Egypt: The Return of SCAF

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A man walks near graffiti reading: "Leave Mursi , you are a murderer" after clashes between riot police and protesters opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, on Qasr el-Nil bridge, which leads to Tahrir Square, in Cairo on 30 January 2013. (Photo: Amr Abdallah Dalsh - Reuters)

By: Ismail Alexandrani

Published Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On 28 January 2013, Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi delivered the cities of Port Said, Ismailia, and Suez to the military establishment on a plate of gold. When the president declared a state of emergency, it signaled the army’s return to the political arena, its gateway: the Suez Canal cities.

The media campaign against the Sinai can be deemed a success. News coverage caused residents of the Nile Valley to believe their region had transformed into Tora Bora. As such, justifications for deploying the military in its cities and streets were plentiful.

The Suez Canal, which is much more significant than the northeast borders of Sinai, is considered an integral part of citizens’ livelihoods. It’s also one of the most militarized of Egypt’s non-border districts, with the army exerting tremendous control over civil life.

For example, the military intelligence headquarters in Ismailia is a frequent stop of citizens in need of a variety of civil licenses. Furthermore, the canal’s district is home to the largest number of families whose members are officers and soldiers who settled in the area following the 1973 war.

Mursi made a big mistake by declaring a state of emergency in the entire canal district for 30 days. This move will only assist the military in its plans, especially since Mursi gifted the military the governorate of Ismailia, the most populated and diverse in the canal. This was despite the fact that the city did not witness widespread clashes or street wars like in Suez and Port Said.

From the view of military maps, Ismailia is a strategic point that links the two sides of the canal. With the military control of Ismailia, the Nile Valley would be separated from Sinai.

The military is now practically in control of three regions in Egypt; the civil state has no sovereignty. Mursi’s move was a complex strategic mistake that might cost him his presidency or, at the very least, many of his powers.

The military is now confronted with the challenge of bringing order to the streets of the canal and proving to the public that military rule is stronger and safer than Brotherhood rule.

Theirs is a golden opportunity to promote their model on a wide scale in reply to peoples’ needs for security. The announcement of a state of emergency could be the beginning of the end of the Brotherhood rule in people’s hearts.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


"Egypt: The Return of SCAF"

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