In his first interview with a local newspaper, General Commander of the Armed Forces Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi refuted suggestions the army was not supportive of Mohamed Morsi, insisting the ousted president was frequently advised to be more inclusive.
Talking to private Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, El-Sisi, who was appointed by Morsi as Minister of Defence replacing Hussein Tantawi in August 2012, said his acceptance of the position did not come as part of a “conspiracy,” as has been widely argued.
“The army does not conspire or betray leadership,” El-Sisi said, adding that he had asked former Chief of Staff Tantawi whether he should refuse the offered post, but was encouraged to accept it.
El-Sisi further denied that the army turned against Morsi after last year’s 6 October celebration, when Islamist figures - including those who were involved in the killing of former president Anwar El-Sadat, who came from military ranks - were invited to attend.
He described last year’s 6 October celebration under Morsi as “badly organised,” but said that the former president did not realise it would convey a negative message.
The military and the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, have historical differences that go back to 1952, since leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser’s reign, El-Sisi stated.
These differences are ideological, he explained; the “loyalty of the armed forces is to the state, whist the Brotherhood’s loyalty is to the organisation and the [Islamic] Umma, which is not limited by [state] borders.”
“The result was that on 6 October [under Morsi] the war heroes were excluded while the killers [of Sadat] linked to the Brotherhood were invited. However, we did not express our discontent regarding such irresponsible action, which does not insult the armed forces but [insults] the state and its nation,” he added.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces presented their grievances to former president Morsi, El-Sisi said.
The popular Commander also denied that proposals by the armed forces to mediate dialogue between the Brotherhood and oppositional parties prior to 30 June was an attempt to re-insert the military into civilian politics.
"We were keen that they [the presidency] succeeded, because their success would have been the success of the state,” he told Al-Masry Al-Youm, adding that he had urged Morsi to consider people’s concerns and not clash with all state institutions at once, even if reform was necessary.
In December 2012, El-Sisi called for dialogue between all political forces in order to end the crisis, as mass demonstrations took to the streets against Morsi. The meeting was cancelled.
El-Sisi said Morsi had initially accepted the army initiative for dialogue, but was pressured by others, whom the defence minister did not name, to cancel. He further said that these same people who opposed dialogue were the same ones to insist on continuing pro-Morsi sit-ins after 3 July.
Following huge nationwide protests against Morsi, El-Sisi, backed by several political groups and religious figures, announced a new roadmap to include the removal of Morsi.
Head of the High Constitutional Court Adly Mansour was appointed as interim-President and a transitional government was installed until the 2012 constitution is amended, followed by parliamentary and presidential elections.
Morsi supporters refute the new roadmap, considering the overthrow of the formerly-elected president to be a ‘military coup.’ They have staged several sit-ins and rallies, demanding his reinstatement. Two of the major sit-ins at Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Al-Nahda Square were violently dispersed on 14 August by security forces, resulting in hundreds of deaths.
Security Forces have cracked down on the Brotherhood, arresting hundreds of members and their Islamist allies, and freezing the organisation's assets.