It is well known that important strategic decisions require individuals in important positions who have the ability to make them. What is happening in Egypt today, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. Nearly not a single day passes by without the Presidency intervening to deny a statement or declaration made by one of President Mohamed Morsi’s advisors, which raises questions about the way the country is being run, and the extent to which the honorable advisors are aware of the nature of the positions they have assumed. Yesterday, Egyptians experienced a day of uproar because of a statement made by Doctor Seif Abdel Fattah, one of the President’s advisors, signifying that Egypt is examining a proposal on the Egyptian army intervening with other Arab armies to support the Syrian people and topple the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad – knowing that Abdel Fattah holds no executive position and that his job is restricted only to offering advice to the President, who has appointed over twenty public figures as his advisers. On the whole, the uproar surrounding loose talk by the President’s advisors, and the nature of what they are speaking of in the media, is currently a hot button issue in Egypt, one which it is high time to put an end to. Yet it is also important to discuss the role played by the Egyptian army beyond its country’s borders – which is an issue that cannot be dealt with the way Egyptian political forces have been dealing with other issues that bear differences in points of view, such as for example the issue of subsidies, or the relationship between the Presidency and the Muslim Brotherhood, or any of the other issues which satellite television networks and social media websites do not tire of debating day and night. The Presidency quickly intervened to deny Abdel Fattah’s statement, in part and in full, which has made people wonder where the advisor brought such talk from in the first place.
On the whole, some overzealous lot, who are demanding the intervention of the Egyptian army to back the Free Syrian Army (FSA), are relying on the way in which President Morsi dealt with Field Marshal Tantawi and Lieutenant General Sami Anan when he discharged them and dismantled the Military Council. They consider the President to have proven his ability to take heavyweight decisions, and that he, with Tantawi and Anan gone, now holds all the strings. Thus, if he were to approve the proposal, no one from among the leaders of the army would oppose him. Moreover, the Egyptian people’s sympathy with that of Syria, as well as the impact of everything being broadcast in the media in terms of killings and scenes of martyrdom and tragedy taking place in Syrian cities, are all factors that would facilitate Morsi taking a decision such as this. In fact, some go further than this and claim that Morsi could gain popular support as a result.
With the exception of the statement made by advisor Abdel Fattah, no statements have been issued by any official in an executive position that could be understood as saying that Morsi might take such a decision, even with the feeling of momentum brought on by the Egyptian stance on Syria, based on the necessity of toppling the Assad regime. Indeed, approving and moving forward with a political course of action that would lead to sending the Egyptian army to Syria could cause problems to erupt inside of Egypt and prompt reactions on the part of forces that oppose Morsi in particular and the Islamist movement in general, which would increase pressures on the President, knowing that the situation in Egypt since the January 25 Revolution has not yet stabilized – this at several levels, especially those of security, the economy and people’s needs, in addition of course to other major political issues that remain suspended, such as the constitution and the parliament. The truth is that most people in Egypt have come to deal with the statements of “advisors” as trial balloons, as attempts to prove that certain roles are being played, or as expressions of personal opinion that do not represent official stances by the Presidency.
What is certain is that the Egyptian army is in no situation today that would allow it to once again leap to the forefront of world events and to enter into a military battle, while it has not yet recovered from the issues of a political battle it waged after the Revolution, which it does not seem to have yet overcome and which has left numerous negative traces, among them the situation of some of the leaders of the former Military Council, who are under accusation in various matters. It is true that the army has the ability to restore people’s trust in it quite quickly, but this requires it to remain at a distance during the current phase as well as the next from any political conflict, and there are so many of them in Egypt today, and to heal the wounds it has suffered as a result of the confrontations that took place in the street against revolutionary forces, regardless of their reasons. And of course, the army also needs to clear away the negative traces it has suffered as a result of the suspicions of politicians towards some of its leaders, officers and soldiers. Finally, the situation in the Sinai requires the army to exert efforts to restore security on its territory and reestablish the authority of the state there. Indeed, the Egyptian army cannot be at work in both the Sinai and Damascus at the same time.
The writer is an Egyptian columnist at several Arab publications. This article was published in the London-based al-Hayat on Oct. 1, 2012