- By J. Dana StusterJ. Dana Stuster is an assistant editor at Foreign Policy. He has studied at the American University of Beirut and graduated in 2010 with degrees in English and International Relations from the University of California, Davis. Before coming to FP, his work appeared in the Atlantic and the National Interest, among other publications.
In a statement posted to its Facebook page and read aloud on Egyptian state television on Monday, Egypt’s military leaders issued an ultimatum calling for a resolution to the country’s political crisis within the next 48 hours. According to the statement, in the event that the government does not recognize the demands of the protesters — which range from President Mohamed Morsy stepping down to addressing the country’s pressing economic concerns — the military will implement a plan to resolve the situation (what that plan might entail is not specified).
The statement was posted at approximately 4:30 p.m., Cairo time, which would give the protesters and government until Wednesday afternoon to reach an accord. The New York Times notes that it is unclear whether this means the military is calling on Morsy to resign, but the message has been seen by some analysts on Twitter as a threat of a coup d’état. Since the announcement was made, military helicopters flying Egyptian flags have circled Tahrir Square, drawing cheers from the activists below.
— Vivian Salama (@vmsalama) July 1, 2013
The announcement — or warning — carries a strong sense of déjà vu. The two weeks of protests that forced the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 culminated with an announcement that the president was resigning and passing power to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) — a decision that came after Mubarak appeared to lose the support of the military leadership. The country’s military leaders then oversaw a year-and-a-half-long transition period, during which they were accused of trying to maintain the military’s vaunted position in the management of Egypt’s national affairs and were frequently criticized for human rights abuses. That transition ended a year ago with Morsy’s inauguration.
Steven Cook, a senior fellow at the Center on Foreign Relations and author of The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square, believes that the military is repositioning itself to maintain its political and economic stake in the Egyptian government. "The tone the military has struck up until this moment," he writes on his blog, "is perfectly suited for the officers’ ultimate goal which is, and has been, to salvage what they can from the wreckage of the January 25 uprising and preserve their place in Egyptian society." Cook notes that the military’s top officials are "shrewd political operators" and that the flag-waving overflights are a masterful way to signal solidarity with the protesters, even though the army is primarily interested in protecting its own interests.
Some of the protesters have embraced the military during this latest round of protests and have brought back a chant popular in 2011: "The people and the Army are one hand." Others, wary of the long SCAF-managed transition and the military’s intentions, have received the announcement with unease. The seemingly deliberate ambiguity of today’s statement raises questions about the military’s exact plan — it could be a bluff to force a compromise in the next two days, or it could be much more.
And Now, Your Regularly Scheduled Coup; Does Strategy Still Drive the Pentagon? Everyone is Spying on Everyone; Snowden, again; Bad news from Afghanistan and a bit more.John Reed
John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.| Situation Report |