A Shakeup In Egypt


by Chas Danner

Marc Lynch summarizes a dramatic weekend:

Over the span of a few days, [Egyptian president Mohammed el-] Morsi removed the head of General Intelligence, the head of the Military Police, the top two senior leaders of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and the heads of all the military services.  In addition to this SCAF-Quake, Morsi also canceled the controversial Constitutional amendments promulgated by the SCAF just before he took office and issued a new, equally controversial amendment and roadmap of his own.  What's more, this all came after he replaced the editors of major state-owned newspapers with people viewed as sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood and cracked down on several other critical papers.

He suggests we'll have to wait and see what it all means:

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. 

Juan Cole calls it a coup and agrees about the situation's murkiness. Like others, he was very surprised by the timing of it all:

I had suggested that Egypt since Morsi’s election has been sort of like Turkey in the 1990s and early zeroes, with ‘dual sovereignty,’ vested both in an elected, civilian government and a powerful ‘deep state’ or military establishement. I proposed that over time, elected authority has more legitimacy and that Egypt could move in the direct of Turkey in the past half-decade, wherein the elected government has gradually gotten the upper hand over the military. I didn’t expect the process to take a month and a half, but many years.

Hussein Ibish says that "Morsy now has almost unfettered authority in Egypt":

Assuming that the military and, for the meanwhile, the courts, allow Morsy's decisions to go effectively unchallenged, Egypt, in effect, has a new dictator, albeit an elected one. Beyond the urgent need of restoring legislative authority through new elections, the power struggle in Egypt will increasingly focus on the crafting of the new constitution, which will either produce a system that involves real checks and balances or which consolidates yet another system in which the presidency wholly dominates the political system.

(Photo: Thousands of Egyptians shout political slogans in support of the Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi as they celebrate his decision on the dismissal of former Egyptian Defence Minister and Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, on August 12, 2012 at Tahrir square in Cairo. By Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)