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In Egypt, the Military is Not a Monolith

January 4, 2012

I’ve been teaching and telling people that Egypt’s military is not a monolith, and that it is probably in considerable internal confusion. This view just got a boost because Britain’s The Guardian has published an extraordinary account of the inside of the military as seen through the eyes of an anonymous middle-ranked officer.

Entitled “Egyptian army officer’s diary of military life in a revolution” it recounts how the regime moved to ensure the loyalty of officers when the uprisings started, but also claims that cracks are occurring in that loyalty, that there is considerable confusion–about what’s going on, about who is right, about where the country is headed–and growing dissatisfaction with Tantawy’s handling of things.

Two powerful passages:

After Mubarak fell and the rule of Scaf (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) began, the top brass moved quickly to secure the loyalty of all mid-level and junior officers. Whenever a big Friday street demonstration or rally in Tahrir Square took place we would all receive a bonus of between 250 and 500 Egyptian pounds (£26-52), whether or not we had anything to do with policing the protests.

But later:

But as the months went on, despite this ignorance and the generous bonus system, dissent against [Egypt’s commander-in-chief and current head of Scaf, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein] Tantawi has grown. Most of the mid-level officers now think of him as Mubarak’s right-hand man, and they hate the fact that Scaf’s violence has tarnished the army’s image in the eyes of the public. Many still disapprove of the current protests because they feel it’s not the right time, and also because they’re resentful that others can go and demonstrate on the streets when they themselves do not have such freedom. But that attitude is beginning to change, especially as independent TV channels have been airing video clips of the recent violence and the brutality of the security forces is being openly discussed by people like [prominent media personalities] Yosri Fouda and Ibrahim Eissa. More and more mid-level officers are turning against Scaf, and against Tantawi.”

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