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Viewing cable 08CAIRO2091, ACADEMICS SEE THE MILITARY IN DECLINE, BUT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08CAIRO2091 2008-09-23 15:03 2010-12-13 21:09 SECRET Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXYZ0002
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #2091/01 2671517
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 231517Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0546
INFO RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
S E C R E T CAIRO 002091 

SIPDIS 

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ELA AND INR/NESA 
OSD FOR AGUIRRE 
JCS FOR YODER 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/23/2028 
TAGS: PARM PGOV ECON EG
SUBJECT: ACADEMICS SEE THE MILITARY IN DECLINE, BUT 
RETAINING STRONG INFLUENCE 

REF: A. CAIRO 1851 
B. CAIRO 530 
C. CAIRO 524 
D. 07 CAIRO 1417 

Classified By: DCM Matthew Tueller for reason 1.4 (b) and (d). 

1. (C) Summary: Recently, academics and civilian analysts 
painted a portrait of an Egyptian military in intellectual 
and social decline, whose officers have largely fallen out of 
society's elite ranks. They describe a disgruntled mid-level 
officer corps harshly critical of a defense minister they 
perceive as incompetent and valuing loyalty above skill in 
his subordinates. However, analysts perceive the military as 
retaining strong influence through its role in ensuring 
regime stability and operating a large network of commercial 
enterprises. Regarding succession, analysts highlight the 
armed forces' uneasiness with Gamal Mubarak, but largely 
agree that the military would support Gamal if President 
Mubarak resigns and installs him in the presidency, a 
scenario we view as unlikely. One professor opined that 
since 2003, the regime has tried to strengthen the economic 
elite close to Gamal at the expense of the military in an 
effort to weaken potential military opposition to Gamal's 
path to the presidency. Other analysts believe the regime is 
trying to co-opt the military through patronage into 
accepting Gamal and that despite tensions between the 
military and business, their relationship remains 
cooperative. End summary. 

------------------------- 
An Institution in Decline 
------------------------- 

2. (C) A series of recent conversations with academics and 
other civilian analysts reveals their sense that while 
Egypt's military is in decline, it nevertheless remains a 
powerful institution. (Note: These academics' expertise in 
Egyptian politics and willingness to comment on the sensitive 
issue of the military's current role makes them valuable 
interlocutors for us. End note.) An American University in 
Cairo (AUC) political science professor with family ties to 
the officer corps told us that the military reached its peak 
of influence in the late 1980's before the ouster of the 
recently deceased former Defense Minister Abu Ghazalah, who 
was dismissed because of his growing political popularity. 
He asserted that since 1989, the MOD's influence in Egyptian 
society has been gradually waning, and the privileged social 
position of its elite members has been in decline as 
society's respect for the military fades. One 
political-military analyst at the GOE-funded Al-Ahram Center 
who is a retired general noted that military salaries have 
fallen far below what is available in the private sector, and 
that a military career is no longer an attractive option for 
ambitious young people who aspire to join the new business 
elite instead. 

3. (S) A senior Cairo University political science professor 
opined that before the 1967 war, military officers were 
"spoiled," and constituted a social elite. Following the 
military's poor performance in the 1967 war, he said, 
officers began a descent out of the upper ranks of society 
that accelerated after Abu Ghazalah's ouster in 1989. Since 
Abu Ghazalah, a senior AUC political science professor noted, 
the regime has not allowed any charismatic figures to reach 
the senior ranks. "(Defense Minister) Tantawi looks like a 
bureaucrat," he joked. The AUC professor described the 
mid-level officer corps as generally disgruntled, and said 
that one can hear mid-level officers at MOD clubs around 
Cairo openly expressing disdain for Tantawi. These officers 
refer to Tantawi as "Mubarak's poodle," he said, and complain 
that "this incompetent Defense Minister" who reached his 
position only because of unwavering loyalty to Mubarak is 
"running the military into the ground." He opined that a 
culture of blind obedience pervades the MOD where the sole 
criteria for promotion is loyalty, and that the MOD 
leadership does not hesitate to fire officers it perceives as 
being "too competent" and who therefore potentially pose a 
threat to the regime. 

4. (C) A political-military analyst with an academic 
background at the GOE-funded Al-Ahram Center believes that 
the government's increasing opposition to dialogue with 
academia is symptomatic of its social and intellectual 
decline. He said that up until 6 years ago, the MOD had 

assigned a military representative to the Al-Ahram Center to 
participate in academic discussions; subsequently, the MOD 
jailed the representative because his views were becoming too 
independent, and has not sent a replacement to the center. 
He claimed that Tantawi has become increasingly intolerant of 
intellectual freedom and in 2006 refused to allow the 
Al-Ahram Center to pursue a research project with the Royal 
Dutch Military Society on military reform in Egypt and 
Holland. In his view, Tantawi has made clear that the 
military is "off-limits" as a subject for academic research, 
and that the MOD will not tolerate independent thought within 
its own ranks. 

--------------------------------------------- 
...But Still Retaining Economic Clout For Now 
--------------------------------------------- 

5. (C) Although analysts see a small number of regime and 
business elites exercising increasing political and economic 
control over the country, they acknowledge the military's 
strong influence in Egypt's economy. A senior AUC 
political-science professor opined that the regime gives the 
six businessmen in the cabinet carte blanche to pursue 
commercial activities, but that the defense minister can put 
a hold on any contract for "security concerns." Contacts 
told us that military-owned companies, often run by retired 
generals, are particularly active in the water, olive oil, 
cement, construction, hotel and gasoline industries. The 
senior Cairo University professor pointed out that military 
companies built the modern road to the Ain Souknah Red Sea 
resorts 90 minutes from Cairo and Cairo University's new 
annex. He noted the large amounts of land owned by the 
military in the Nile Delta and on the Red Sea coast, 
speculating that such property is a "fringe benefit" in 
exchange for the military ensuring regime stability and 
security. (Comment: We see the military's role in the 
economy as a force that generally stifles free market reform 
by increasing direct government involvement in the markets. 
End comment.) 

6. (C) Most analysts agreed that the military views the GOE's 
privatization efforts as a threat to its economic position, 
and therefore generally opposes economic reforms. The senior 
Cairo University professor speculated that privatization has 
forced military-owned companies to improve the quality of 
their work, specifically in the hotel industry, to compete 
with private firms and attract critical foreign investment. 
One of the Al-Ahram Center political-military analysts 
predicted that the growing power of the economic elite at the 
military's expense is inevitable as economic necessity drives 
the government to maintain its economic reform policies in 
order to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). He said 
that FDI is essential to the government's plans to maintain 
economic growth and political stability. 

--------------------------------------------- - 
Influence in the Bureaucracy and Civil Society 
--------------------------------------------- - 

7. (C) The senior Cairo University professor pointed to a 
"concerted effort" from the "top of the regime" to penetrate 
the civilian bureaucracy with retired senior military 
officers. He highlighted retired officers filling top 
civilian jobs, such as governors, and chief of staff 
positions and other senior slots at the Information, 
Transportation and Education ministries. Other contacts 
noted their anecdotal experience with military officers 
running civil society organizations and charities. The 
senior AUC political science professor remarked that a 
literacy campaign in his neighborhood recently hired a 
retired military officer to run its operations. He told us 
that the local charitable society where his wife volunteers 
recently hired a retired general as its director, believing 
that the general's competence, experience with bureaucracies, 
and network of colleagues and contacts in the ministries 
would serve the charity well. 

--------------------------- 
The Military and Succession 
--------------------------- 

8. (C) Contacts agree that presidential son Gamal Mubarak's 
power base is centered in the business community, not with 
the military. The senior Cairo University political science 
professor said officers told him recently that the military 

does not support Gamal and if Mubarak died in office, the 
military would seize power rather than allow Gamal to succeed 
his father. However, analysts agreed that the military would 
allow Gamal to take power through an election if President 
Mubarak blessed the process and effectively gave Gamal the 
reigns of power. The AUC junior political science professor 
opined that after Gamal became active in the NDP in 2002, the 
regime empowered the reformers in the 2004 cabinet to begin 
privatization efforts that buttressed the wealthy businessmen 
close to Gamal. In his estimation, the regime's goal is to 
create a business-centered power base for Gamal in the NDP to 
compensate for his lack of military credentials. A necessary 
corollary to this strategy, he claimed, was for the regime to 
weaken the military's economic and political power so that it 
cannot block Gamal's path to the presidency. 

9. (S) Comment: The military still remains a potent 
political and economic force. Its recent interventions, 
using the MOD's considerable resources, to produce bread to 
meet shortages in March and extinguish the Shoura Council 
fire in August (refs A and B) demonstrate that it sometimes 
can successfully step in where other government agencies 
fail. The military helps to ensure regime stability and 
operates a large network of businesses as it becomes a 
"quasi-commercial" enterprise itself. While there are 
economic and political tensions between the business elite 
and the military, the overall relationship between the two 
still appears to be cooperative, rather than adversarial. 
The military's loss of some prestige is partly due to the 
disappearance of an imminent, external military threat 
following the 1979 Camp David Accords. The regime, aware of 
the critical role the MOD can play in presidential 
succession, may well be trying to co-opt the military through 
patronage into accepting Gamal's path to the presidency. We 
agree with the analysis that senior military officers would 
support Gamal if Mubarak resigned and installed him in the 
presidency, as it is difficult to imagine opposition from 
these officers who depend on the president and defense 
minister for their jobs and material perks. In a messier 
succession scenario, however, it becomes more difficult to 
predict the military's actions. While mid-level officers do 
not necessarily share their superiors' fealty to the regime, 
the military's built-in firewalls and communication breaks 
make it unlikely that these officers could independently 
install a new leader. 
SCOBEY