Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi abruptly dismissed Egypt’s defense minister and other top generals over the weekend in an aggressive effort to remove a major brake on his own power.
Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi was formerly the most powerful official in Egypt and a major pillar of the former Mubarak regime. Morsi has now put himself in position to consolidate the Muslim Brotherhood’s control over Egypt.
In addition to sacking Tantawi, Morsi forced the resignation of the chief of staff of the army as well as the heads of the air force, navy, and air defense forces. This bold move amounts to a counter-coup against the “slow motion coup” that the military staged by stripping Egypt’s new parliament and presidency of most of their power shortly before the June presidential runoff election.
Morsi opportunistically exploited the army’s embarrassment over last week’s terrorist attacks by Islamist militants, which killed 16 Egyptian border guards in the Sinai. The decapitation of the top ranks of the armed forces allows Morsi to place his own candidates in key slots and reduce resistance to the radical political program of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood
Morsi’s Islamist-dominated government has also cracked down on Egypt’s media. State prosecutors recently announced that two Egyptian journalists will be put on trial for “insults” to the president.
As The Heritage Foundation has repeatedly warned, the Muslim Brotherhood is systematically clamping down on Egyptians’ political, social, and cultural freedoms. Yet the Obama Administration naively continues to court it as a partner.
The big losers will be the Egyptian people, whose aspirations for freedom and democracy are likely to get lost in the shuffle. But the United States and its allies—particularly Israel—are also likely to find their national interests undermined by the anti-Western animus of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.