Thursday, 17 February 2011

The Army- a force to be reckoned with.

This morning a friend posted a link to Jonathan Wright's article about the power of the Egyptian military, with the comment that whilst he did not ordinarily like Wright, he found the article to be right on target. Wright goes through a number of 'myths' which he believes attribute much more power to the army than what is realistically the case. I'm not sure what he based his arguments on but here are some of the most damning which would suggest that he's either never been to Egypt or has been taking it easy in some expat haven:


- the myth that all or most provincial governors come from the military. In fact, in line with the shift of emphasis under Mubarak from external to internal security, almost all provincial governors have been former police generals since the 1990s, with the exception of those in border provinces such as North and South Sinai, Mersa Matrouh, the Red Sea and so on. This confusion may have arisen because so many have the rank of liwa (major general), which in Egypt is common to both the army and police.
- the myth that the military had a hand in routine policy making throughout the Mubarak era. Proponents of this theory need to give us examples of junctures where the military had any input into policy that was not directly relevant to their sphere of activity. When Mubarak faced an insurgency by the Islamic Group in middle Egypt in the 1990s, he relied solely on the Interior Ministry to deal with it and almost all the victims on the government side were policemen. The army stayed aloof. When Mubarak began serious ecoonomic liberalisation under Prime Minister Nazif from 2004 onwards, there is no evidence that the military made any contribution, either in favour or in opposition. Speculation that the military would have vetoed the succession of Mubarak's son Gamal to the presidency remains pure speculation, since it was never put to the test. Even in the case of Egyptian policy towards Gaza and Hamas over the last few years, there's no reason to believe that the decisions were not taken by Mubarak, Omar Suleiman and other Mubarak aides, and that the military merely followed the presidential orders.


Working for State Media, means that one has to interview a lot of provincial governors. I'd say I interviewed them all by now and I think almost all of them were of a military background.


  • North Sinai's Muhammad Mowafi- former director of the Military Intelligence Service
  • Suez- Sayf el-Deen Galal -Military General 3rd Field Regiment
  • Luxor- Samir Farag- also a former director of Military Intelligence
  • Alexandria- Adel Labib- former Police
  • Ismalia- Abdel Galeel el-Fakharany- Military General 2nd Field Regiment
  • Aswan- Mostafa el-Sayed- Military General 2nd Field Regiment
  • Asyut- Nabeel El-Izzaby- former Police
  • Gharbiya- Abdel Hameed el-Shinawy- former Police
  • Kafr el-Sheikh- Ahmed Zaki Abedeen- former military engineer
  • Wadi el-Gideed- Ahmed Mokhtar- ex head of military training academy
It is interesting to note that only governors of Cairo, Giza and 6th October (no doubt the areas that outside observers are most interested in) were civilians.

Similarly we only need to look at the profiles of some of the new players in the 'new' regime such as TantatwiSuleimanShafik or Wagdy to get an idea of how things are going and to take note of the fact that more reformist, non-military personae such as RachidNazif and Darwish have been forced out to get an idea of how things are going.

UPDATE: These are points made by Shimaa Gamal
-the military has always been a state within the state
-many ex military personnel are in charge of public services- they just don't use the military rank
-even public sector companies are still headed by ex military, this also applies to private sector.
-the army has always played the protector of the public. Every crisis the army jumps in. e.g. the bread crisis



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