Egyptian Media Call Military Shakeup ‘Revolutionary’

Posted August 13th, 2012 at 4:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Egyptian media outlets are hailing as “revolutionary” a decision by President Mohamed Morsi to dismiss the once-powerful defense minister and curtail the military's authority.

On Sunday, Mr. Morsi ordered Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi — a holdover from ousted President Hosni Mubarak's rule — to retire along with armed forces chief of staff Sami Enan. The president also canceled a constitutional declaration that had granted Tantawi and other top military officers in the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces wide powers.

Mr. Morsi said he “did not intend to embarrass institutions,” and that his decisions were for the benefit of Egypt and its people. The military has not publicly responded to the decisions.

U.S. reaction at the White House and State Department stressed the need for the Egyptian civilian and military leaders to work together to advance the democratic transition. Pentagon spokesman George Little said the changes were expected.

“The new defense minister is someone who's known to us. He comes from within the ranks of the SCAF and we believe that we will be able to continue the strong partnership that we have with Egypt.”

Both Tantawi and Enan were named as presidential advisors and received top medals for their military service.

Some Morsi supporters celebrated in Tahrir Square late Sunday, but a VOA reporter in Cairo says there have not been a lot of people in the streets Monday, most likely due to the hot weather and the fasting associated with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Sunday's changes at the top of the military followed last week's announcement that Mr. Morsi fired his intelligence chief and the governor of North Sinai. That reorganization — which also extended to replacing the commander of the military police — came days after militants launched their bloodiest attack ever on the army in the Sinai Peninsula, killing 16 Egyptian border guards.