The military did not come to the defense of Tantawi and Anan, and General Intelligence did not express a public objection on the dismissal of Muaffi. This begs the question: how did the powerful heads of all of these bodies submit and unquestioningly accept upon themselves the supreme authority of Mursi? Have they all become faithful followers of the Muslim Brotherhood? Not quite. One possible explanation is that those who were dismissed are quite advanced in years (Tantawi is 76 years old) and they have no desire to continue in difficult and demanding military roles for many more years. Another explanation, and in my opinion much more likely, is that those who were dismissed, especially Tantawi, told Mursi, either explicitly or implicitly, “Take the country and let’s see you manage it with your Brothers.” Because in the background is the precarious economic situation of Egypt: no tourism, no foreign investment, dwindling foreign reserves, all within the context of a deep global crisis, with European states collapsing, and there is no redeemer on the horizon except – perhaps – the United States, which, up until now has not understood how to relate to the Muslim Brotherhood: as a legitimate regime or a group of radical Islamists. In this situation, a person would need great faith in the One Who dwells on High to believe that Egypt can be rescued, so those who were dismissed apparently are not enthusiastic believers after all.
However, it may be that in the near future, the military will indeed come into conflict with the president, when the latter tries to get his hands on the assets of the military. In Egypt the military is an economic empire, which is called “the National Service Project Organization,” and was founded in the beginning of the eighties in order to provide work for the many people of the military who were dismissed as a result of the peace agreement with Israel. There are estimates that between 25 and 40 percent of the Gross National Product of Egypt is connected with the companies, banks and corporations that belong to the military. The situation has become so severe that in recent months the military has been loaning money to the state. This may sound illogical, but this is the situation in Egypt: the military has more wealth than the state, and its economic power – most of which is hidden from the public eye – is not subject to the authority of the state. The companies that belong to the military are active in all areas of the economy: management of real estate, domestic services, restaurants, petrol stations, food industries, as well as chemical, petrochemical and plastics industries. The Egyptian weapons industry is entirely – and openly – under the auspices of the “minister of defense and military industries.” This activity is conducted openly because of the connections that this industrial complex has with companies abroad, especially with the United States, and the global prohibition of clandestine action in the business of weapons and ammunition.
One of the important reasons for the wealth of the labyrinth of companies that have connections with the military is the fact that their earnings are tax-free and there is no need to report them to the tax authority. These companies have supported each other because they don’t need to bid for contracts. The economic conduct of the military has created in Egypt two main economic classes: those who enjoy the benefits of the military industries and those who are far from the plate. This causes a wide economic gap resulting in corruption, discrimination, cronyism and public rage.
Mursi certainly knows the economic empire of the military well , and sooner or later he will try to get the state’s hands on it. What will the military do then? Will it submit or will it fight?
It seems that the military would prefer to come to an agreement with the president and to avoid having a head-on collision with him, because since the revolution and the deep economic crisis, millions of Egyptian families have been brought to indigence, and this has resulted in public sensitivity toward the wealth of the military.
On the Way to a Religious Dictatorship?
About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.
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