Power struggle in Egyptian army heads towards crisis

22 Apr

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Middle East Monitor. 21 April 2014

Day after day, and as the date of the presidential elections in Egypt approaches, power struggle within the Egyptian military establishment intensifies.

According to information circulating at the highest levels in Cairo, conflict is increasing and is intensifying within the Egyptian military establishment so much so that it has now become a major source of concern for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates who fear that such power struggle may lead to a coup against Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi once he becomes president.

A source close to the Egyptian army top command has told Asrar Arabiyah website that the power struggle happens to be over the position of the defence minister. Al-Sisi finds himself in a critical position having immunised the position of the Defence Minister in the constitution lest he failed to become President. But now, and since he is very close to become President, he fears the man holding that immunised position (of defence minister), Sidqi Subhi. The source says that Al-Sisi has endeavoured to keep to himself both the position of President and the position of Defence Minister. Yet, a strong current within the army, headed by Sidqi Subhi, refused (to allow this) and thwarted it. This was the reason why announcing Al-Sisi’s nomination for the presidential elections was delayed. When Al-Sisi failed to keep both positions he tried to favour his own relative and close friend General Mahmoud Hijazi with the position (of Defence Minister). But he failed too and a deal was struck according to which Mahmoud Hijazi was appointed Chief of Staff while Sidqi was appointed Minister of Defence. However, the source affirms that the battle is far from over. Al-Sisi is still trying to unseat Sidqi from the Ministry of Defence in the hope of replacing him with Hijazi although the constitution does not grant him that right. There is widespread belief that this file will top his agenda once he becomes President of Egypt.

It is worth noting that General Mahmoud Hijazi was an obscure army officer until he was promoted by Al-Sisi to become Director of Military Intelligence and then Chief of Staff. Although, according to some sources, Hijazi’s appointment as Chief of Staff was part of a deal that included the appointment of Sidqi Subhi as Minister of Defence, the latter realises that Al-Sisi will continue after he assumes the presidency his endeavour to remove Subhi from the Defence Ministry so as to turn it over to his own perfectly loyal associate Jijazi.

Sidqi Subhi represents a wide trend within the top army command and enjoys within the security agencies the support of the former Director of General Intelligence Brig. Murad Muwafi who was previously rumoured to have wanted to stand for the presidency in the upcoming elections but eventually withdrew from the battle a few days ago.

This power struggle represents one of the fiercest bone breaking battles facing Al-Sisi. It was also one of the reasons why his nomination for the presidency was delayed because he was looking for a solution to (the problem arising from his loss of) the position he had immunised and rendered the most important of all positions in Egypt but had eventually to abandon so as to become President of Egypt

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