Egypt and its army

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This long link above is the way to the Al Jazeera interview I did  some weeks ago. I am only on for a few minutes but the questions they asked me were interesting. Basically the program was about the huge military involvement in the Egyptian economy…some thing like up to 40% of their GDP with the army using low paid recruits to make not only military armament but also washing machines, baby formula,   etc. They also run hotels, service stations, farms and recreation areas.

The Egyptian president , Abdel Fattah al Sisi fooled everyone, including the previous president Mohammad Al Morsi, who currently resides in prison, put there by  Sisi who was selected to be al Morsi’s top military leader by Morsi himself. He passed himself off  as a closet member of the Muslim brotherhood.  While in the American Army War college  he wrote a thesis that some, very wrongly, depicted as fundamentalist. He is simply an opportunist and whatever else he is or is not he is way better than having Morsi or other members of the Muslim brotherhood running Egypt.

Having written that, the al Sisi regime is shot through  with corruption, nepotism, and every ill one can think of. He has used the military economy as featherbeds for retiring high officers despite a lack of any knowledge of the industry in which they are involved, putting them in charge of a number of state run industries and enterprises.  It might not be so bad if the generals simply let the mangers run the show but too many actually take their jobs seriously and muck up the industries they head.

Moreover many  lower grade officers own businesses, farms, shops, hotels etc. Many of these officers derive their primary income . not from the military but from their extra-curricular businesses. The officers themselves have a fairly comfortable life, living within “military cities, with commissaries, tax free shopping, and interest free auto purchases. Their apartments inside the military city are better than anything on the outside and rented for only a nominal fee.  But nevertheless many Egyptian officers find it necessary to look for other sources of income. In short they have it pretty good, but for many, apparently, not good enough.  Like any other human beings they look to care of their families first and are unlikely to bite the hand that feeds them. Thus the regime keeps the officer corps generally loyal.

Now in the program, Al Jazeera alleges  that more young officers are defecting from the  Al Sisi  regime. That could be true but I have no knowledge  of that. A young social media type named  Mohamed Ali has been making a lot of noise on social media from Spain attacking al Sisi and the corruption. No doubt the corruption is rampant but is it any worse than before? Doubtful!  Al Sisi has become much more authoritarian in the last year, making sure the population, especially the elite youth understand  that he will brook no upheavals. So it goes.

But, concerning the pervasive Egyptian army involvement in the economy, the most important truth is that while it is harmful to Egypt’s productivity, the impact on the military effectiveness of the military∗ is devastating. The fact that so many Egyptian officers find it necessary to have a secondary source of income makes it difficult to concentrate on soldiering when he needs to keep track of a business as well.

A  good book to read is Militarizing the Nation  by Zeinab Abul  Magd and a great article is in  Transparency International. Defence and Security at

∗In Egypt as in most Arab countries, the army, despite its problems is usually seen as the only trustworthy institution in the country. See Dalia Said Mostafa; The Egyptian Military in Popular Culture


About Tex

Retired artillery colonel, many years in a number of positions in the Arab world. Graduate of the US Military Academy and the American University of Beirut. MA in Arab studies from the American University in Beirut along with 18 years as Middle East Seminar Director at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Served in Vietnam with 1st Inf Division, Assignments in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, plus service with Trucial Oman Scouts in the Persian Gulf. Traveled to every Arab country on the map including Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
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1 Response to Egypt and its army

  1. Connie Piper says:

    Hi Tex, I sent this to Dr. Ron Reynolds the Commandant at DISAM (Defense Internat Security Asst Management).

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