President may have reached a deal with a new generation of military brass.
CAIRO -- In his purge of Egypt's top generals, President Mohammed Morsi leaned on the support of a junior officer corps that blamed the old guard for a litany of problems within the military and for involving the armed forces too deeply in the country's politics after the uprising that ousted Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.
One ranking officer told the New York Times the military had grown increasingly demoralized because of meager salaries, cronyism, shoddy equipment, promotion opportunities and growing confusion over the role of its leaders.
Those complaints crystallized last week after gunmen killed 16 soldiers in the Sinai, causing embarrassment throughout the ranks.
"The military didn't change," said the officer, a unit commander who was not authorized to speak to reporters and requested anonymity. "Give me equipment to work. You can't give me ruined cars, a hundred soldiers and ask me to secure 30 square kilometers in the desert."
The changing of the guard left an uncertain landscape. The balance of power has apparently shifted to Morsi, with the powerful Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which had been running the country since the revolution last year, unsettled but still firmly in place. On Monday, a day after the generals' ouster, there were no signs that the military was mobilizing in protest.
That led many analysts to suspect that the president had reached an accommodation with a new generation of military leaders who were seeking to restore the armed forces' credibility, enhance their own positions, and preserve the military's privileged and protected place in society.
On Sunday, Morsi forcibly retired the country's defense minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and the army chief of staff, Sami Hafez Enan. The heads of the air force, navy and air defense also were forced into retirement. Since the purge, Egyptians have desperately sought clues about whether the shake-up would begin a new period of conflict between the military and Morsi, a former leader in the Muslim Brotherhood.
"Changing those leaders was smart for Morsi," the officer said. "He waited for the right timing, when the country had already taken steps along the right path."
It remains to be seen whether a new formula will greatly alter the dynamic between Egypt's military and civilian authorities.
"Is the Brotherhood taking control of the military? Or is it the beginning of democratic control?" asked Robert Springborg, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and an expert on the Egyptian military.
NEW YORK TIMES