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Concerning Gen. al-Sisi, he said, “The real question is whether there are civilian political leaders that he trusts. He also will be looking out for the army’s institutional interests and its business empire.”

Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon policymaker and now a Middle East scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said the armed forces revolve around a class system.

“The Egyptian officer corps has always had an elite feeling,” he said. “Remember also the Egyptian officer corps is not strictly a meritocracy. You also have class differences. And therefore the military traditionally represents the older elite as well in Egyptian society, which feels that it’s their God-given right to do this sort of thing.

“We’ve got strong relations with their military, and we can work with them.”

One of the untold stories about the past year is how the military was able to resurrect its reputation among the Egyptian public, who had turned on it for its association with Hosni Mubarak.

“Our job is made easier by the fact that the military doesn’t want to be in control. Egypt is effectively bankrupt, and its financial situation makes Greece look like a Swiss bank. Hard reforms and austerity are necessary, but whoever implements them is going to become deeply unpopular,” he added. “It’s in the military’s interest, therefore, to take a page from Obama’s book and lead from behind.”

Successive administrations in Washington have made strong relationships with Egypt’s top brass a high priority.

The Washington Times reported in December that the Obama administration was continuing the flow of 20 F-16s to Egypt, bringing the fleet to 240, even as Mr. Morsi was declaring himself the country’s absolute ruler and the Muslim Brotherhood controlled the levers of government.

On a visit to Cairo in 2009, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said: “Our military has benefited from the interactions with the Egyptian armed forces — one of the most professional and capable in the region. We are always looking for ways to expand these ties through education, training and exercises.”

Mr. Allard said Gen. al-Sisi could set an example for how to deal with radicals.

“I think these guys are nationalists first and Islamic second,” he said. “I am hoping they also represent an alternative to Islamist extremism in Egypt and elsewhere.”