Egyptian Army Will Remain Neutral in June 30 Protests

Article Summary
As the demonstrations approach, Egypt's army and state institutions have taken moderate positions instead of falling in line with the Muslim Brotherhood’s confrontational stance.

With zero hour approaching for the “revolutionary wave” on June 30 against the Muslim Brotherhood’s regime, the next five days are starting to seem crucial for the troubled Egyptian political scene.

Having achieved momentum in the Egyptian street, the Egyptian national opposition is preparing for “the great day of demonstration.” On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood and their Islamist allies are preparing to face down the demonstrations with violence.

Yesterday [June 23], Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian army’s commander-in-chief and defense minister, warned the political forces that the army will not stand and watch the country slide into a conflict that is “difficult to control.”

While Sisi’s warning was addressed to the Egyptian political forces in general, it seemed particularly directed to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose leaders have been insulting the army. Those insults reached their zenith with the speech by a Brotherhood leader, Mohamed el-Beltagy, during the demonstration supporting President Mohammed Morsi last Friday [June 21] in Rabaa el-Adaweya Square in Nasr City.

Sisi said, “Society is divided, which threatens the country if it continues. ... All parties must reach agreement. Whoever thinks the present situation is in society’s interest is mistaken. [The present situation] damages [society] and threatens Egypt’s national security. ... Anyone who thinks that we are isolated from the risks that threaten the Egyptian state is mistaken. We will not remain silent as the country slides into a conflict that is difficult to control.”

Sisi called on political forces to “find a formula of understanding, consensus and genuine reconciliation to protect Egypt and its people. ... We have one week, during which a lot can be achieved. This appeal is for the sake of the homeland, its present and future. ... It is not chivalrous to remain silent in front of the intimidation and bullying of our Egyptian people. It is more honorable for us to die than for one Egyptian to be harmed in his army’s presence. ... The national and moral responsibility of the armed forces toward its people is to prevent Egypt from sliding into a dark tunnel of conflict, internal strife, criminality, treason, sectarian strife, or the collapse of state institutions. ... The Egyptian army is a single coherent and solid entity that has faith in its leadership and its ability. ... The relationship between the army and the people is eternal.”

Against the backdrop of Sisi’s remarks, a presidential source said that a meeting was held between the Egyptian defense minister and Morsi at the presidential palace.

The source said that Morsi sought Sisi’s opinion on how to defuse the crisis. According to the source, the defense minister told the president that “this is the responsibility of the political leadership and the various forces on the scene.” Sisi feared “the collapse of the situation ... in light of the prevailing divisions, bickering and tension.”

Sisi’s comments seem to have been based on the political positions of the past two days, when everybody seemed to be talking about a decisive confrontation on June 30.

Morsi seems to be relying on the support of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies. In a speech before the Federation of Arab Engineers yesterday, Morsi described his supporters as “the Egyptian street” and his opponents as just “a faction.”

Morsi said, “The Egyptian crowds (the demonstration in Rabaa el-Adaweya Square) that numbered a million (actually, they were just tens of thousands) were peaceful (actually, some in the crowd called for violence against the opposition) and showed that the Egyptians are aware that the revolution must be put back on its right track and that Egyptian blood must be respected.”

Morsi rejected the opposition’s demands by saying that “no faction can impose its opinion on everyone.” He also said that the opposition “is trying to harm the revolution and empty it of any meaning.”

Elsewhere, the Egyptian opposition continued its preparations for June 30 of the post-Morsi phase. Yesterday, a number of political forces held a conference entitled “After the Departure” to discuss how to manage the transitional phase after “the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The head of the Constitution Party and the general coordinator of the National Salvation Front Mohamed ElBaradei called on Morsi to submit his resignation and said, “The Egyptian government has failed to address all the issues. ... The June 30 demonstrations, in which most currents that oppose the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule will participate, will be a course correction for the revolution that toppled [former President] Hosni Mubarak nearly two and a half years ago. ... The Jan. 25 revolution veered off course after it was stolen from its rightful owners, who are now seeking to restore their right in a peaceful, democratic and popular manner.”

Hamdeen Sabahi, the founder of the Popular Current and a Salvation Front leader, said in a conference that the government has not fulfilled the demands of the people, who gave their support to the Tamarrud movement in order to achieve the goals of the revolution and its principles. He stressed that the June 30 demonstrations will be peaceful and that “[the people] will not leave the squares until after victory is achieved.”

In parallel, the positions of various state institutions toward the June 30 demonstration have started to appear. Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said that his ministry has developed a comprehensive plan to secure the demonstrations, stressing that “no peaceful demonstrator will be harmed.” Security sources assured the Egyptians that “the Interior Ministry will not allow lawlessness to return. ... The police will stand with the Egyptian masses and devote themselves to protecting property and freedom, and will not confront peaceful demonstrators.”

Yesterday, workers for Egyptian television stations issued a statement saying that they are committed to professionalism and independence toward the June 30 demonstration to achieve the Egyptian people’s aspiration to know the facts.

Meanwhile, there has been violence in a number of Nile Delta governorates, especially Kafr El-Sheikh and Gharbiyya, between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and opponents. One person was killed in clashes in the city of al-Mahalla under unclear circumstances. The Al-Nour Party headquarters was burned, but a number of party leaders discounted the possibility that the political opposition was responsible for the escalation of events there.

In a number of governorates where Brotherhood members were appointed as administrators, local administration buildings have been under siege. Meanwhile, Luxor residents have been pressuring al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya and Luxor administrator Adel al-Khayat has submitted his resignation.

Found in: elbaradei

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