Thursday, July 19, 2018

Five Years After the Coup: The Liberation of Abdel Fattah Sisi

            Five years after the coup in which he overthrew President Muhammad Morsi, former general and Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah Sisi has freed himself from all formal restraints.  This includes freedom from the Egyptian constitution and his own supporters.   That Sisi would crush the Muslim Brotherhood represented by Morsi was a foregone conclusion. That he would free himself from the liberal political figures who served in the first government after the coup also seemed inevitable once they argued for an early reconciliation between the Armed Forces and the doomed Muslim Brotherhood.  Unexpected is the rapidity with which Sisi has freed himself from formal subordination to the very institution that brought him to power: the Egyptian Armed Forces.   There is a profound and enduring paradox of late 20th century Egyptian politics at play here.  Sisi has transformed what first looked to be a collegial coup in which he was primus inter pares into one in which his supremacy is unchallenged.  This has happened in the past, under Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Anwar Sadat, and Hosny Mubarak although it usually took longer.  The paradox is that each time the military was weakened by an increasingly personalized dictatorship it re-emerged in periods of unrest and contention to re-assert its authority. 

Just how Sisi has gained his freedom requires a close look at Egyptian politics and especially at the nearly continuous shifting of top personnel over the past five years.  What has developed is simple to state: President Sisi can now ignore the constitutional guarantees to the Armed Forces of its autonomy as well as purely formal parliamentary constraints on the formation of governments.  Despite the waning of the public cult of personality that initially accompanied the coup, Sisi has increased his personal dominance over the regime.  It may be time to think again about the role of the Armed Forces in the political economy of Egypt and the nature of Egyptian authoritarianism.

            Any account of contemporary Egyptian politics must reckon with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.  It was created in 1954 by Gamal Abdel Nasser.  A regime of colonels turned itself into a regime of self-promoted generals and SCAF provided the armed forces with an institutional mechanism to influence the government after the dissolution of the Revolutionary Command Council.  Composed of 25 senior members of the air, land, and naval branches, it could only meet in the presence and with the approval of the president of the republic.  It convened during the Suez Crisis (1956), the Egyptian intervention in Yemen (1964-7), and during the prolonged period of conflicts punctuated by the 1967 and 1973 wars with Israel.  SCAF largely vanished from public view thereafter and played no public role even during periods of high tension between the government and the armed forces.  It did not, for example, intervene when Defense Minister Abd El-Halim Abu Ghazala abruptly resigned in 1989 after conflict with then President Hosni Mubarak.

            SCAF reappeared or was resurrected during the demonstrations against Mubarak in early 2011.  On February 10, 2011 SCAF issued its first communiqué and pointedly noted that it affirmed the armed forces’ support for the Egyptian people.  As it became obvious that Minister of Defense Mohammad Tantawi chaired its meetings in the absence of President Mubarak, Mubarak’s loss of support by the army also became obvious.  Mubarak turned executive authority over to SCAF, and it also assumed legislative power after the dissolution of the national assembly.   SCAF remained intact even after the election of Muhammad Morsi as president in 2012.  A crisis in August 2012 led Morsi to replace Tantawi with Sisi who was thus in place to lead the coup against Morsi in July 2013. 

            What role SCAF would play in the wake of a military coup remained open.  Unlike what occurred after Mubarak left office, SCAF did not itself stand in for government.  Instead the Chief Justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mansour was sworn in as interim president. But was SCAF unnecessary if the Armed Forces really controlled the post-coup government?  On February 25, 2014 Mansour issued Law 20/2014 publicly structuring SCAF.  This appears to have been the first time its internal structure was made public and indeed may have been its first formal internal structure.  Although the president of the republic had the right to call and attend meetings (and to chair meetings he attended), he was not listed as a regular member.  The regular president of SCAF is the Minister of Defense for whom the Chief of Staff is the deputy.  The members include the heads of the various branches as well as the major staff divisions within the service (such as engineering, legal, training, and fiscal organizations), and the leaders of the army divisions (such as the Second and Third Field Armies) and the head of military intelligence.  Under other terms of the decree, SCAF should meet regularly and requires a quorum.  Formally, SCAF can make decisions by a majority vote and the Minister of Defense transmits its decisions.  In its very constitution SCAF embodies a contradiction of authoritarian Egypt: it represents a completely hierarchical institution but is formally empowered to make decisions democratically.  Law 20/2014 specifically mandates SCAF to approve any appointment of a minister of defense during the first two presidential terms after the adoption of the 2014 constitution.  The law thus implemented the constitutional mandate of article 234 that, during these two initial presidential terms, the Minister of Defense can only be appointed with the approval of SCAF.

This might all be arcane minutiae had it not been the culmination of a prolonged and bruising battle fought between 2011 and 2014 in which the Armed Forces insisted an achieving just this privilege.  Among the most divisive and problematic issues of that period was the conflict over how independent the armed forces would be from the executive or legislative authorities. In an April 2012 interview with the New York Times, former associate justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court Tahani Gebali asserted that as early as May 2011 she was talking to SCAF about how to write a constitution that would preserve the autonomy of the military.  In November 2011, then Deputy Prime Minister Ali Selmi issued a set of “supra-constitutional” principles to guide the writing of the new constitution.  As I noted in a blog post at the time the Armed Forces had embraced principles guaranteeing its nearly complete autonomy and the possibility that it would choose its own Minister of Defense (  Shortly thereafter conflict over this issue led to large scale street demonstrations and significant violence on Muhammad Mahmoud Street just off Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. 

These violent confrontations were a response to rising fears that the Armed Forces had no intention of relinquishing power and contributed to the political polarization that later enveloped Egypt.  Military autonomy was written into both the constitution drafted under by a committee largely dominated by the Muslim Brothers in 2012 and the one written after Morsi’s ouster.  There was a widespread presumption that in the post-coup government the constitutionally protected position of Minister of Defense was even more potent than that of president.  The Armed Forces had vigorously beaten back all attempts since 2011 to subordinate the military to civilian authority in any way.

Now we need to look a bit more closely into the people and institutions engaged in re-making Egyptian political life in the last five years.  In mid-2012, after an assault on an army checkpoint in Sinai took more than a dozen lives, then President Morsi ousted the Minister of Defense, Mohammad Tantawi, and the Chief of Staff, Sami Anan.  Morsi replaced Tantawi with Sisi and Sisi chose General Sidki Sobhi (formerly head of the Third Field Army) to replace Anan as chief of staff.  Then Mahmoud Hegazi became Director of Military Intelligence, the position from which Sisi had just been plucked.  Sobhi became Minister of Defense in 2014 when Sisi ran for president, and Hegazi was appointed in his place as Chief of Staff.  This appeared to be an elaborate but not terrifically important game of musical chairs in which a small group of closely connected officers took control of the state by ousting Morsi and then succeeding each other in positions of increasing importance.  

It was therefore surprising that at the end of October 2017 the music suddenly stopped and Mahmoud Hegazy was dismissed as Chief of Staff and given a role with little substance—as a presidential counselor.   His ouster occurred after at least sixteen policemen were killed during an operation in the Western Desert.  In the months since Mahmoud Hegazy’s removal there is reason to doubt that it was caused by the deaths on the Oases Road.  There have been many assaults on ill-prepared and surprised soldiers and police in which no senior officer was removed.  These tragic events occur sufficiently frequently that they provide expeditious excuses, not amenable to public debate, to sideline general officers.  Mahmoud Hegazy was replaced by a general with whom he shares a name but to whom he is unrelated: Muhammad Farid Hegazy.   Farid Hegazy had earlier benefited from Morsi’s ouster of Tantawi and Anan: he became Secretary General of the Ministry of Defense and Secretary of SCAF under Law 20/2014.  This was only the first of several personnel changes in the Armed Forces.

In January 2018 Sisi removed Khaled Fawzy as head of the General Intelligence Directorate.  Fawzy was chosen to head the National Security Agency in 2013 and GID in late 2014.  He was therefore closely connected to the making of the 2013 coup.  Abbas Kamel, who had served as Sisi’s own chief of staff, temporarily replaced Fawzy.  In June 2018 was Kamel installed as the permanent head of GID.  Within a small coterie of high-ranking generals Sisi had replaced one of his supporters with an even closer confidante.

Before going further I note two points that are crucial to understanding the changing politics of military dictatorships.  First, dictatorships (or authoritarian governments—the preferred moniker in political science) change over time.  Initial coalitions of army officers, economically powerful individuals, and prominent social figures give way to new constellations of power and authority.  They can grow or shrink, use violence more or less broadly, and coopt or exclude new social forces.  Second, when the armed forces are the institutional foundation of dictatorship, higher officers must maintain the unity and integrity of the military as it is affected by the push and pull of the political coalition that supports it.  This has been a recurring theme of Egyptian politics since the 1952 coup.  Then-General Muhammad Naguib and Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser disagreed about returning governance to an elected civilian government. Having defeated Naguib and placed him under house arrest for nearly 20 years, Nasser faced challenges from other figures including his own Minister of Defense, Abdel Hakim Amir.  Even now we do not know certainly whether Amir voluntarily committed suicide or was summarily executed in the wake of the catastrophic defeat in the 1967 war.  Anwar Sadat and Husny Mubarak both faced challenges from the security establishments but each time the officer corps closed ranks behind a president who, himself, had come from their ranks.  Every Egyptian leader overthrown by the Armed Forces beginning with King Farouk and including Neguib and Morsi was at least formally associated with a policy of establishing civilian control over the military.

The growth of Sisi’s control over Egypt’s state machinery has been slow but sure.  Immediately after the coup Sisi served as both Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense but members of the government headed by Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi floated plans for economic reform and national reconciliation between the army and the Muslim Brothers. Beblawi’s government included several noted liberals including Mohammad El-Baradei, Hossam Eissa, Ahmed Galal, and Ziad Bahaa El-Din.  Baradei, a Nobel laureate work as Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, resigned in August after the assaults on demonstrators in front of Cairo University and the Raba’a Al-Adawiyyah mosque took hundreds of lives.  Bahaa al-Din unsuccessfully proposed reconciliation between the government and its opponents but the military was not interested.  He quit the government in late January 2014.  In February 2014 Beblawi suddenly resigned on his own behalf and that of his government evidently at the insistence of Sisi.  The armed forces had begun to free themselves from the fetters of constitutional government but Sisi still appeared as primus inter pares.  In the interim between the coup which had suspended the Morsi-era constitution and the election of Sisi as president under a new constitution, the new Egyptian government (like others before it) maintained formal adherence to legality and sought to present an air of elite continuity. 

The first post-Beblawi Prime Minister, Ibrahim Mahlab, had been Housing Minister under Beblawi.  Sherif Ismail remained as Petroleum Minister and  Sisi briefly remained as Defense Minister until he resigned to run for president.  Mahlab retained the former Minister of the Interior, Mohammed Ibrahim Moustafa, who Morsi had initially appointed.   The debate about army autonomy ended on the army’s terms: the new constitution stipulated that for the first two terms of an elected presidency the Defense Minister had to be an army officer and could only be appointed with the approval of SCAF.
            Article 146 of the new constitution also gave the president the right to appoint a Prime Minister.  This was congruent with longstanding Egyptian constitutional practice that the Prime Minister represents the executive authority rather than a parliamentary majority.  The only change was a stipulation that within 30 days of the decision on a new Prime Minister, Parliament must give the new government a vote of confidence.  Because the Mahleb government was installed before the constitution was ratified his government required no approval.

            Mahlab’s government ultimately collapsed in a flurry of revelations about corruption and he was replaced by Sherif Ismail in September 2015.  No parliament had yet been elected by the installation of the Ismail’s first government and so it neither required nor obtained parliamentary approval. Parliamentary elections were held later that year and the first post-coup Parliament seated in early 2016. By mid-April 2016 Ismail’s government had obtained a vote of confidence from a sitting parliament.  Given the length of the parliamentary interregnum the delay in approving a Prime Minister who had been in office for six months might be considered irrelevant.  Pro-Sisi “independent” members dominated Parliament largely because the government seemed determined not to create a political party with even nominal autonomy.  The legislature was subservient to the executive and it had belatedly undertaken its constitutionally necessary role.  Unremarkably Ismail’s government also exhibited continuity with the past.  Many ministers remained at their posts and, of course, Sobhi remained as the constitutionally protected Minister of Defense. 
Ismail’s government was dissolved on June 7, 2018 and Mustafa Madbouli, who had replaced Mahlab back in 2014 as Housing Minister, was asked to form a new government which was duly sworn in on June 14. This government exhibited a surprising lack of continuity in personnel and also remarkable disregard for the formalities of the Egyptian constitution. The new government presented by Madbouli did not include Sidki Sobhi as Minister of Defense.  SCAF has never issued its official approval of his ouster or his replacement; it has said nothing. In his place as Minister of Defense was Muhammad Ahmed Zaki.  Zaki had been head of the Republican Guard from August 2012 until his appointment as Minister of Defense.  The Republican Guard played an important role in the 2013 coup if for no other reason than that it provided the security for then President Muhammad Morsi, security that quickly turned into arrest.  As of today, a month after the dissolution of the Ismail cabinet Madbouli’s government has yet to acquire a vote of confidence.  The government has presented its program and there is every reason to think that the majority will approve.  The “25/30” bloc (so named for January 25, 2011 and June 30, 2013—the dates of mass protests that marked the collapse of the Mubarak and Morsi governments) has shown vocal opposition.  It is impossible to imagine that the bloc will derail the process of approving the new government or force Sisi to pursue other remedies under Article 146.

            Article 146 was written by people who were thinking, perhaps naively, that future parliaments would be chosen in competitive elections in which relatively strong parties would be dominant voices.  Thus the article proposes that, in the absence of rapid ratification, the president must turn to the party with a plurality and establish a government with parliamentary approval in a total of 60 days.  Failing that a new parliament must be elected. 

            Former Minister of Defense Sobhi seemed to simply disappear. The contrast with President Morsi’s decision to honor former Defense Minister Muhammad Tantawi with the Order of the Nile, the country’s highest honor, on his ouster is sharp.  Sami Anan, Chief of Staff, was awarded the Order of the Republic.  The circumstances and negotiations around Tantawi’s and Anan’s retirement are opaque but Morsi was signaling, possibly with the approval of Sisi and the rest of SCAF, that he had no intention of significantly affecting the army’s own chain of command or of subjecting its leaders to penalties for their actions after January 25, 2011.  This would include hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, and tens of thousands of detentions as well as the infamous “virginity tests” to which women were subjected and that Sisi later defended as necessary to maintain the army’s reputation.  Despite Sobhi’s prominent role in facilitating the ouster of Morsi and the emergence of the new regime he received no official recognition for his service.

            Morsi had better reason than Sisi to fear the Egyptian Armed Forces and to try to placate their leaders.  His, and the Egyptian people’s experience, with generals and former generals underlines the obsessive secrecy with which the Armed Forces guards the secrecy of its internal disagreements—existing or merely incipient.  The consistent tendency of outsiders is to underestimate both the existence of such conflicts among generals and their ability to resolve them decisively and with force when necessary.

            This may have been true from the very beginning. Morsi became president by defeating Ahmad Shafiq in the 2012 presidential election.  One of Hosny Mubarak’s last official acts as president was to appoint Shafiq as prime minister on January 29, 2011 in a vain attempt to appease Egyptian demonstrators (and perhaps the Armed Forces).  Shafiq was seen as the preferred candidate of the military and the supporters of the old regime.  So much so that if the 2012 legislature had had its way officials of the old regime such as Shafiq would have been stripped of the right to hold office in the new regime.  Shafiq had been a fighter pilot and ultimately commanded the Air Force before he resigned in 2002 to become Minister of Civil Aviation, a post he held until his appointment as Prime Minister.  On March 3, 2011 the SCAF, having replaced Mubarak as the executive authority in Egypt, accepted Shafiq’s resignation.  While it may very well be that the extent of popular unrest made it impossible for the generals to keep a former colleague in power, there are other possibilities to consider.  As Minister of Civil Aviation, Shafiq was very close to the burgeoning tourism industry which was the entering wedge of a re-emerging large-scale private sector in Egypt.  The growth of Egyptian tourism required significant changes in the structure of the country’s air travel industry.  This included the need to open both the tourism and its infrastructure to foreign investment and competition.  Shafiq’s years as a minister in the Mubarak era required a far greater willingness to work with the emergent private sector than has been true of other generals.  It is not possible to read off policy preferences from anyone’s in-laws but the connections can be tantalizing.  Shafiq’s father-in-law, Tawfiq Abdel-fattah, an officer on the periphery of the group that overthrew the monarchy, served as Minister of Social Affairs and Labor under Nasser in 1958.  Shafiq would, at the least, have been more aware of the problems of organizing a command economy than most officers in the armed forces.

            Had it not been for a decision by Sisi to transfer two small islands in the Red Sea, Tiran and Sanafir, from Egyptian control to Saudi sovereignty this would all be irrelevant.  These two islands dominate the entrance to the Red Sea and thus were once important strategic sites for Egyptian attempts to limit sea traffic to the Israeli port of Eilat.  They consequently figure prominently in regional strategic imagination and history.  Under the terms of the Camp David Accords, Israeli assent to the transfer was necessary as well as Saudi agreement to the maintenance of the treaty itself.

Despite some leaked tapes indicating that many Egyptian generals viewed Saudi Arabia and other Arabian peninsular countries with disdain, President Sisi announced the transfer during a visit by Saudi King Salman in April 2016.  The economic rationale for the transfer—to construct a $4 billion causeway between the Arabian and Sinai peninsulas—is far-fetched. 

            The legal and historical decisions regarding the two islands are complex and irrelevant here.  What matters is that there was significant political opposition in Egypt to the transfer of the islands from the initial proposals in 2016 until it was accomplished in June 2017.  Cession of the islands created significant political and legal problems.  The new constitution requires a referendum as well as parliamentary agreement to transfer sovereignty over national territory.  The claim by the two governments was that the islands, despite being under Egyptian control, had really always been sovereign territory of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and thus no referendum was necessary. 

            Although the islands were transferred (or returned) to Saudi sovereignty in June 2017, there are reasons to believe that there were disagreements within the Armed Forces as well as among the public at large.  Sidki Sobhi, for example, does not appear to have endorsed decision in public. 

            Six months later, as 2017 came to an end, so did Sisi’s term as president and with it the necessity to run for a second, and constitutionally final, term.  In November Ahmad Shafiq announced his decision to return to Egypt from the United Arab Emirates and contest the presidency.  Shafiq abruptly left Egypt after losing the 2012 contest with Morsi at least partly under the threat of criminal charges for corruption issued by Morsi’s government.  He was living in the United Arab Emirates when he announced his 2018 candidacy but shortly afterward unwillingly found himself back in Egypt.  Whether Shafiq was deported by the Emirati authorities or kidnapped by Egyptian ones with Emirati connivance remains unclear but shortly after his announced candidacy he was being held effectively incommunicado.  In early January 2018 Shafiq used his Twitter account to inform Egyptians that he had thought better of running and no longer considered himself a plausible candidate.  In March he endorsed Sisi.  Could Shafiq have mounted a serious opposition campaign?  Would he have?  We will never know but as someone who had won more than 12 million votes in 2012 the government would have been hard put to explain an outcome in which he won only a handful of votes.

            Shortly thereafter, on January 20, 2018 Sami Anan announced that he would contest the presidential election.  He was arrested on January 23 and has been detained since.  Anan’s ties to the military establishment are more recent and more powerful than Shafiq’s.  Anan was Chief of Staff between 2005 and August 2012 as well as Deputy Chairman of SCAF from its revival in February 2011 through June 2012.  The government wasted little time or effort on squashing Anan’s proposed candidacy.  Even though Morsi had discharged him, Anan was arrested for violating military regulations.   The Armed Forces claimed that he had ignored the need to request and receive official permission to run for office as required by a November 2011 decree placing all members of SCAF on military status for life.  He has also been accused of the theft of sensitive military documents that may shed embarrassing light on the current regime. The Central Bank of Egypt placed his assets and those of his wife and daughters under its control.  One of Anan’s campaign associates was former head of the Central Auditing Organization, Hisham Geneina.  Geneina had been dismissed from this government oversight body in early 2017 for charging governments before and after the coup with engaging in widespread corruption.  He has been engaged in court hearings since in which he has been charged with providing false information.  Days after Anan was arrested Geneina was assaulted in public view and left on the pavement for nearly an hour before being taken to the hospital.  Anan’s candidacy was over and Sisi won an election in which a sole supporter posed as an opponent.  Anan has been in custody ever since and over the weekend of July 14 Reuters News announced that he had been transferred to the intensive care unit of the armed forces hospital in the Cairo suburb of Maadi.  Anan would, of course, not be the first detainee of the regime to die in custody but he would be the first high-ranking former general to do so. 

            The summary ouster of Sobhi from the Defense Ministry without public SCAF approval and the installation of a new ministry without parliamentary approval thus comes as the conclusion of a lengthy process of the consolidation of Sisi’s personal control.  Nor did Sisi soften Sobhi’s ouster by awarding him a medal or other honor. But does this mean Sisi’s control is complete?

            It may but there is one last recent news report to consider.  Parliament, which has not yet been able to ratify the new government, did manage to pass a law on July 3, 2018 regarding SCAF.  In a session from which the press was barred Parliament passed a law giving the president of the republic the right to award special (and unspecified) benefits to SCAF members now and in the future.  In addition, no SCAF members can be held judicially accountable for acts committed between July 3, 2013 (the date of the coup) and January 10, 2016 (the restoration of parliament).  In addition, if traveling abroad the law confers diplomatic status (and thus immunity) on SCAF members.  The law gives the president significant discretion in deciding its application.

            Besides Sisi’s dominance, what can we say about Egyptian politics now?  There are three possible ways to interpret recent events.  One is that Sisi is slowly undermining the military and necessarily preparing for the day when some form of real civilian government is in place.  Sisi himself has no particular reason to desire the successful transition to a civilian democracy but, the argument would go, the writing is on the wall.  The emergence of authoritarian civilian regimes from China to Turkey to Hungary implies that the collapse of military rule need not mean the installation of successful democracy, but the threat to armies is that new regimes may want to make the military pay for years of violence and incompetence.  The new law is meant to deny any future government with the option of pursuing Army officers with criminal penalties for its worst offenses.

A second possibility is that the armed forces recognize, especially in the wake of Sisi’s attack on Anan and Shafiq, their own vulnerability.  On this reading, the armed forces accept Sisi’s dominance and will refrain from insisting on their institutional prerogatives as long as he rewards them.   The most recent legislation would then mean that Sisi and the Armed Forces have reached a truce and agreed to remove the weapon of criminal prosecution either at home or abroad.  The generals have acquiesced in Sisi’s dominance but insist on some protection from continued prosecution. 

There is a last and more ominous interpretation: Sisi has created an instrument that allows him greater control over the Armed Forces.  He now has a tool through which he can reward and punish active members of the military as he sees fit.  The Armed Forces have resisted providing any executive with the tools to create or exploit their divisions.  Officers have been rewarded with sinecures after their service concluded and have generally been free from threats of prosecution while on active duty.  The murderous assaults on Morsi supporters and especially the Muslim Brotherhood at Rabi’a al-Adawiyah and in front of the Republican Guards headquarters in the summer of 2013 in which more than a thousand people were killed were exceptional.  As the legal proceedings against Anan and Shafiq show, the government has many ways to threaten generals and former generals.  On this view the ouster of a defense minister, the installation of a new cabinet, and the legislation safeguarding some but not necessarily all officers for their participation in the events of 2013-2016 is an indication of the degree to which Sisi has escaped the influence of his close allies as well as his enemies and his lukewarm supporters.

            What does this mean for continued dominance of the military in Egypt’s politics?  Recently the well-known novelist, political commentator, and former diplomat Ezzeddine Choukri Fishere proposed that Egypt’s armed forces must, sooner or later, cede control to civilians and accept that only by democratic means can Egypt be well governed.  The events of the last few months show just how difficult any such political transformation will be.   The Egyptian Armed Forces are a corporate institution many of whose officers are connected by marriage, education, and a network of social facilities including clubs and hospitals.   Post-retirement careers include entering private enterprise and civil administration.  They will resist removal for obvious reasons of interest but they also play significant roles in making many Egyptian enterprises and agencies work.  Their initial education and training may be for war but like most armies in the world today they rarely if ever engage in combat.  What studies we have of the Egyptian military suggest that its strengths are engineering and logistics and these are the skills that officers may have withdrawn during the Morsi presidency when shortages in fuel, water, and food began to appear to a greater degree than during the Mubarak years.  Egypt has many other talented professionals with expertise in engineering, construction, and logistics but for the moment army officers have the set of informal ties as well as technical qualifications that are especially important for large bureaucracies. 

            Once again a general has emerged from a period of instability and managed, with the support of a unified high command, to place himself at the center of political power in Egypt.  In place of the feverish cult of personality that emerged in the wake of the coup, Sisi has instituted, as did his predecessors, his own control over the executive and its administrative arms.  He has hollowed out the legislature and military as independent sources of authority even though he dominates them. There is little reason to doubt this will be successful in the short run and little reason to doubt that it will fail over the longer run.  The bulwark of Egyptian regimes whether new or old over the last half century has been the unity—not the loyalty—of the Armed Forces.




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