Tuesday 31 January, 2023

Al-Estiklal Newspaper

‘Take Off Their Fangs’; Why Did Sisi Reduce the Length of Military Leaders’ Stay in Office?

2021/07/29 12:07:00 | Reports
Sisi seeks through an arsenal of laws and resolutions to secure the seat of government.
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The Muslim Brotherhood would not have disobeyed Egyptian regime president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi despite its popular backs, but the obsession of military leaders was and continues to be his greatest fear, so within eight years he made decisions and passed laws to remove the tusks of senior military personnel before they entered the army.

In a story that raised questions and speculations from Egyptians about its motives and timing, the Egyptian Official Gazette published on July 15, 2021, the news that Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had ratified a new law that includes amendments to three laws on the armed forces.

The most important articles of law (No. 134 of 2021), which was passed by the House of Representatives on June 27, 2021, say that the first of them "shortens the duration of military commanders' stay in office for only two years instead of four years unless the president decides to extend their service."

Article 2 gives Sisi the power to create new forces or amend the current one, as stipulated in "Article 2, Paragraph 4" of the Law.

The passing of the law hastily, which observers interpreted as a continuation of Sisi's anxiety, was done to those who had been isolated by the military, and as he sought to fortify the seat of government with a succession of resolutions and laws.

Although he has eliminated 24 of the 26 members of the SCAF since the 2013 coup, appointed military leaders and various branches, and taken control of sovereign organs, the judiciary and the media, Sisi remains concerned about the presidency.

One explanation for amending the law is Sisi's insistence on continuing to consolidate his dominance and remain as a single military ruler, filling loopholes that have already toppled his predecessors, and preventing the formation of strong positions against him within the military.

Another explanation relates to the escalating public anger following the Nile water crisis, what Egyptians see as Sisi's loss of the Nile River, a break in Egypt's water security and a failure in the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

This is a situation that may be followed by the restlessness of some military leaders, especially after the Egyptians also attacked them and accused them of treason and collusion with Sisi.

 

Loyalty Law

The new amendments to the law included seven old articles with the addition of two new articles, and the repeal of an earlier article.

Most notably, a single article was amended by the "Command and Control of State Defense Affairs" Act, which now includes reducing the length of stay of the army chief of staff, commanders of key branches, assistants to the Minister of Defense and their equivalent, to two years instead of four years.

Sisi may also serve for a renewable year for "those who have gained experience in the course of these positions," while continuing to be granted pension referral privileges for the "general" and "team" ranks.

Followers say that keeping Sisi in office after two years or removing him indicates a "policy of loyalty" on any other national consideration within the military.

The law provided for the creation of new military forces or the modification of the current forces by decision of Sisi and the approval of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, prompted many questions about the purpose of those forces, and is it to provide him with special protection in the face of the army?

Sisi, while defense minister, established in March 2014 the Rapid Intervention Forces formed by infantry, armored, air defense, artillery, reconnaissance, military police, and a number of fighter jets and equipped special forces.

It was said at the time that his goal was "to counter potential terrorist threats against vital targets and installations and how to respond optimally inside and outside the country".

The recent amendments have also raised several other questions, including: Is Sisi planning to get rid of the last member of the old military council, the chief of staff?

This is because one of the mechanisms for his overthrow may be through the chief of staff, or military intelligence, according to observers who believe that this is why he sought to change the director of military intelligence, and the chief of staff twice in earlier times.

One of the questions is: Is Sisi preparing to make significant moves between leaders in the next movement of military leaders in December 2021, or perhaps remove old leaders and appoint new ones to ensure control and loyalty?

But in general, these changes revealed that Sisi, who is doing everything in the military, the military council and the military leadership is now in his hands alone, and the army is just a pawn driven by the military council that was the engine of the president in previous years?

 

That's How He Founded His Authority

Sisi's concern about the conflicts of the various power centers in the military, sovereign agencies, and his fears of a possible coup d'état, as he did with the late President Mohamed Morsi, may have led him all to insist on fortifying himself and the chair of government by exclusionary means.

This is nothing new for Sisi, who sought to get rid of the SCAF’s rule to that of the military, by phasing out the council members who supported his 2013 coup, and only 2 of the 26 leaderships are now left.

Indeed, only the current Chief of Staff Mohamed Farid Hijazi, who was secretary general of the Ministry of Defense at the time of the coup, has left all the leaders of the military council he participated in and the experience of the January 25, 2011 revolution, democracy.

Also, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Maj. Gen. Mamdouh Shaheen, who is "engineering" the legislation the military wants to run Egypt, pass it parliamentarily and give it legitimacy. 

Later, Sisi abused his older military leadership, which considered his state-led rival, such as General Ahmed Shafiq in the 2014 elections, and General Sami Annan in the 2018 elections.

Sisi also sought to weaken and control sovereign agencies, particularly the General Intelligence Service, which was Sisi's main rival when he was director of military intelligence.

The mystery that accompanied the death of the former head of the agency and Deputy Hosni Mubarak (for only 12 days) Major General Omar Suleiman, and the previous attempt on his life on January 29, 2011, immediately after he was sworn in as Mubarak's deputy, pointing fingers at Sisi.

The assailants also got out of an ambulance and opened fire on Suleiman's motorcade, at the same time as the so-called "third party" sabotage to thwart the January revolution, later identified as Sisi's military intelligence.

All accounts of Omar Suleiman's death on July 19, 2012, at the Cleveland Hospital in America during heart surgery, or his death in the bombing of an intelligence headquarters in Syria inside, said former intelligence officer Major General Samir Zaher, his mysterious death was not resolved.

In his quest to take control of the General Intelligence Service and adapt it to the "war" interest, Sisi overthrew General Mohamed Rafat Shehata, the director of the agency during president Mohamed Morsi's rule, and then overthrew General Khaled Fawzi for allegedly rejecting Sisi's candidacy in the 2018 elections.

As part of this control of the general intelligence, Sisi disposed of dozens of G.I.A. officers and transferred his supporters to the military, and then secretary Abbas took full responsibility for the agency, assisted by his son Mahmoud al-Sisi.

From December 2, 2013, to June 26, 2015, al-Estiklal monitored five republican decisions to get rid of some 57 brigades and agents of the intelligence service from Omar Suleiman's team.

This was accompanied by a series of laws passed by Sisi granting him the right to appoint and dismiss the heads of regulatory bodies, constitutional amendments under which judges are appointed, and arrangements to buy and control all media.

 

Transfer or Deportation?

The Egyptian army has traditionally seen two movements of commanders and officers at various levels twice a year, one in June and the other in December.

Since taking power, Sisi has sought through these movements to get rid of rivals, popular faces, opponents, opponents and those feared in power.

However, the scene suggests that these movements have recently shifted to try to "not form senior officers in positions of power that threaten his rule and to periodically get rid of commanders to ensure the loyalty of the new ones."

According to military affairs researcher Mahmoud Jamal, published on April 21, 2021, through a study entitled "Anti-Sisi Forces and Opportunity Management Policies."

Sisi's focus on central district leaders, particularly Cairo, who he changes almost routinely every year, as well as leaders of military branches, as well as the chief of staff, who has changed three times since Sisi took office.

In the last military movement in June 2021, Sisi continued to get rid of military district commanders from which any moves against him could be launched.

General Staff Khaled Shawky was excluded from the Central Military Zone Command (including Cairo, Giza and Qalyubia) one year after his presidency, and General Assem Ashour was appointed to replace him.

He decided to transfer General Yasser Al-Aseriji from the Northern Region Command (Alexandria) just one year after his appointment, to take over the management of the Moral Affairs Service.

General Staff Imad Abdelkader Yamani finished his military police command six months after his appointment, becoming deputy commander of the Republican Guard.

General Staff Mahmoud al-Eidros was also transferred from the Signal Corps Department six months after his appointment, appointing him deputy director of military intelligence.

The name "military intelligence" has also been changed to the Military Intelligence Service and expanded to include eight organs.

It had only four agencies: military security, reconnaissance and information, maritime intelligence, the Security Service for Research and Development, to which devices were added: signal, cyberwarfare, systems and moral affairs.

This was preceded by the removal of the director of military intelligence, Mohammed al-Shahat (after three years in office) in December 2018, and the appointment of the current director, Major General Khaled Mojawer.

Sisi, however, is keen to manage relations with the military, relying on tactics that include expanding military business and military control over large parts of the economy/loyalty to it. 

According to a March 17, 2021 study by the Carnegie Institute, Sisi is seeking military privileges to overturn the basic formula of Egyptian civil-military relations by increasing his personal control over the military through a policy of "revolving door in leadership."

Sisi links keeping the military happy with these privileges with protecting and defending him, and controlling positions within him, according to the study.

 

No Nomination, No Words

Control of the military is not limited to movements and appointments, but through a series of different laws that included privileges for them to satisfy them, and others to prevent them from running for the presidential elections or parliamentary and local councils except with the approval of the military council.

In July 2020, the House of Representatives passed amendments to conditions of service and promotion laws for armed forces officers, preventing serving or out-of-service officers from running for election.

The amendments extended Law No. 232 of 1959, on conditions of service and promotion to army officers and law "No. 1968", on command and control of state defence affairs, and Law No. 30 of 2014, to establish the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Other than preventing them from running for election, for not repeating the experience of competing with General Sami Annan, for 2018, officers were banned from expressing any political or partisan views, engaging in politics or belonging to political parties, bodies, associations or organizations.

The law grants officers the right to challenge (formally) decisions to ban them before the Supreme Judicial Committee of Armed Forces Officers, but "the committee's decisions may not be challenged or demanded to be annulled in any way before any body or other body."

Observers also believe that the amendment aims to block any potential candidates facing Sisi in the upcoming presidential election, both current and former military officers, as has happened in past years.

Dr. Ibrahim Sweilem said on Twitter that reducing the term of chief of staff of the Egyptian armed forces for two years instead of 4 was "clear evidence of something within the armed forces."

Activist and human rights activist Osama Rushdie attributed Sisi's decision to the "fear that the army will repeat with him what he did and turn on him," pointing out that the army sectors were displaced away from the central area, and gave himself the power to create new forces to protect him.

But activists have linked Sisi's decision to reduce the length of stay of senior military leaders to popular anger at Sisi's inaction with the military over the Nile disaster and the Ethiopian Renaissance dam.


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References:

1

Civil-Military Relations in Sisi’s Egypt

2

السيسي يصدق على تعديلات تقلص مدة رئيس الأركان وقادة الأفرع في مناصبهم إلى عامين بدلا من أربعة

3

مصر: حركة تنقلات الجيش ـ يونيو 2021

4

مصر: قانون يمنع العسكريين من الترشح لانتخابات الرئاسة أو البرلمان إلا بموافقة الجيش

5

الجيش المصري: تغيير قيادات يشمل مدير المخابرات الحربية

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