In response to recent statements by the Muslim Brotherhood challenging the sincerity of Egypt's military rulers, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued a statement on Sunday hitting back at its critics and defending its intentions.
The row first erupted after the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) called for the dissolution of the incumbent government of Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri, asserting that the latter had "failed in fulfilling its duties." The SCAF, however, has insisted on keeping the interim cabinet in place until the end of the current transitional period.
The Brotherhood on Saturday asked whether the reason why the government was being kept in place was not to "abort the revolution or to orchestrate upcoming presidential elections."
In reply, the SCAF issued a statement on Sunday asserting that "attempts to question [our] intentions regarding the integrity of the coming presidential elections and the popular referendum on the constitution are mere baseless slander.
"This attitude overlooks the fact that the armed forces and its council are the ones who planned and carried out last year's legislative elections with a transparency that was acclaimed by everyone, which allowed the current political forces to feature in the People's Assembly and Shura Council [the lower and upper houses of the parliament].
The statements adds: "The SCAF ruefully observed the media's coverage of statements issued by a political force [the Brotherhood], which questioned the integrity of the armed forces and its council, slammed the performance of the government, and questioned the independence and objectivity of the Supreme Constitutional Court."
In its Saturday statement, the Brotherhood had registered its dissatisfaction with what it described as a "threat" to the constitutional legitimacy of the current parliament, saying the Constitutional Court must be independent and not controlled by anyone.
It is widely believed that the SCAF may seek to challenge the constitutional legitimacy of the parliament's upper and lower houses, which are both dominated by the FJP, should the latter push its demand for the dissolution of the incumbent cabinet.
"It is unacceptable to talk about threats to challenge the constitutional legitimacy of the parliament, and imply that this great court is subject to the executive authority," read the SCAF statement.
"On previous occasions, the SCAF stressed that it would not reply to such accusations, and did not want to use its legal and natural rights to comment on these lies, out of its belief that the great Egyptian military's status is above verbal jousting with a faction or group, or to defend its glorious history and role in defending the nation and its great people's rights," the statement added.
"The Egyptian population knows well who protected its dignity and pride, and who always put the people's best interest before anything else. The armed forces and its council were keen to adhere to that code and not deviate from it as a result of attempts at provocation.
"Some falsely believe that they can pressure the armed forces and its Supreme Council with the intention of making them abandon their national mission to rule the country during the transitional period.
"We understand that the performance of the government might not satisfy the expectations of the people at this critical stage, but we emphasise that the nation's interest is our foremost priority, and we shall spare no effort to pass through this tough stage."
In a veiled a threat, the SCAF statement added: "We ask everyone to be aware of the lessons of history to avoid mistakes from a past we do not want to return to, and to look towards the future."
In 1954, a brief honeymoon between late president Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Revolutionary Command Council and the Brotherhood ended in a wide-scale clampdown on the group, which was outlawed for decades until last year's Tahrir Square uprising.
A large number of Brotherhood leaders were jailed – and some even faced the death penalty – after being accused of involvement in an attempt to assassinate then-president Nasser.
In the wake of the 2011 revolution, the Brotherhood and the SCAF appeared to have reached a behind-the-scenes deal, from which both sides were thought to have benefited. That, at least, was the conclusion drawn by many in Egypt's post-revolution democratic/secularist camp.