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Inside the Ring: Returning to military rule
U.S. intelligence agencies watching events in Egypt say the military is preparing for long-term authoritarian rule, a setback for both pro-democracy advocates and proponents of Islamist rule under the ousted Muslim Brotherhood regime.
The most significant sign of returning military rule was the announced release from prison on Wednesday of former President Hosni Mubarak. He will be under house arrest.
According to U.S. officials, the Egyptian government in July appointed several military and police officials to senior positions and re-established an internal security unit from the Mubarak era devoted to suppressing Islamist activism.
Additionally, a propaganda campaign has been underway in the current Cairo government to promote Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi as a presidential candidate in a future election.
The signs indicate that along with the declaration of a state of emergency, Egypt’s military is taking steps to tighten control over the government at both the national and local levels.
The state of emergency was declared Aug. 14 by interim Prime Minister Hazim al-Biblawi, who announced it would last 30 days. U.S. officials, however, said the emergency measures are similar to the emergency declaration initiated by Mr. Mubarak that lasted for nearly 30 years.
The violent crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protesters last week followed the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi in July. Mr. Morsi’s ouster was preceded by mass pro-democracy demonstrations held to protest his anti-democratic Islamist policies.
The emergency decree permits warrantless searches and seizures, trials of civilians before state security courts, media censorship and limits on public assemblies and movements.
Reports from Egypt stated that 11 of 18 new governors appointed in recent days are military officers and two others are generals in the police agency.
The most significant step, however, was the re-establishment of a special unit within the Egyptian National Security Agency devoted to countering religious activism. The unit was the main body used to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups during Mr. Mubarak’s rule.
The security unit was disbanded after Mr. Mubarak was ousted in the pro-democratic revolution of 2011.
U.S. officials said the fact that so far only one senior Egyptian official, Vice President for Foreign Affairs Mohammad ElBaradei, resigned in protest is an indication that the move toward military rule in Egypt has significant support in the government.
PRC defense chief visit
U.S. and Chinese media hailed this week’s trip to the United States by Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan as a high-level visit that portends a new step forward in military relations.
However, defense officials told Inside the Ring that Gen. Chang is little more than a figurehead within the Chinese military power structure.
About the Author
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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