Gamal El-Gaml wrote an interesting article in Egypt’s Al-Masry Al-Youm. He claimed that weeks ago he received detailed information on what he described as arrangements for a “manufactured popular revolt” against the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. He claimed, according to the information he received, that there is a division between Sisi’s leadership and the rest of Egypt’s “deep state.”
Al-Gaml claims that he dismissed the above scenario, but he later heard similar themes with even more details of an alleged “magic recipe” of public anger, money, weapons, and support from certain parts of the ruling establishment. According to Al-Gaml, those scenarios became louder after the controversial relinquish of the Red Sea islands Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia that some see as Sisi’s major strategic error, and could end his tenure. Al-Gamal claims that he heard the possibility that a major army cadre could replace Sisi. He also highlighted how President Sisi has hinted before about “internal plots.”
El-Gaml said that he opposes Sisi’s policies and management style, but also asserted that he refuses removing Sisi without a massive public revolt similar to what happened in June 30, 2013. Al Gaml rejected conspiracies and suggested that the aim behind the above leaks could be to test the public’s response; he added that he opted to share the information he received as warning call for everyone, including President Sisi.
Al-Gaml’s article was widely circulated on social media with varied responses. Some agreed with him, while others accuse him of inciting against Sisi. In short, both the article and the responses to the writer’s views sum up the huge collective distress that Egypt is currently witnessing.
As the third anniversary of the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood president Morsi is looming, nearly all Egyptians are on the edge and fear the unknown. There are serious divisions among Sisi’s supporters about his decision to relinquish the two Red Sea islands Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia. Many agree with Gamal al-Gaml’s views that this is Sisi’s biggest strategic error since the start of his tenure; others disagree. The question is, however, is this disagreement confined to the public and media or is it also ongoing, albeit behind the scenes, within Egypt’s military establishment? Some of Sisi’s opponents see divisions within the senior military ranks as the only way they can push him out of power, and they feel that the current anger could unhinge the military establishment and trigger another coup in Egypt.
Many compared Sisi with Nasser, but I see Sisi as another Sadat, daring, pragmatic, and extremely controversial. Egypt 2016 has become increasingly similar to Egypt 1981, but with bold revolting youth, and vulnerable weaker state pillars. There is indeed an unhealthy paranoid climate in Egypt; however, I doubt it will materialize into any substantial threat to Sisi’s leadership. I have always doubted the concept of “deep state” in Egypt. Yes, there can be divisions among seniors within the country’s main ruling pillars, but a coordinated deep establishment that works with or against the president is unlikely.
Furthermore, I am not sure that the public has any appetite to march in millions to oust Sisi. Thousands may march in the next planned protest on April 25, which may please many of Egypt’s observers who are desperate to see another revolution in Egypt, just to prove them right. However, those few thousands who want to remove Sisi have not struck the right cord with the rest of the apolitical Egyptians.
To be clear, old faces like ex-presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, or retired Army Lieutenant General Sami Anan will not win the Egyptian public—it’s almost impossible. The public also will not warm up easily to any new name from the political establishment. Copy-cat July 2013 will fail drastically in Egypt and will only lead to dark days ahead.
The last turbulent five years have shown how ruling Egypt is a curse, not a blessing. Sisi, however, can diffuse the tension and save the country from collective destruction by learning from Sadat’s mistakes and stop handing his enemies weapons with which to attack him.