Serious Meta-Coup Action

Remember how in February 2011 as Mubarak was flailing/faltering it seemed that revolutionary forces in the street might take control? But then the military staged a palace coup in which SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) shoved Mubarak overboard and seized the helm of power? And do you remember how at the hour of Morsi’s electoral victory the SCAF doubled down on their coup by issuing a Constitutional Decree that robbed the office of the presidency of most of its meaningful powers? (And all this upon the judicial coup several days prior that dissolved the unfriendly parliament & affirmed the constitutionality of the candidacy of the SCAF-friendly candidate…) Right, so we were already operating deep in a coup coop. And now, this week: Egypt went full coup crazy.

In the background: Since Morsi’s election, the balance of power between the new president and SCAF has been uncertain. However, Morsi’s authority vis-a-vis SCAF had been rising since last week’s deadly attack in Sinai that showcased the military’s incompetence. In the wake of the Sinai attack, Morsi flexed/tested his muscle by firing/demoting several senior officials. In response, there began rumblings within the old establishment that Morsi had gone too far/was growing too powerful—accompanied by predictions that Field Marshal Tantawi & co. would move to re-capture powers from Morsi. Some speculated a new SCAF coup later this month. Then, unexpectedly on Sunday, Morsi reshuffled national power by kicking the old guard of SCAF upstairs, replacing them with younger officers (Gen. al-Sissi & co., who recognize the need to reorient military-civilian relations and worried Tantawi risked heading further in the wrong direction.) And at the same time Morsi announced the nullification of the Constitutional Decree that had muzzled his power.

Thus, within the prevailing coup context, Morsi staged a coup built upon a coup within the military ranks (Sissi usurping Tantawi) that was a preemptive measure against a further military coup (Tantawi overtaking Morsi). As others have described: “a pre-emptive coup against a coup within a coup”. Toto wild style.

BTW 1/2. While announcing the nullification of the Constitutional Decree, Morsi also named a high-ranking judge as his VP. Shrewdly this helps Morsi take cover from future expected politicized attacks from the judiciary. And, thus making Paul Ryan the second most significant VP announcement of the weekend.

BTW 2/2. Of the new, incoming military leadership, the arabist asks/answers: “Wouldn’t it be nice if one of these guys had written, say, a 10,000 word essay on his views of the future of US strategy in the Middle East? Well it turns out one of them — no less than Sedky Sobhy, the new Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, the number two in the hierarchy — did just that while studying in a military school in the US, as many Egyptian officers do.” Makes for an interesting read!

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