July 18, 2013


The Man Who Toppled Morsi : Who is the officer who holds Egypt's future in his hands? (LEE SMITH, 7/18/13, Weekly Standard)

The man who deposed Morsi cavorts with celebrities, inviting Egyptian actors and actresses and singers to watch his American-funded army training. He has himself photographed leading his troops in a marathon run and other manly feats like an Egyptian version of Vladimir Putin. The general now in charge of the largest Arab state who, according to the Egyptian rumor/conspiracy mill, tells off CIA Director John Brennan, likes it to be known that he defies the Americans. The military figure who may have cashiered Egypt's fledgling democratic process has big visions for himself and for Egypt. In his first speech since the coup, Sisi explained that he acted not only because of the country's economic crisis, but because "Egypt's influence and status in its region declined and, accordingly, so too did its role in the community of nations." Perhaps most alarmingly, Sisi consults regularly with Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, the 89-year-old journalist and former confidante of Gamal abd-el Nasser, the most charismatic Arab leader of the last century, whose dangerous narcissism entangled Egypt in two catastrophic wars. [...] 

Some analysts have noted that Sisi's coup and his dragnet arresting hundreds of key Muslim Brotherhood members is similar to Nasser's confrontation with the Brotherhood, but the similarities may go further. After all, Sisi is taking some of his cues from the same man who was Nasser's brain, Heikal. A prolific author and former editor of Egypt's flagship newspaper, Al-Ahram, Mohamed Hassanein Heikal is most famous for his close relationship with Nasser. Whether Heikal directed Nasser's political moves, as the dean of Egyptian journalists likes to let on, or he merely witnessed up close Nasser's decision-making process, his reputation as a great man is premised almost entirely on his history with Arab nationalism's greatest hero. According to reports, Sisi met with Heikal regularly before the coup.  Egyptian sources say that Heikal wrote both Sisi's speech giving Morsi a 48-hour ultimatum, and Sisi's post-coup announcement.

"It's not surprising Sisi would fall for someone like Heikal," says Tadros. "Even 40 years after the death of Nasser, Heikal retains this aura of greatness around him--a great mind, a genius, someone who is well connected and knows the world and its ways better than anyone else. This reputation is undeserved but would appeal to someone like Sisi, whose experience of the world is very limited. Compare him to Mubarak and Tantawi. Many of these older officers were trained in the Soviet Union, so Mubarak's distaste for socialism was based on living there and seeing what it was like. What we know of Sisi on the other hand is that he was a military attaché in Saudi Arabia and trained for a brief time in the United States. This is not a man of the world."

Indeed, it is perhaps Sisi's provincialism, his view of Egypt as the center of the world, as much as his ambition that led him to embrace Heikal. Nasser was the champion of Arab nationalism, but in his hands this ideological conceit of one great unified Arab nation was always an instrument for Egyptian national interests--often at the expense of other regional players, like Jordan and Saudi Arabia. In committing troops to fight alongside the republican forces during North Yemen's 1962-1970 civil war, Nasser was engaged in a proxy war with Riyadh, a disastrous policy often referred to as Egypt's Vietnam. With tens of thousands of troops in Yemen, Nasser found himself fighting on another front in June 1967, when Israel crushed Egypt, seizing the Sinai in six days.

If Sisi removed Morsi with the idea of righting the ship of state, he couldn't have chosen a worse example than Nasser.
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Posted by at July 18, 2013 9:26 PM

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