As events in Egypt continue to unfold, the world focuses on the role of the Egyptian military. USIP asked Middle East expert and congressional expert, Graeme Bannerman, to share his views on the situation.

February 15, 2011

As events in Egypt continue to unfold, the world focuses on the role of the Egyptian military. USIP asked Middle East expert and congressional expert, Graeme Bannerman, to share his views on the situation.

How does the military in Egypt operate? What is their function?
In Egypt, the Minister of Defense is also the Minister of Military Production. The armed forces produce many of their own essential goods and services. They own large farms and produce most commodities consumed by the army. They have bakeries, water bottling facilities, and clothing manufacturing factories. The logic of these operations is that it assures the military of essential supplies and insulates them from corruption in the private sector.

Back to Top

Has the Egyptian military evolved over time?
A: 30 years of military cooperation between Egypt and the United States in some ways has transformed the Egyptian military. 30 years ago the officer corps was trained and educated in the Soviet bloc. Americans were viewed with suspicion, and as subverting Egyptian national interests. Being associated with Americans could be harmful to one’s career. Today, thousands of military officers have trained with Americans. They undergo the same human rights training as does the American military. They understand us-- and many have close personal friends in the American military. American officers and troops are no longer seen as threatening. Differences of policy are recognized, but these are issues to be discussed and not barriers to cooperation.

Back to Top

Is it surprising that the Egyptian military intervened in the way it did?
The Egyptian military only reluctantly intervenes in Egyptian domestic affairs. In the previous 35 years, they have interceded in internal affairs only three times- the 1977 IMF bread riots, the 1985 police recruit riots, and the 1997 terrorist attack in Luxor. Protecting civilians and restoring order were their primary objectives. In the context of the current situation, the military clearly faces more challenges than they ever have in the past. The violence of the last several weeks is beyond what anyone anticipated. They are balancing their desire for order and discipline with their duty to protect Egyptian civilians. The military will move cautiously, but firmly, with full awareness of their stabilizing role.

Back to Top

About the Author

Graeme Bannerman is founder of Bannerman Associates, an international consulting firm. He advises USIP on congressional issues. Graeme is a former staffer for Middle East and South Asia on US Senate Foreign Relations Committee (1979-1987), former Middle East analyst on US State Department Policy Planning Staff, and previously taught at several universities, including Georgetown University, the George Washington University, and the American University of Beirut. He has served as international observer of elections in Georgia, the Philippines, Haiti, Pakistan, West Bank/Gaza, Mongolia and Yemen.

Related Publications

Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen on the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty 40 Years Later

Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen on the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty 40 Years Later

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

By: Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen

Reflecting on the 40th anniversary of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, Kurtzer-Ellenbogen says, “One of the big factors with the Egypt-Israel agreement was … bold, courageous leadership that was willing to make unprecedented moves … That’s of course eventually what’s going to need to happen to come to an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

Peace Processes

Middle East Peace: What can we Learn from Camp David 40 Years Later?

Middle East Peace: What can we Learn from Camp David 40 Years Later?

Monday, March 25, 2019

By: Robert Barron; Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen; Michael Yaffe

March 26 marks the 40th anniversary of the signing ceremony of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty that resulted from the Camp David Accords. Negotiated by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and U.S. President Jimmy Carter, the treaty has been a cornerstone of regional security and U.S. strategy in the Middle East.

Peace Processes

Egypt Timeline: Since the Arab Uprising

Egypt Timeline: Since the Arab Uprising

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Since 2011, Egypt has witnessed protests, political turnovers, sporadic violence, and waves of repression. This analysis spans key events: a new generation of activists energized long-stagnate politics and countrywide demonstrations; political rivalries pitted secularists against Islamists; and internal turmoil led to the election of a former field marshal.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Ambassador Bill Taylor remembers the Arab Spring

Ambassador Bill Taylor remembers the Arab Spring

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Ambassador Bill Taylor reflects on the significance of the Arab Spring and the changes brought about by the movement, including the democratic transition in Tunisia, the major political changes in Egypt and the role of the United States in these type of events.

Democracy & Governance

View All Publications