Morsi courts trouble again; orders two top generals to retire
Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi has engineered another dangerous confrontation with the military council that holds most of the power in the country.
On Sunday, he fired the nation's two top generals, including Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi who heads up the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) -- the organization that has run Egypt since the fall of Mubarak.
Egypt's Islamist president ordered his defense minister and chief of staff to retire on Sunday and canceled the military-declared constitutional amendments that gave top generals wide powers.
It was not immediately clear whether the decision had the military's blessing. Morsi has been in a power struggle with the military since he came to power on June 30. Shortly before he was announced the winner of elections, the ruling military council that took power after Hosni Mubarak's ouster stripped the presidency of many of its key powers.
Morsi also appointed a senior judge, Mahmoud Mekki, as vice president. All decisions are effective immediately.
Outgoing Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi headed the ruling military council for 17 months after Mubarak's ouster in February 2011. Before that, he was defense minister for nearly two decades under Mubarak. The military council's No. 2, Chief of Staff Sami Annan, was also ordered to retire. But both men were appointed advisers to Morsi, according to state television.
Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said told a news conference aired on state TV that Morsi named a career army officer, Lt. Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, to replace Tantawi and Lt. Gen. Sidki Sayed Ahmed to replace Annan.
Morsi also ordered the retirement of the commanders of the navy, air defense and air force. The retired navy commander, Lt. Gen. Mohan Mameesh, was named as chairman of the Suez Canal, the strategic waterway linking the Red Sea and the Mediterranean and a major source of revenues for the country.
Also, Reuters reports, "President Mohamed Mursi also canceled a constitutional declaration aiming to limit presidential powers which the ruling army council issued in June as the election that brought Mursi to power drew to a close." That declaration seized legislative power and rewrote the constitution regarding presidential prerogatives to place almost all power in the hands of SCAF.
Now Morsi wants to overturn that decree and fire the two men most responsible for implementing it. It's hard to tell exactly why Morsi has chosen today to initiate this confrontation. But it is unlikely that Tantawi will resign or that the decree will be ditched.
If Morsi is taking these steps to show how much control the military still has over the government, even though they claim to have handed power back to civilians, he chose the perfect targets. But it's a gamble, considering that the military still has the guns and might take actions that would bring down Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Tensions just shot up several notches in Cairo.