounced on this opportunity, and now the presidency and fate of the country is in his, and the Muslim Brotherhood, hands.
This has some worried, though. Although SCAF’s power grab conjured up memories of the Mubarak regime, it was also seen as a check on the Muslim Brotherhood, in case they became increasingly religiously conservative.
Washington seemed surprised by Morsi’s move. Just two weeks ago on a trip to Egypt, U.S. defence Secretary Leon E. Panetta offered his belief that Morsi and the military were cooperating.
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