A recent decree issued by Minister of Defence Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi restricting the right to buy property in Sinai to second-generation Egyptian citizens had come against the wish of the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to a military source.
The decree, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity, was issued after the minister became aware of a Palestinian-Qatari scheme to buy territory in Sinai “supposedly for tourism related projects."
The source added that the minister “informed” the president before taking he took the decision “with unprecedented support from within the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the wider military community.
"Many of us [officers and soldiers] died to retrieve this land; we did so not knowing that Morsi would one day compromise the country's right to Sinai - for whatever reason. Whatever the reason, Sinai is a red line. We will support our Palestinian brothers in every way possible but Sinai is not for sale," the source said.
This decision by El-Sissi, who was appointed in August following Morsi’s decision to remove his predecessor Hussein Tantawi along with the second in command Sami Anan, is more or less unprecedented. Usually, the source said, such decrees are issued by the president, whether in his executive capacity or in his capacity as the supreme commander of the armed forces. “But there was no other way because the anger was very intense in the army over news of plans to sell large parts of Sinai and some of the peninsulas in the Red Sea,” he explained.
This is not the first sign of tension between Morsi and El-Sissi. Only two weeks ago the ministry of defence and the presidency engaged in a tug of war over a scheduled roundtable meeting the minister of defence had called for in the midst of the political crisis over the constitution, which was finally passed this Tuesday with the approval of under two thirds of those who voted.
According to the same military source and to sources at the presidency, El-Sissi's call for dialogue, intended to reconcile the president and leaders of the opposition's National Salvation Front was initially undertaken with the approval of the president but was cancelled after the presidnt changed his mind due to opposition from the Guidance Bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails.
New tensions in relations between the president and the army add to existing unease and even anger between the presidency and both police and intelligence. Police sources say the overriding sentiment is that the president, despite positive statements regarding the police, is acting to replace the heads of departments with generals whose loyalty to him is greater than their loyalty to the institution.
For its part, the intelligence, according to two sources, was insulted by the fact that a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood went on air to accuse an intelligence lieutenant of being party to an attempt to overthrow the president.
A close aide to the president said that unease in the army is “totally unjustified."
“To suggest that the president would agree to anything that would compromise national sovereignty over Sinai or any part of Egypt is an unacceptable insult; the decision of El-Sissi was issued on orders from the president himself," the aide said.
According to the same aide, contempt in the police and intelligence is “even more unjustified because it is no secret that there were generals in both bodies who were helping with the campaign of Ahmed Shafiq [Morsi’s adversary in the presidential runoffs], and that they are still in daily contact with him and with the Dubai police whose head openly attacked the president of Egypt."
“What would it take for the president to be liked by the police and the intelligence? I tell you no matter what the president does to please and reassure them, they will not be happy simply because they cannot accept that this man from the Muslim Brotherhood has become president," the presidential aide angrily said.
"They did everything they could to prevent him from winning; they provided information about other runners and broke into the secrets of their campaigns to make sure that Shafiq makes it to round two and today they have not given up; they cannot bow to the will of the Egyptian people who voted for Morsi and not Shafiq."