Egypt’s General Staff has been monitoring the Islamist regime of President Mohammed Morsi.
The military said it was following the Morsi crackdown on protests throughout Egypt and that it was prepared to intervene to stop abuse of civilians.
“It keeps an eye on what goes on in the nation,” Egyptian Chief of Staff
Gen. Sidki Sobhi said. “If the Egyptian people ever need the armed forces, they will be on the streets in less than a second.”
Western diplomats said the statement by Sobhi, appointed by Morsi in August 2012, marked the starkest warning by the U.S.-financed military. They said the military brass has been dismayed by the policies of Morsi and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.
This marked the second warning by the military amid rising unrest. In January, Defense Minister Abdul Fatah Sisi, also a Morsi appointee, warned of the collapse of Egypt and offered to mediate between the Islamist regime and protesters. In February, Sisi pledged not to allow the Brotherhood to dominate the military.
Since then, Brotherhood elements have raised the prospect that Sisi would be replaced. The military then leaked a warning through the Egyptian media that any purge of senior commanders would spark a backlash.
Military commanders have asserted that their troops would not join Egypt’s police and Central Security Forces in attacks on civilian protesters. In January, the military, worried that rioters would attack the Suez Canal, refused to enforce a curfew declared by Morsi on three Egyptian cities.
The diplomats said Sisi and Sobhi were believed to have been encouraged by the United States, which provides $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Cairo. They cited a series of telephone calls by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his aides with Sisi over the last month.
“The Americans are showing Morsi that they will continue to receive their support, but only if he acts with restraint,” a diplomat said.