Egyptian Chief of Staff Sidki Sobhi
Egyptian President Morsi: Cleaning house
Photo: Reuters

Who is Egypt's chief of staff?

A look into Sidki Sobhi's past reveals that Egypt's new chief of staff wrote thesis stating that US troops should be withdrawn from Middle East, being used as justification for armed struggle by radical Islamists

Egypt's new second-in-command of the military has said that US troops should be withdrawn from the Middle East while any democratization in the region should come from within and have religious legitimacy, according to a paper he wrote in 2005.


Though published before US President Barack Obama was elected, the document written while newly appointed Chief of Staff Sidki Sobhi was studying in the United States offers a rare insight into the thinking of a top officer in the traditionally opaque Egyptian army.


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The generals, who for decades stayed in the shadows, were thrust to the fore when Hosni Mubarak, himself a former air force commander, was toppled in an uprising last year and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces took charge.


הנשיא מורסי מעניק עיטור לטנטאווי שאותו פיטר השבוע (צילום: AP)

Morsi gives Tantawi medal - but fires him (Photo: AP)


An Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, came to office in June and stamped his authority over the military this week by retiring the country's two top generals and taking back vital powers they had earlier retained for themselves.


Though generals held news conference and gave interviews when in charge, they gave little away in public about their thoughts on broader policy beyond the transition, such as the crucial relationship with the United States, which gives Egypt $1.3 billion in military aid a year and trains many officers.


"I recommend that the permanent withdrawal of the United States military forces from the Middle East and the Gulf should be a goal of the US strategy in this region," wrote Sobhi, then a brigadier general studying for a Master of Strategic Studies Degree at the US War College.


He added in his concluding remarks to the 10,600-word thesis "that the United States should pursue its strategic goals in the region through socioeconomic means and the impartial application of international law", in a reference to what he had earlier described as Washington's "one-sided" relationship with Israel.

He said the presence of US troops in the region had been used as a justification for armed struggle by radical Islamists.


הרמטכ"ל החדש סידקי סובחי. "קשר חד צדדי עם ישראל" (צילום מסך) 

Egypt's new chief of staff: Sidki Sobhi


Though many in the Middle East object to US soldiers being posted there, it is unusual to hear the view aired so clearly by a senior figure in the army of Egypt, a staunch US ally.


Sobhi, 56, was appointed chief of staff, the military's second most senior post, in the surprise shake-up announced on Sunday by Morsi, whose Muslim Brotherhood group was routinely hounded and jailed in the past six decades by Mubarak and other presidents who all hailed from the military.


The army's top officer, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who served as Mubarak's defense minister for 20 years and led the military council, was forced into retirement, replaced by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former head of intelligence.


Sobhi's thesis was posted on a US Department of Defense website, and was initially highlighted by blogger and analyst Issandr El Amrani.


The dramatic army changes followed a military blunder on August 5 on the Sinai border with Israel when 16 border guards were killed by militants, giving Morsi an opening to act amid public anger and - some more junior officers said - grumbles among some military ranks over the army leadership.




פרסום ראשון: 08.17.12, 08:41
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