Skip to main content

Egypt's Morsy sends defense minister, top general to 'retirement'

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:23 AM EDT, Mon August 13, 2012
  • NEW: President says he wants military to focus on protecting the homeland
  • Tantawi's 'expertise will be of higher value' as a presidential adviser, PM says
  • Morsy has replaced the defense minister who took over for Mubarak, his spokesman says
  • He also reversed a military decree claiming legislative power for the generals

Cairo (CNN) -- Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy shook up the country's powerful military leadership Sunday, replacing top generals and reasserting power the military claimed for itself before he took office.

Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the defense minister who took power after the 2011 ouster of longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak, was given a top medal and "sent to retirement," Morsy spokesman Yasser Ali announced Sunday evening on state-run Nile Television. So was Lt. Gen. Sami Anan, the chief of staff of the armed forces.

Both men were named as advisers to Morsy, the country's first freely elected president, but no details of the new posts were announced. The commanders of Egypt's navy, air force and air defense force were sent into retirement as well, Ali said.

Speaking Sunday night at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Morsy addressed the shakeup, saying it was meant to move the nation forward.

Morsy's funeral absence fuels outrage
Clashes could hurt Egypt's economy
Thousands of Egyptians gather in Tahrir Square after Mohamed Morsi is declared the nation's first democratically elected president on Sunday, June 24. In a nationally televised speech, the longtime member of the Muslim Brotherhood promised to represent all Egyptians. Thousands of Egyptians gather in Tahrir Square after Mohamed Morsi is declared the nation's first democratically elected president on Sunday, June 24. In a nationally televised speech, the longtime member of the Muslim Brotherhood promised to represent all Egyptians.
Egypt's long road to presidency
Egypt\'s long road to presidency Egypt's long road to presidency

"The decisions that were made today were not directed at certain people, and I didn't mean to embarrass institutions. My goal is not to narrow down the freedom of those who were created free by God," the president said.

Addressing his comments to members of the armed forces, Morsy added: "I only want the best for them. I want for them to focus on a mission that is holy for all of us, which is protecting the homeland."

The announcement comes a little over a month after the president and the generals butted heads over Morsy's attempt to recall the country's disbanded parliament. Analysts called the moves a sign of a major shift in the balance of power between civilian leaders and the military, the backbone of the modern Egyptian state.

"This is the first time in Egypt's political history that an elected civilian politician overrules the decisions of the heads of the military establishment," said Omar Ashour, a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution's Doha Center.

Source: Egyptian forces raid Sinai militants

Prime Minister Hesham Kandil said Morsy "adheres to the legal procedures and the constitution in his decision." Morsy "recognizes Field Marshal Tantawi's hard work in the transitional phase and his efforts in leading Egypt to safety during the revolution," but "His expertise will be of higher value as an adviser to the president."

Morsy promoted Maj. Gen. Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi, the head of military intelligence, to defense minister and head of Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, with the rank of field marshal, Nile TV said. He also named Mahmoud Mekki as his vice president, and he reversed a June constitutional decree by the Supreme Council that claimed to retain legislative authority until a new parliament could be sworn in near the end of the year, Ali said.

Egyptian president visits troubled border area

Morsy's Freedom and Justice party, the political wing of the long-suppressed Muslim Brotherhood, called for supporters to rally in support of the moves Sunday night in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the revolt against Mubarak.

The steps announced Sunday come as Egyptian forces are battling militants in the Sinai Peninsula blamed for an attack that killed more than a dozen troops at a border post last week. They follow an abortive July attempt by Morsy to recall the parliament that the generals ordered dissolved in late June, a challenge to military authority that was halted by Egypt's highest court.

Morsy assumed office June 30 and moved quickly to assert his authority, attempting to call back into session lawmakers whose elections had been thrown out by a June decision from Egypt's Constitutional Court.

Egypt launches airstrikes in Sinai after troop massacre

In the aftermath of the court decision, the generals announced they would retain the power to make laws and budget decisions until a new parliament was elected under a new constitution. Under the military council's decree, Egypt's new constitution must be drawn up within three months.

Morsy's bid faltered when the Constitutional Court declared that its ruling was final. Rabab Elmahdi, a professor of political science at American University in Cairo, said Morsy was pushed into Sunday's shakeup by resistance "from the military establishment, from the old regime."

Egypt's president condemns deadly attack in Sinai

"I think what we're seeing is a changing balance of power on the ground," Elmahdi said. "The legitimacy of the first elected president in Egyptian history is something we cannot take lightly, and I think Morsy was sort of forced to make use of this kind of legitimacy."

Meanwhile, the military establishment, which has dominated the Egyptian state since 1952, doesn't want to rule directly, she said.

"They have much more complicated interests -- economic interests and political interests to keep the institution intact," Elmahdi said.

CNN's Amir Ahmed, Yousuf Basil and Hamdi Alkhshali and journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.