The timing and speed with which five top officials of the military council in Egypt were dismissed was quite surprising. Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi dismissed the five military officials, despite the fact that he has only been in power for forty days. No doubt that the inmates of Tora prison, where the most prominent figures of the previous Egyptian regime are detained, are very happy as they learn about the dismissal of Field Marshal Tantawi and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Sami Annan. In fact, they are blaming Field Marshal Tantawi saying that he had turned on them during the Revolution, and they are happy to see him get a taste of his own medicine, now that the first elected President has also turned on him.
Mursi, who used to be described as weak, or even living in the shadow of Muslim Brotherhood leaders, has proven his strength. His latest decisions have silenced many of his critics for fear or for admiration. Although the dismissal of the five top military officials in Egypt is a shocking surprise, and despite the fact that the President had also discharged the Egyptian Intelligence Chief, and regardless of the strength this President is exhibiting, the rule of Egypt remains a very hard and difficult mission.
Mursi and his government are now completely and directly responsible towards their citizens, now that there are no more pretexts to be used to justify any inability or failure in security or liberties. Neither the military council nor central security or remnants of Mubarak’s regime can be blamed now. Challenges have just begun with the recommendation of the International Monetary Fund to decrease the rate of the Egyptian pound, which would then lead to a decrease in Egyptian citizens’ purchasing capacity.
As I have already said in my previous articles following the election of Mursi, such choice of President was made by the majority of the Egyptian people. We have to accept this reality and deal with it during his whole mandate until new elections are held and people decide who they want to elect then.
I do not claim knowing General Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi, the new Minister of Defense, very well but I visited him a few months ago when he was still chief of Egyptian Military Intelligence, as part of visits during which I met a number of political leaders including Nasserites, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other national leaders. As they have all received a military education, they were all reluctant to express their opinions. I talked with General Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi for more than three hours and he did not show any interest in political work nor did he express clear stances regarding issues on the Egyptian political scene. Also, the Egyptian Army Facebook page confirmed that the Military Council was not interested in political work, and that they have handed over the reins in politics so they would focus on the work they have been trained for, i.e. the protection of the territory.
Are both phases over then? Are the Revolution and the transition to a civilian rule over then? It is hard to believe that Tahrir Square –as a place, state of mind and culture –would accept giving the opposition up. But who knows? Eighteen months of protest may have consumed the opposition’s energy after all.
(Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya. The article was published in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat on Aug. 15, 2012)