MORE DRAMA IN EGYPT – AT 9:40 A.M. ET: We continue to urge readers not to avert their eyes from foreign affairs during our election season. Something can suddenly surprise us, and it might be most unpleasant.
The Muslim Brotherhood, not a nice group of guys, is consolidating its power in Egypt, with a new move by the new president against the military. WaPo reports:
CAIRO — Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi forced out the country’s two top military chiefs Sunday, in a bold move to wrest power from the armed forces and marginalize key holdovers of ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s reign.
Seizing on a brazen attack last week in north Sinai that killed 16 Egyptian security forces, Morsi on Sunday swore in a new defense minister, who will command the armed forces, and made additional major personnel moves. The president also announced that he had suspended a constitutional amendment the generals passed on the eve of Morsi’s election giving themselves vast powers and weakening the presidency.
The ousted military chiefs quietly stepped aside Sunday, but analysts said the move could trigger a backlash and further polarize a nation in which many are wary of the intentions of the country’s first Islamist president. Morsi ran as the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group that has yearned for decades to lead Egypt.
“This is a big moment of transformation in the history of Egypt,” said Zeinab Abul-Magd, a history professor at the American University in Cairo who has studied the military closely. “Now, officially, it is a Brotherhood state. Now it is official they are in full control of state institutions.”
Morsi’s election in June was hailed as a watershed for a nation that for six decades had been governed by military autocrats. But efforts by members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to cement their vast authority through legal maneuvers appeared to set the stage for a weak president.
The ouster of Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi — the defense minister and top military chief — and his deputy, army chief of staff Sami Anan, suggested that the Brotherhood is willing to act more quickly and assertively in taking control of key institutions than analysts had predicted.
COMMENT: Egypt is the most important Arab country, and the seat of Arab culture. It is, however, still too early to predict exactly what direction the new Brotherhood government will take. Thus far Morsi hasn't done anything crazy, and it's been pointed out that his new defense minister has been head of military intelligence, with a working relationship with both the United States and Israel.
We'll watch Egypt closely. We're also watching Syria, which has broken down into mass violence.
And there are now repeated signals out of Israel of a possible Israeli strike on the Iranian nuclear program before our election. Those signals, of course, may be intentionally deceptive, designed to confuse the Iranians. Bottom line, there's a lot happening in the Mideast, and it will affect our future, both militarily and economically.
August 13, 2012