All eyes on Egypt defence minister, army chief during transition process

Saturday, February 12, 2011

WASHINGTON - All eyes are now on two of Egypt’s most senior military officers - Defence Minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Enan, in the wake of the stepping down of President Hosni Mubarak.

The question now being raised in Washington and in Cairo is whether these two can figure out a way to share power with a restive population.

According to the New York Times, both are members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has rarely met, but will run the country at least until elections are held in September this year.

As far as the pro-democracy protesters are concerned, both Tantawi and Enan have gained credibility in their eyes over the past 18 to 20 days.

Seventy-five-year-old Tantawi, is seen as a strident opponent of political change and has a higher profile than Enan. Both are well known among American officials.

Tantawi is likely to be the most powerful military figure during the transition, because he is canny, knows the system and is more experienced.

In contrast, Enan is seen as a bit of a cipher among American officials. They say he has never sought to project a separate identity from the army he leads.

Americans who have worked with Enan describe him as bright and innovative.

Enan commands a conscription army - drawn by law from all sectors of Egyptian society, and therefore, tightly knitted with the populace. Every adult male is required to serve.

American officials said Enan had made it clear to them in several telephone calls to Washington that his troops would not fire on the protesters, even as the military sought to protect the institutions of government.

Classified diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks illuminate the symbiotic relationship between top Egyptian commanders and their American counterparts, especially their mutual concern about regional threats such as Iran.

Tantawi, in the view of American diplomats and senior military officers, is seen as a Mubarak confidant. (ANI)

will not be displayed