Sharif Abdel Kouddous writes: As the first anniversary of the Egyptian revolution approaches, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is continuing to issue shrill warnings of a plot to topple the state. The most direct came from Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi himself, when he said last week, “Egypt is facing grave dangers it has not seen before.” He added, “The armed forces are the backbone that protects Egypt. These schemes are aimed at targeting that backbone.”
Tantawi is right. There is a plot to topple the state. Egypt’s revolution has evolved from an uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak into a deeper struggle aimed at uprooting the military regime that has ruled the country for the past 60 years and served as the backbone of its modern autocracy. Since 1952, the army has enjoyed a special autonomy in Egypt, both political and economic, above any civilian control or oversight. It is this very autonomy and privilege that the revolution is now targeting and has the military council talking of a threat to destabilize the country.
Over the past few decades, the army has burrowed itself ever deeper into Egypt’s economy, building a sprawling business empire that utilizes a mass conscripted labor force and includes vast real estate holdings in the north and on the Red Sea coast. Army divisions make everything from television sets and off-road vehicles to olive oil, bottled water and fertilizer. Estimates of the military’s share of the economy vary widely, ranging from 15 to 40 percent of gross domestic product, a testament to the cloak of secrecy that conceals their financial affairs. Meanwhile, senior army officers live a life apart in self-contained military cities, complete with their own housing, sports teams and supermarkets selling foreign goods at a discount.