Egypt's army chief issued a bleak warning yesterday that the nationwide chaos in which 52 people have been killed is pushing the country to the brink of collapse.
The statement from Abdel Fattah al-Sisi – a former spy chief who was elevated to commander-in-chief last summer by President Mohamed Morsi – marked the first time that the military has reared its head since the latest wave of violence began on Friday.
After tanks and troops were deployed to protect the three cities sitting along the Suez Canal over the weekend, General Sisi's comments were a stark reminder of the clout still wielded by Egypt's military following its retreat from the political fray last year.
"The continuation of the struggle of the different political forces . . . over the management of state affairs could lead to the collapse of the state," said the general, who also sits as minister of defence in Mr Morsi's cabinet.
He added that the country's economic and political challenges were a "threat to the security of Egypt and the cohesiveness of the Egyptian state".
With the nation's political institutions crippled by post-revolutionary gridlock, and an unreformed police force which appears unable or unwilling to contain escalating street violence, some believe Mr Morsi is a president sitting on a throne of bayonets.
The controversial constitution which was hurriedly rubber-stamped in December granted the military substantial perks, effectively placing Egypt's officers and their extensive economic interests above civilian oversight.
In yesterday's statement, which was published on the army's official Facebook page, General Sisi added that the army would remain "the solid and cohesive block" on which the state was based.
The comments may alarm some Egyptians who are wary about the military's decades-old influence on the nation's political institutions. Yet most are less concerned about the meddling of their beloved army than they are about the deteriorating security situation. (© Independent News Service)