The Egyptian Army Showed Their Strength

2021-02-25   |   by CusiGO

A blue van, parked in front of the historic Sayeda Zainab mosque near downtown Cairo, turned into a street butcher waiting for the next customer, while its managers didn’t try to attract customers. On the side of the car, close to the Egyptian flag, you can see that this is a stall selling products of the armed forces. A few kilometers north, in front of the busy Ramesses railway station, another booth displays everything from clothes and backpacks to candy and meat at a low price. Also here, a cartel reminds us that this is a point of sale for armed forces products.

On the 10th anniversary of the Egyptian people’s uprising, dictator Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down after 30 years in power. Daily scenes, such as the scenes of Sayeda Zainab mosque and Ramses Plaza, show how the branches of the Egyptian army have remained unchanged since then. In their way, they subtly remind people that the armed forces have penetrated into people’s daily lives. If any recent changes have changed the foundation of the country, it was not in 2011, but in 1952, when the army overthrew the monarchy and held on to power. Since then, the army has ruled deep in Egypt, and all but one president has come out of their ranks.

The army has nearly 1 million people, both in active and reserve service. Although the number of women is small, it is considered to be the most representative institution in Egyptian society and one of the institutions most conducive to building the image of the country. The published stories idealize his role as the creator and protector of the interests of the Republic and the people, and praise his early military legacy, especially to Israel. The armed forces are portrayed as a neutral actor, far away from the partisan agenda, as a strong, coherent and organized institution that makes it the largest army in the Arab world and gives it a higher management capacity than the civilian population.

“The armed forces, as the guardians of Egyptian identity, have been widely publicized and reflected in the media, education, street or compulsory military service. This is a very useful means to make themselves an integral part of Egypt, beyond the concept of political power. They are more than that: in people’s eyes, they become Egypt, “says gehad quisay, a researcher of Modern Egyptian history.

In addition to symbolic bets, the military is also very confident in what its image can provide for the people. This is for you. For the people’s class, the army’s hand is extended in the form of subsidizing goods and basic services or building social housing. For the middle class, the military has hotels, clubs, resorts, training centers, and even affordable consumer goods.

It is impossible to make sure that the army has won the hearts of Egyptians in history. But during the country’s brief opening window in 2011, most surveys showed that, on the surface at least, the strategy worked, with the armed forces being the country’s highest systematically assessed body.

However, Robert springberg warned, “I don’t necessarily use it as an indicator of public opinion, because it’s easy to say you like the military, harder to say no. and because you may like it, but also have a more subtle point of view.”. One of the most famous experts in the Egyptian army is the current scientific adviser of the Italian Institute of international affairs.

Over the past decade, the relationship between the army and the Egyptians has reached another level of complexity. After the protests in 2011, for the first time in decades, the top military leaders came to power publicly, led the crackdown, and eventually launched a coup led by current president abdelfatta Sisi. All of these exercises ended not only Egypt’s democratic experiment, but also its attempt not to control the country.

“Before the Supreme Council of the armed forces came to power, there was a cautious distance between the army and day-to-day governance,” quesse said. He added: “when he came out of the shadows and became the only force, somehow he broke a barrier to people seeing them as people who were directly pushing things forward.”. In this regard, a Pew Research Center poll in 2014 continued to show that the military has a good influence in the eyes of the majority (56%), but their reputation has also been greatly damaged.

Most analysts point out that since al Sisi came to power, the military’s privileges have grown unprecedentedly, rather than trying to return to normal by 2011. The armed forces signed the arms agreement with frantic speed, their members held key positions in the government, Parliament and provincial governments, and their judicial and constitutional powers were extended to give them super constitutional status. “The main difference between sissy and his predecessor is that no civilian holds a really important position in the state,” springberg said.

Moreover, according to many experts, since 2013, intervention in the military economy has expanded significantly in scope and scale compared with the protected but limited empires accumulated over the past few decades. Its activities have expanded to distant sectors such as tourism, steel, pharmaceuticals or real estate markets. According to tawazan’s civil military relations index in the Arab world, hundreds of retired officers continue to hold senior positions in public enterprises outside the formal military economy, which already includes more than 70 large civil military products and services companies.

Although the military’s direct control over the national economy is still limited, many analysts warn that their influence is relatively disproportionate and that they are eager to go beyond their power and do so, In competition with other security and intelligence services, they have brought remarkable economic growth to major social sectors.

Inevitably, this forward flight forces the army to re-examine the way it used to interact with the people. “As the military is no longer on the political brink, there is a greater need to manage their image and interact with the public,” a prominent Egyptian defense and security analyst explained anonymously. “In Al Sisi, the media has always been the main tool for generating political legitimacy and has begun to cover the military every day, not their legacy,” he added. “What the army has done is now the focus of news, talk shows and even Ramadan soap operas.”

Similarly, it is impossible to know how successful the armed forces have been in reshaping the public image, but many analysts agree that 2011 is a turning point. “Between groups of political activists and people interested in politics, there must be a change in the perception of the army,” says quesse. Yezid Sayigh, director of the Arab civil military relations program at Carnegie Center for East East, pointed out, “anecdotal evidence shows that the business community is increasingly worried about military intervention in the economy and trade, At least for the last two years. ”

An Egyptian analyst, who declined to be named, said: “the armed forces are still widely supported, but the overall view of the military has become more complex.” “We don’t know the scale of this support,” he concluded, “but the way Egyptians view the army as a whole has really changed dramatically.”