The controversial decision taken by Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi on Sunday to reshuffle military leaders has been linked to the recent terrorist attacks which killed 16 border soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula, an Egyptian professor said in a study on Tuesday.
The repercussions of the Sinai attack were clear on both political and military levels, professor of international law Ayman Salama wrote.
Salama noted that the Sinai Peninsula has witnessed several terrorist attacks in the past two decades. Those attacks either targeted Israeli tourists in the peninsula, Israeli troops across the border, Egyptian troops inside Egypt, or even former president Hosni Mubarak.
However, the latest attack earlier this month came as the most shocking, says Salama, especially that it resembled in many ways operations carried out by the most violent of terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda.
The attack also revealed a serious lack of professionalism and transparency on the part of the Egyptian government, which was mainly demonstrated by the fact that there had been previous warnings that were not heeded by the relevant bodies and were, in fact, dismissed as groundless.
The ruling authorities had also failed in handling previous terrorist attacks in the peninsula like the one which targeted the police station in the city of Arish, the capital of the North Sinai governorate.
Yet, the latest attack has triggered a fierce reaction with the military operations carried out against terrorist cells in Mount Helal. However, the topographic nature of this rugged area makes the job harder for security forces especially that they are not as familiar with the place as the terrorists they are chasing are.
Add to that logistical problems and the fact that the last time the Egyptian army fought this kind of battle was in 1973.
The peace treaty with Israel is also an important factor since it diminished military presence in Zone C, on the border with Israel, and therefore made the area an easy target for terrorist groups.
Yet, this kind of development was not expected back in 1979 and that is why according to international law, if a party sustains critical damage (because of the terms of a treaty owing to certain domestic changes) it has the right to demand a modification of those terms in a way that maintains its national security.
That is why, explains the study, Israel’s insistence on keeping the treaty as it is despite the drastic changes that have been taking place in the Egyptian scene constitutes a clear violation of international law as well as betrays an absence of goodwill. This necessitates the start of a series of negotiations between security officials in both Egypt and Israel and the mediation of the United States under whose auspices the peace treaty was signed.
The study then moves on to the decisions of Egyptian president Mohammed Mursi, which are seen as another chapter of the “cold war” that has been going on between the Muslim Brotherhood and SCAF even though at times they appeared to be the closest of allies. The addendum to the Constitutional Declaration issued by SCAF stripped the president of many of his powers before he was elected and angered the Muslim Brotherhood that dealt another fatal blow with the court ruling the dissolved the predominantly-Islamist parliament.
After Mursi came to power, his advisors argued that neither the constitutional declaration nor its addendum is legal and strongly encouraged him to at least cancel the second especially that he represented the only elected power in the country and that there is no reason why an unelected body SCAF should hold legislative powers. For the same reasons, many saw Mursi’s decision as part of his power as a president.
Yet, Mursi’s decision remains an executive and administrative one that could be revoked by the administrative and judiciary courts. This means that Mursi’s decisions are not indisputable ones since they are not immune from annulment by a court order. It is also worth noting that constitutional experts agreed that a government which holds both executive and legislative powers is a dictatorial one.
To counter the hegemony of the Muslim Brotherhood and its monopoly of power, a sizable portion of the Egyptian people have seen in the army the only way out and were hoping that the army will lead all opposition factions against Islamist rule in order to eventually get rid of it. In fact, a close scrutiny of the role of the army since the ouster of the former regime demonstrates that it has ever since sided with the people and laid the foundations for a peaceful democratic transition characterized by political pluralism, the independence of the judiciary, and the supremacy of the constitution; all matters other political factions failed in securing and/or promoting.
All this aside, the study notes it is important to point out that those who wait for a military coup against the Muslim Brotherhood are overlooking several issues. First, after the July 23 revolution, which overthrew the monarchy in 1952, Egypt has only witnessed two attempts at toppling the regime, one in 1967 at the time of late president Gamal Abdel Nasser and another at the time of late president Anwar Sadat. Both attempts failed.
Second, one of the reasons why the January 25 revolution took place was the regime’s insistence on keeping officials that exceed 70 years old in power and not allowing younger generations to take part in the decision-making process. Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, former defense minister and head of SCAF, and who was among the top generals sacked by Mursi, was one of those and actually among the most prominent representatives of the regime the revolution toppled even though he opted for protecting this revolution and refused to use violence against civilian protestors.
Those changes in the military institution would undoubtedly allow for achieving one of the main goals of the revolution: pumping new blood into a body long ruled by the old guard. This is particularly much needed in Egypt at the moment, the report states, with the specter of terrorism looming once again through the Sinai attacks.
In fact, Mursi choose the two youngest members of SCAF to be at the head of the Egyptian Armed Forces for their age and enthusiasm are vital in the mobilization of the army and lifting the morale of its officers as they face the daunting task of uprooting terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula.
Overcoming security challenges, the study concluded, necessitate a harmonious relationship between the army and the presidency and the rallying of Egyptian people behind both as they all attempt to pass such a critical phase in the history of the country. After doing so, they would all be able to work together on maintaining stability and achieving development, the report found.