The Egyptian army’s true frontline battle

Abdel Latif el-Menawy
Abdel Latif el-Menawy
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I know a sizable portion of Egyptians were disappointed at the country’s army owing to the expectations they had and which did not materialize for several reasons and now is not the time for listing them. I also know that a sizable portion of army officers were disappointed at the insults and accusations to which they had been subjected at a certain stage, namely when all political factions abandoned the army, thus falling into the trap set by the Muslim Brotherhood, which deceived military leaders into believing it is the only ally they had got.

At the time, I knew that several political factions, made up of youths and liberals, embarked on serious initiatives to communicate with the army. In fact, a project that aimed at politically empowering youths had at some stage been a viable alternative. However, those factions swallowed the Muslim Brotherhood’s bait and the gap kept widening between them and the army until any cooperation with the army came be seen as a betrayal of the revolution. Consequently, those factions deprived themselves and the country from the possibility of cooperating with the only remaining powerful institution that was capable of joining forces to protect the civilian, moderate character of the state. But not everything we wish for comes true.

The Brotherhood managed to isolate other political factions from the army against which accusations of plans to usurp power kept leveling. I, once more, know that this was absolutely groundless, for the army had no plans to remain in power but the propaganda machine of those who wanted everyone to believe that succeeded in doing so and this coincided with the interests of foreign powers. So, the Brotherhood managed to come to power then started crushing all rivals, former allies, or any faction it considers an enemy while allowing the army’s image to be tarnished abroad, which actually bore fruit with a lot of Western politician and journalists and I personally bore witness to that.

The outcome is what we see right now. The “Brotherhood-ization” project is attempting to encompass the army so that it ends up as the group’s military wing or as a weaker and less independent institution through having its ranks infiltrated by Brotherhood loyalists. This plan has already started as demonstrated by both public statements and leaks. We have not forgotten the statements made by the Brotherhood’s supreme guide and in which he derided the army and its leaderships then claimed his words were taken out of context. Add to that the test balloon of dismissing Minister of Defense General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi.

Our ancestors said that no rumor is baseless. Therefore, what is being said now reflects a real desire or an action that transcends desire to control the army. What is important is that the army is aware of this desire or action, which means this plan will be eventually aborted.

I also bear witness to something else. At an early stage, military leaders had tried to take all the necessary precautions to make sure that political allegiances do not infiltrate the Armed Forces and this is what I kept asserting whenever the issue of the army’s loyalty was brought up. For me, the army’s stance was clear from the very beginning, but the real challenge lied in dealing with the pressure exercised by the Muslim Brotherhood, which has access to the presidency and whose member is at the head of the state.

I was not surprised by a statement attributed to a military source and which implied the previous meaning, for it confirmed the truth and seriousness of the stance taken by military leaders, yet it also pointed to the pressure that has obviously started a while ago and that seems to have reached high levels. This source stressed that “all members of the Armed Forces reject ‘Brotherhood-ization’ or the like,” that “neither the Muslim Brotherhood nor any other political faction will succeed in infiltrating the army,” that “army officers stir clear of political allegiances and army regulations prohibit engaging in politics inside the Armed Forces,” that “army officers are subjected to yearly investigations and if any of them is proven to belong to any political faction he would be referred to a disciplinary committee and can even be dismissed,” that “the Military Academy chooses students with no political affiliations and those students pledge allegiance to Egypt and not any other party.”

It is then obvious that the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to impose its own will, yet found out it is faced with strong resistance, which was obvious in a statement by anonymous military sources following the rumor about dismissing the defense minister and which stressed that any action by the Muslim Brotherhood against the army would constitute political suicide for the former. Add to that the statement I mentioned earlier in the article. What does that means? And what is to be done at this stage?

The answer is that the Muslim Brotherhood realizes that the only power capable of keeping the state intact is the army. It is also the only institutions that can stop attempts at monopolizing power. It is the only institution with which all political factions were ready to engage in a national dialogue contrary to what happened when the call came from the presidency, which is indicative that political factions are now aware of the role and the value of the Armed Forces and which were earlier questioned by some of them.

The statement issued by Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and in which he warned that the state could collapse if the current political tension persists proves that the army is monitoring the situation and is aware of its responsibility towards the country even if it seems determined not to be involved in politics.

There is the battle for the army and the battle of the army. After most Egyptians realized the reality of the military institution, it is now imperative to overcome that state of disappointment and anger that has been prevalent and to rally behind the common purpose of protecting the army as a national entity that cannot be monopolized or subjected to “Brotherhood-ization.” It is the duty of all Egyptians to stand behind the army and support it, for it is the only remaining power that can save the country when it is faced with the ramifications of the current regime’s policies. As for the battle of the army, it revolves around restoring the civilian and moderate character of Egypt.

Abdel Latif al-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of "Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak," a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy

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