Egypt’s Military Involvement

The Military is the key to running the country

The Egyptian Military has historically always had a major role in the development of the nation-state. It was the military that pushed for the removal of the regime of Hosni Mubarak and then for the removal of the democratically elected President Muhammad Morsi, making the military responsible for the political power of Egypt two times within three years. Similar to other countries within MENA, the military is intertwined with the ruling power, and if you do not have the military leaders as a supporter, you can and will be ousted which has  been proved in the past.

egytpain guards
National Geographic & Ed Giles

The ousting of Mubarak served as a primary example of the power of the people, or rather the military and it set fire to the Arab Spring. The military could and did overthrow its government, but it did not do so in a coup d’etat, but rather through pressure. After the 2011 “resignation” of Mubarak, (aka military pressure on him,)Egypt’s power then came under the authority of the Military Council, with its official name being the Supreme
Council of Armed forces. Marshal Mohammed Hussien Tantawi was in charge of this council which was originally attending to be transitional until the president was to be elected a few months later. (1)

Present day military-political involvement

After Muhammad Morsi was democratically elected in 2012, two years later Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who was in charge of the Egyptian armed forces, led the coup that took down Morsi and brought the head of the military into power.

“Egyptian supreme commander Lt. Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi deposed Morsi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood, after the military’s supreme council had issued the president an ultimatum: meet street protesters’ demands for a more inclusive government that would strengthen the voice of opposition parties or be forced from office.Since Mubarak’s ouster, the military has portrayed itself as a guarantor of national integrity and as a neutral defender of the people’s hard-won freedom. This week, hordes of protesters are hailing the military as guardians of the revolution.”(2)  Therefore, the military is seen as an actor based on the interests  of the people, or so they claim.

Historically, the military has always been behind the scenes…

Egypt gained its Independence from Britain in 1922, however, the British occupied Egypt with soldiers for 25 more years. The Egyptian army wasn’t  strong during the world wars, and the British controlled the country with their strong, and huge army.This changed in 1948 when the state of Israel was established which led the way to the Arab-Israel war, in which Arab armies were defeated by Israeli’s.Egypt then became embarrassed, and blamed the monarch King Farouk, staging a 1952 coup led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, which was then called a the Egyptian revolution of 1952 which established the state of Egypt that the world knows today. (2)

During Nasser’s time as President, another way with Israel was fought during the Six Day War of 1967, in which the military lost  the Sinai peninsula to Israeli defense forces, thus undermining not only the image but the actual power of Egypt’s military credibility.

When Anwar El Sadat became President after Nasser’s death in 1970, Sadat  reformed the Egyptian Military and led the third fight in conjunction with other Arab states against Israel to attempt or regain the Sinai  land that was lost previously.

The Egyptian army technically lost, but it regained the Sinai peninsula during the 1978 Camp David Accords, and it regained its confidence to later become a credible and powerful military force.

Foreign Aid from the United States to secure Egypt as an ally and to prevent another conflict with Israel has also bolstered Egypt’s military receiving the second highest amount of foreign aid towards its military.


The Military’s Effect on the Future of Egypt and the impact on its Economy

Something that has been highlighted in previous blogs is that Egypt’s economy is constantly hurt by its ever-changing politics and economic policies. The Washington Post makes a good point in stating that  “There are two basic realities to consider to understand the army’s dilemma. First, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that effectively rules Egypt today is very different from the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) that took power in Egypt in 1952. Second, one of the most basic lessons of Authoritarianism 101 is that there are two dangers to a prolonged military rule: Splits in the officer corps and the personal ascendancy of one general over the others.” (4) Therefore, Egypt’s political future remains uncertain as there can always be a split of officers and generals who are competing for power. There could be a coup d’etat at any time and el-Sisi, although a long time general, could be ousted by those who helped to put him into power.
Effect on the Economy

“No one knows the army’s real share of the economy, but it is estimated at around 40 percent of the GDP. They manage a large number of companies and public institutions and participate in infrastructure development, urban projects (such as the subway or the airport of Cairo), not to mention the consumer goods industry and their investments in key sectors such as tourism. The military-business network attracts important foreign investment partners, in part because the sectors where its influence is bigger are also those with the greatest profit potential. Loans from international financial institutions facilitate their efforts to establish companies with Gulf conglomerates and western multinationals. The army is benefiting from this influx of investment, equipment and technology, and controls many of these companies.” (4)

In reality, the army runs the country and therefore is the deciding factor in Egypt’s political and economic development. The United States supports the military and thus gives it legitimacy. However, if there keeps being a constant change and no stability within the ruling government, Egypt’s future remains bleak.


(1)“Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces”. The New York Times. 10 February 2011. Retrieved 10 February 2011.




(5) Richards, Alan, John Waterbury, Ishac Diwan, and Melani Cammett. A Political Economy of the Middle East. Boulder: Westview, 2015. Print

One thought on “Egypt’s Military Involvement

  1. I must say that this was a very interesting blog. I was shocked to read that if the president does not have the support of the military then his actions are basically pointless. Not that it was something new for this to be stated but for the country I found it to be interesting. Another point that stood out to me was the fact that the military can and has overthrown their government, you would think that fighting for your country would mean that your in all support of what the government may think but this seems to be different. To find out that Egypt is not the same that it used to be and is very different was not shocking at all, with their economy constantly hurt by their changing of politics economic policies its not hard to understand. Overall this was a great blog and I look forward to reading more in the future on your country.


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