The Middle East Channel
Egyptian balance of power shifts as Morsi replaces military leaders
In his first major move to assert power, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi forced the retirement of several military leaders who have ruled since the fall of Hosni Mubarak. The most prominent was Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, de-facto leader after the revolution and defense minister under Mubarak for over 20 years. Tantawi’s post had just ...
In his first major move to assert power, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi forced the retirement of several military leaders who have ruled since the fall of Hosni Mubarak. The most prominent was Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, de-facto leader after the revolution and defense minister under Mubarak for over 20 years. Tantawi’s post had just been renewed last week. Also pushed out were Army Chief of Staff Sami Hafez Anan as well as the heads of the navy, air force, and air defense branches. Morsi also nullified a constitutional declaration issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) right before he took office that restricted his authority by empowering the military. On Sunday, he issued his own declaration, giving the president broad legislative and executive power, and possibly a decisive role in the drafting of Egypt’s new constitution. Morsi gave a speech to defend the restructuring insisting, "I did not mean to send a negative message about anyone, but my aim was the benefit of this nation and its people." There are unconfirmed reports he made the move after consultation with the military leaders, and there was no immediate challenge from the SCAF. Morsi’s action has shifted the power of government from military to civilian for the first time in 60 years, but some critics are concerned it will lead to Islamist domination of the government.
Fighting continues in Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs as the Syrian opposition pushes for an internationally controlled no fly zone. The escalation of violence in Aleppo has forced U.N. monitors to leave the city as the United Nations has decided to remove one third of its observers ahead of a mandated expiring at the end of August. At the same time, heavy shelling has resumed in Damascus along with army raids. Opposition forces have for the first time claimed to have shot down a Syrian fighter jet on Monday in Deir al-Zour. The account has not been verified, but could signal a shift in a conflict defined by a striking gap in military might. Head of the opposition Syrian National Council, Abdel Basset Saida, is calling for a no-fly zone on the borders with Jordan and Turkey, saying it is "an essential thing that would confirm to the regime that its power is diminishing bit by bit." His remarks came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and said the two countries were discussing a range of options for aiding the opposition, including a no-fly zone; but nothing has been decided. Meanwhile, two journalists have reportedly been killed in Syria. Ali Abbas of the Syrian state news agency, SANA, was reported killed by an "armed terrorist group." Al-Arabiya additionally claimed that Bara’a Yusuf al-Bushi, a Syrian army defector was killed in a bombing in a northern suburb of Damascus.
- Iranian relief efforts have been criticized after two large earthquakes hit the East Azerbaijan province on Saturday, killing 306 people and injuring thousands.
- Libyan General Mohamed Hadi al-Feitouri, who served under Muammar al-Qaddafi but was one of the first to defect, was killed on Friday in Benghazi.
- Nineteen U.S. Congresspeople have written to Bahrain’s king pushing for the release of imprisoned human rights activist Nabeel Rajab.
Arguments & Analysis
‘Lamborghini Morsi‘ (Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy)
"I think that on balance this should be seen as a potentially positive step, despite the real downside risks of Muslim Brotherhood domination. It could even be a way to overcome at least one dimension of that deep political and social polarization which has been the legacy of the last political period. Asserting civilian control and removing the top SCAF leaders were necessary steps which most Egypt analysts didn’t expect at this point, and which — lest we forget — have been among the primary demands of the revolution since almost the beginning. If the golden parachute of some form of unwritten amnesty and appointments to advisory position was the way to get Tantawi and the others to step down without a fight, then this seems a price worth paying. But that verdict would change if Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood does go on to seek to dominate the new constitutional assembly — and that should, and will, be a major focus of the coming period."
‘An Orderly Post-Assad Transition‘ (Rami G. Khouri, Middle East Online)
"For months now, speculation by analysts, diplomats, scholars and journalists about the nature of the post-Bashar Assad transition in Syria has been as dynamic as the events on the ground, but with one big difference. Most analyses of events on the ground rely on facts; but the discussion of how events will unfold in post-Assad Syria is riddled with wildly unsubstantiated speculation and pessimism, often tarnished by doses of Orientalism, anti-Arab and anti-Islamic racism, and plain old-fashioned amateurism and ignorance."
‘Egyptian President Morsi’s Counter-Coup, Move Three‘ (Michele Dunne, Atlantic Council)
"With a bold decree canceling the June 17 Supplementary Constitutional Declaration that limited his powers just before his inauguration–as well as a spate of new senior appointments eliminating senior leaders of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and promoting more junior SCAF members–President Mohammed Morsi appears to be using last week’s Sinai crisis as an opportunity to implement a broader plan. What is not yet clear is whether he will succeed to a greater degree than he did with an earlier part of the strategy."
–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey