Egypt: The president, the army and the police

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New tensions in relations between the president and the army add to existing unease and even anger between the presidency and both police and intelligence. Police sources say the overriding sentiment is that the president, despite positive statements regarding the police, is acting to replace the heads of departments with generals whose loyalty to him is greater than their loyalty to the institution
 
 
What would it take for the president to contain tensions in the army, the police and the intelligence service
Dina Ezzat , Thursday 27 Dec 2012

A recent decree issued by Minister of Defence Abdel-Fattah Al-Sissi restricting the right to buy property in Sinai to second-generation Egyptian citizens had come against the wish of the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to a military source.
The decree, the same source said, speaking on condition of anonymity, was issued after the minister became aware of a Palestinian-Qatari scheme to buy territory in Sinai “supposedly for tourism related projects”. He added that the minister “informed” the president before taking the decision “with unprecedented support from within the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the wider military base. Many of us [officers and soldiers] died to retrieve thos land; we didn’t do so knowing that Morsi would compromise the country’s right to Sinai — for whatever reason. Whatever the reason, Sinai is a red line. We will support our Palestinian brothers in every way possible but Sinai is not for sale.”

This decision by Al-Sissi, who was appointed in August following Morsi’s decision to remove his predecessor Hussein Tantawi along with the second in command Sami Anan, is more or less unprecedented — according to the same military source. Usually, he said, such decrees are issued by the president, whether in his executive capacity or in his capacity as the supreme commander of the armed forces. “But there was no other way because the anger was very intense in the army over news of plans to sell large parts of Sinai and some of the peninsulas in the Red Sea”.

This is not the first sign of tension between Morsi and Al-Sissi. Only two weeks ago the ministry of defence and the presidency engaged in a tug of war over a scheduled roundtable meeting the minister of defence had called for in the midst of the political crisis over the constitution, which was finally passed this Tuesday with the approval of under two thirds of those who voted, who make up about one third of the 51 million eligible Egyptian citizens.

According to the same military source and to sources at the presidency, Al-Sissi’s call for dialogue, intended to reconcile the president and leaders of the National Rescue Front (who have been in conflict over the constitution) was initially undertaken with the approval of the president but was cancelled following an appeal by him to cancel it, dictated by the Guidance Bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood.

New tensions in relations between the president and the army add to existing unease and even anger between the presidency and both police and intelligence. Police sources say the overriding sentiment is that the president, despite positive statements regarding the police, is acting to replace the heads of departments with generals whose loyalty to him is greater than their loyalty to the institution. For its part, according to two sources, the intelligence was insulted by the fact that a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood went on air to accuse an intelligence lieutenant of being party to an attempt to overthrow the president.

An aide close to the president said that unease in the army is “totally unjustified”. “To suggest that the president would agree to anything that would compromise national sovereignty over Sinai or any part of Egypt is an unacceptable insult; the decision of Al-Sissi was issued on orders from the president himself.” According to the same source, contempt in the police and intelligence is “even more unjustified because it is no secret that there were generals in both bodies who were helping with the campaign of Ahmed Shafik [Morsi’s adversary in the presidential runoffs], and that they are still in daily contact with him and with the Dubai police whose head openly attacked the president of Egypt”.

Speaking angrily, presidential aide said “what would it take for the president to be liked by the police and the intelligence? I tell you no matter what the president does to please and reassure them, they will not be happy simply because they cannot accept that this man from the Muslim Brotherhood has become president – they did everything they could to prevent him from winning; they provided information about other runners and broke into the secrets of their campaigns to make sure that Shafik makes it to round two and today they have not given up; they cannot bow to the will of the Egyptian people who voted for Morsi and not Shafik”.
 

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