August 16, 2012

KNOWING YOUR ALLIES:

Egypt's New Top General Has U.S. Ties : After President Morsi's Shake-Up, Military Is Run by Soldier Familiar to Washington; Generals' Retreat Seen as Tactical (MATT BRADLEY in Cairo and ADAM ENTOUS, 8/15/12, WSJ)

While the Obama administration wasn't caught off-guard by the choice of Mr. Sissi, it was taken aback by the timing, officials said. U.S. officials had expected Mr. Morsi to shake up the military's ranks, but they believe he opted to use a security crisis last week in the Sinai--in which militants killed 16 Egyptian soldiers at a border post with Israel--as political cover to recast the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the body Field Marshal Tantawi once led.

U.S. officials said that as a former head of Egyptian military intelligence, Gen. Sissi has close ties to the U.S. military and intelligence agencies. Mr. Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, dined with Gen. Sissi during a visit to Cairo in October, a sign to the visiting Americans that Gen. Tantawi wanted to put Gen. Sissi forward as a future leader. Gen. Sissi has also had extensive contact with the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson.

"This is someone who we've worked with for a long time, who has shown himself to be eager to work with the United States, who sees the value of peace with [Egypt's] neighbors," a senior Obama administration official said of Gen. Sissi. "What I think this is, frankly, is Morsi looking for a generational change in military leadership."

Mr. Sissi's appointment may also represent an ideal compromise between the secular-minded military old guard and Mr. Morsi's Brotherhood. People with knowledge of the Egyptian military said Gen. Sissi has a broad reputation within military circles as a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer, a rare trait in a military culture inured against Islamism.

"Sissi is known inside the military for being a Muslim Brother in the closet," said Zeinab Abul Magd, a professor at the American University in Cairo and an expert on Egypt's military.

Posted by at August 16, 2012 5:33 AM
  

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