Egyptian president still on shaky ground
Earlier this year, most analysts in Egypt assessed Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi to be the key figure in that country’s politics and President Mohamed Morsi to be a lightweight. Mr. Morsi fired Field Marshal Tantawi on Aug. 12. This matters because Field Marshal Tantawi would have kept the country out of Islamist hands, while Mr. Morsi is speedily moving the country in the direction of applying Islamic law. If Mr. Morsi succeeds at this, the result will have major negative implications for America’s standing in the region.
How did this happen?
Field Marshal Tantawi, then the effective ruler of Egypt, had handpicked Mr. Morsi for president, seeing him as the safest option, someone who could be manipulated or (if necessary) replaced. Toward this end, Field Marshal Tantawi instructed the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) to approve Mr. Morsi as a candidate despite his arrest on Jan. 27, 2011, for “treason and espionage,” despite his time in prison, and despite the SCC having excluded other imprisoned Muslim Brotherhood candidates, especially the rich, charismatic and visionary Khairat El-Shater. Field Marshal Tantawi wanted the obscure, inelegant and epileptic Mr. Morsi to run for president because Mr. Shater was too dangerous and another Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fettouh, was too popular.
Sometime after Mr. Morsi became president on June 30, Field Marshal Tantawi openly signaled his intent to overthrow him via a mass demonstration to take place on Aug. 24. His mouthpiece, Tawfik Okasha, openly encouraged a military coup against Mr. Morsi. But Mr. Morsi acted first and took several steps on Aug. 12: He annulled the constitutional declaration limiting his power, dismissed Field Marshal Tantawi and replaced him with Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, head of military intelligence.]