Muslim Brotherhood member President Mohamed Morsi has sacked the senior Egyptian military command, the primary secular counterweight to Islamist fundamentalist control of Egypt.
As reported by The Times of Israel:
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi fired Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi and Chief of Staff Sami Anan on Sunday afternoon, forcing them into retirement, and canceled the military-declared constitutional amendments that gave top generals wide powers, Egyptian state TV reported.
Morsi also ordered the retirement of the commanders of the navy, air defense and air force.
The move was seen as an unprecedented assertion of authority over the armed forces by the Muslim Brotherhood president — a “civilian coup” against the army, in the words of the leading Israeli Arab affairs analyst Ehud Yaari. The move underlined that the president and the army are not running Egypt together, but rather that the army is subject to the orders of the presidency, Yaari said.
The Guardian reports that the new commander was an advocate of the “virginity tests” performed on female Egyptian protesters:
Replacing Tantawi is the head of military intelligence, Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi – one of the generals who defended the use of “virginity tests” against female protesters in March 2011 – with El-Assar as his deputy.
The excuse for the sacking of these military commanders, and others last week, was an attack in Sinai that left 15 Egyptian military personnel dead. That was the opening to assert Islamist control over the military, a process which has taken years in Turkey but was accomplished in short order in Egypt.
The Times of Israel article further notes the increaed Egyptian military presence near the Israeli border with Israel’s consent:
In his assertion of authority Sunday, the president also deployed forces in the Sinai ahead of an expected major military crackdown on terror cells there. Israel last week gave Egypt permission to deploy forces in excess of limitations set out in the Israel-Egypt peace treaty in order to crack down on Sinai terror bases. Israel allowed Egypt to deploy troops close to the Israeli border, noted Yaari. “The question is, after the military operation, will Morsi take the troops back out again.”
Despite the hundreds of troops and dozens of military vehicles, including APCs with machine guns as well as M-60 tanks, making their way into North Sinai, residents and Sinai-based journalists and activists say the operations are nothing more than a show.
That is, of course, right. It’s a show in which Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are using an attack by other Islamists on Egyptian troops both to further marginalize the leading secular influence in society, and to destroy the Peace Treaty with Israel in small steps by remilitarizing the Sinai.