Can the Egyptian military regime implode?

Can the Egyptian military regime implode?
Comment: Key members of Egypt's security apparatus have begun voicing dissent. Could the discord among top ranks signal the beginning of the end for Egypt's military regime? asks Gehad Quisay.
5 min read
08 Nov, 2017
Sami Annan and Ahmed Shafiq attend Christmas Mass in Cairo's Abbassiya Cathedral 2012 [Getty]
The assassination of at least 16 senior police officers near Egypt's Bahariya Oasis late last month revealed more than the failures of the Egyptian regime in its "War on Terror".

Signs of political in-fighting between key figures in the country's ruling military were clear to the speculating public, and whispers of an end to harmony within the regime grew louder than ever.

In the aftermath of the desert attack, three prominent figures of the security apparatus criticised the regime from which they came. Ahmed Shafiq, Sami Annan and Ahmed Gad Mansour spoke out against the regime's handling of the attack, all branding it a "betrayal".

In turn, Sisi dismissed Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Mahmoud Hegazy without explanation. The implication of Hegazy's firing can be mapped out in the same context as Annan, Shafiq and Mansour's statements, in that they all signal a significant shift in coherence within the top ranks of the Egyptian military and regime in turn.

Winds of change

The military duo, Annan and Shafiq, pose the only credible threat to Sisi's presidency and hold on power. The statements they released signal that they have willingly compromised the military bond that binds their allegiance to the president. The language they both used, specifically the word "betrayal", carry the weight of a possible end to Sisi in the forecastable future.

In statement to The New Arab, a source close to Annan revealed that the ex-Lieutenant General is still considering running against Sisi in 2018, adding that he believes Sisi is fearful of his influence, which led the president to purge the Air Force of many of its senior members believed to be loyal to Annan.

Sami Annan announces that he will not be running for president in 2014 [Getty]

Sami Annan announces he
will not be running for president in 2014 [Getty]

In his reaction to the desert attack, Annan urged the public to "put emotions aside… search for the motivations and put them in the right context … realise the magnitude of the disaster that we are currently living through."

The former SCAF member then posed a question to his fellow countrymen, "are our children [those assassinated in the attack], the finest amongst us, victims of betrayal, weakness, lack of planning and the absence of quality intel?"

He concluded his statement by addressing the regime in an unprecedently sharp tone: "Respect our intelligence and you will win our hearts."

Shafiq echoed a similar tone in his official statement, asking "what is happening to our children, they have been trained to the highest standard and were fully competent, were they victims of betrayal? Or poor planning? Or both?"

This striking display of defiance is backed up with murmurs that Shafiq too, has presidential aspirations, however, unlike Annan the prospect of a Shafiq run are slim, due to corruption charges brought against him after the popular uprising ended his stint as prime minister.

Annan and Shafiq are beyond the reach of Sisi's iron fist

Yet Shafiq's statement is a clear indication that political uniformity within the military is over.  


Sami Annan was the number two man during the reign of SCAF following the downfall of Mubarak. Annan came to prominence during the uprising with many believing that he was in fact the person who pressured a defiant Mubarak to step down.

Unlike Sisi, Annan took part in the Yom Kippur War earning himself a revered status within the military, one the president can't match.

Ahmed Shafiq supporters during the 2012 presidential elections [Getty]

Ahmed Shafiq supporters during
the 2012 presidential elections [Getty]

Ahmed Shafiq - despite serving as prime minister during the uprising - enjoys the same reverence as Annan. Having fought in the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War and headed the Air Force, Shafiq's influence within the military is undeniable. He also has a base of popular support earning 48 percent of the vote in the country's only democratic elections.

In an institution built on uniformity and seniority, the generals' dissent indicates that the Egyptian military is no longer homogenous. The implications of infighting within top ranks of the regime are dire. Sisi may have full control over the Egyptian population through unrelenting crackdowns, but Annan and Shafiq are beyond the reach of his iron fist. 

A battle on two fronts

The Egyptian army is currently engaged in a war on two fronts: externally, the insurgence in Sinai and the Western Desert, and internally, the power struggle with the country's police.

During the Mubarak era, the police enjoyed great influence as the military stepped back, preoccupied with growing and flexing its economic muscles. The police were such a staple of the Mubarak regime, that they - rather than Mubarak himself - were the initial focus of the January 25 uprising.

It is unclear why there was a police battalion in a region patrolled by the army. The Western Desert is desolate and sparsely populated, therefore the presence of police is difficult to justify.

The implications of infighting within top ranks of the regime are dire

The level of coordination between the army and the police is unknown, but the statements by Shafiq and Annan hint at the discord between the nation's largest institutions. The statement by Ahmed Gad Mansour, former head of the Police Academy hinted at the existence of a chasm between the army and the police.  

The blunders of the military in the Western Desert have taken a back seat to its fight in Sinai, and although they remain significant, are routinely overlooked.

Three Egyptians were accidently mistaken for insurgence fighters and killed by the army last July, and two years ago 12 Mexican tourists were also killed in the same area, again mistaken for terrorists by the army.

Could it be that Shafiq, Annan and Mansour were all hinting that the assassination of the police battalion was yet another military blunder, for which they hold Sisi and his regime accountable?

Gehad Quisay is a history and politics researcher, who graduated from SOAS and Georgetown University. She has also worked as a researcher at a London based think-tank focusing on post-Arab Spring nation building.

Follow her on Twitter: @ghqsy_

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.