Exclusive: Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper full interview with General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi

 

Egypt’s Rassd media network has challenged the editor of Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper to publish in full its interview with General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. The challenge was made after the newspaper accused Rassd of taking comments made by the coup leader out of context. The Defence Minister, claimed Rassd, was filmed trying to strengthen his position in the re-drafted constitution.
The network has published a new leaked recording of an interview conducted by pro-regime Al-Masry Al-Youm where Al-Sisi is heard saying that former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi had twisted a mutual conversation to run for the presidency. The military chief behind the coup is also heard saying that many of those who have expressed their intention to run for president have done so because he has not yet announced his own position.
Following YouTube’s decision to remove the clip after pressure from the newspaper, Rassd accused the international media of complicity in the suppression of freedom in Egypt. It also said that it demonstrates the veracity of the clip in question.
A number of leaks have shown Al-Sisi making efforts to control the Egyptian media and have his position as defence minister protected by the constitution in the event that he does not become president. According to anti-coup activists, the leaks confirm Al-Sisi’s intention to run for president of the republic.

Chainsoff, obtained full interview

Interview with Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi
During a four-hour interview, Sisi did not refrain from answering any question but chose to hold back some details because, according to him, it was not yet the time to elaborate on them. While Sisi believes that the decision to oust former President Mohamed Morsy prevented a civil war in Egypt, he speaks of Morsy respectfully. He says that the Muslim Brotherhood were not equipped enough to lead a country as big as Egypt. When you were the head of military intelligence, you presented an assessment of the situation in Egypt in April 2010 in which you projected there would be a popular uprising with the people taking to the streets in the spring of 2011 and more specifically in May.

How did you reach this conclusion?

The Armed Forces is a scientific institution, and the army has to base its actions and plans on science and developments in it. We have polling mechanisms within the army that monitor a lot of what happen within the army and some of what happens outside it as part of the Armed Forces’ national role. All evaluations of the situation seemed to point out that a major event was on the horizon. I want to tell you that not everything about the first transitional period is being said, not now or in the coming years. What concerns us, of course, is that the Armed Forces base its estimations on visions that have a strategic and scientific depth. There is a lot that cannot be said at this point in time. I reiterate that the period from 25 January up to now has taken a lot of our time, thought for the future, and search for solutions. Our great military institutions have what it takes to detect issues, address givens and make projections. I tell everyone to stop talking about the past– let us talk about the future and follow up on the implementation of solutions. Let us move to the rule of former President Mohamed Morsy. I remember asking you after Morsy won the presidency if he was going to be able to break free of the Brotherhood’s control over him and become a president for all Egyptians. You said it was not about whether he was able to do that, but rather about whether he was willing to do that in the first place. So you predicted that he was not going to let the interests of the country take priority over the interests of the Brotherhood.

How did you arrive at that conviction?

Let me be frank with you. I did not want my expectations to come true. I wanted to see a new rule that would protect the country from surrounding threats, provide an atmosphere of security and stability and achieve development that satisfies the ambitions of the people. My conviction that the president was not going to let the interests of the country take priority over the interests of the group was based on an in-depth study of several factors, including the general features of the president’s personality and his relationship with the group [the Muslim Brotherhood] and its genuine goals. The problem here– and I do not mean to offend anybody– emanates from the intellectual and ideological structure of the Brotherhood. This does not belittle them but it affects their efforts in managing a state. There is a big difference between the intellectual and ideological system of any group and that of a state. Both have to be in harmony. Problems occur when they clash. In order for the two to be harmonious, one of the two has to rise to the level of the other–so either the state rises to the level of the group, which is impossible, or the group rises to the level of the state by giving up its ideological, religious system, which I think is something they will not be able to do because it goes against the intellectual structure of their group. The discrepancy between the two systems will continue to generate differences and, sensing it, the people will take to the streets in protest.

Just like a group has an intellectual and ideological system, individuals also do. However, the intellectual system an individual has may be harmonious with that of the state because an individual may choose to rise to the level of the state. This is more difficult in the case of a group because a group has one ideology and it believes that giving up one individual is akin to giving up its ideology. The answer to the question on whether the former president wanted to be a president for all Egyptians or not was not based on an opinion but a good reading of the situation because I knew what the reality of the situation was. When the Brotherhood reached power, the question was not whether Morsy was going to be a president for all Egyptians, but rather if he wanted to be a president for all Egyptians. I am not saying this to criticize anyone. In fact, this problem will face any current [leader] that is not aware of this issue. Islam for an individual is different from Islam for a group or for a state. There are things that an individual might accept while keeping his beliefs, but in the case of groups, we have a number of people who share some thoughts, which they are free to believe in. However, a group cannot force the people to have the same thoughts. This is particularly the problem with Islam for a group. Islam for a state, meanwhile, is more flexible and wider in scope, with room for diligence. Can anybody question the Islamists’ keenness on Islam? No, but the problem is they cannot distinguish between the practices of an individual of them as a human being, his practices as a member of a group, and his practices as part of a state. It is the lack of harmony between the systems governing the individual, the group and the state that has led to the current situation. They have made people see Islam as destruction. I want to tell you that those so-called Islamists have done harm to the image of Islam. Those who seem to be keen on religion have harmed Islam like never before. Islam is now synonymous to killing, blood and destruction. We have to assess the situation in an objective way and see how the world and other countries see Islam. The problem is definitely with implementation, not with the approach. It is implementation that has done harm to Islam. Concerning your question on the former president, I say there was ample evidence. The information we had confirmed what I just said. I told them more than once that I was keen on their success and said the same to the entire religious current. You became Defense Minister on August 12, 2012. Those close to the military establishment expected you to succeed Marshal Hussein Tantawi after his retirement.

I know you met Tantawi when the decision was made, so what did you say to him and how did he answer?

First there are principles that should govern us in everything. I often say that the Armed Forces is a national institution that is characterized by honesty. Sometimes the situation may be baffling and you wonder what is going on. Is there a conspiracy, treason or collusion? Is there sincerity or not? I always emphasize that the military institution is an honest, patriotic institution that does not conspire or cheat. These are very noble human values, and institutions that do not have them should review their principles well. Those who believe in such principles do not give them up whatever happens and whatever the temptations. Regarding my meeting with Tantawi, after swearing the oath, I went to the defense minister’s office and shook hands with him. What did you say to him?

I told him, “Sir, if you want me to leave, I will immediately!” and he replied, “No. You know what you mean to me and how much I value you.” I want to say that we have to know that the military institution is characterized by honesty and integrity. It does not know conspiracies or coups against leadership. Those are ethics we have deep inside. Last year during the celebrations of the 6th October War victory, it came as a surprise to everyone that while the heroes of the war were absent, the killers of former President Anwar Sadat featured prominently in the celebrations.

Some say that this event marked the beginning of tensions between the military institution and the former president. Was it seen as a sign that Morsy could not be the commander in chief of the Armed Forces? I do not agree with the idea that the former president was rejected by the Armed Forces and that this rejection grew more pronounced with time until we changed the regime forcibly. This was not true. What happened resulted from a lack of background in state affairs and on how to lead a state, especially a state as big and with the same conditions as Egypt. If they [the Brotherhood] had been aware that what they did was going to send negative signals to society and the army, they would not have done it. I am speaking very fairly. I do not want to exaggerate or claim things that are not true. I believe that they did not understand the concept of a state or how to celebrate an occasion as such. That explains how the [6th October War] celebration ended up the way it was. What happened reflected poor organization and poor judgment. He [Morsy] wanted to see looks of admiration and satisfaction in the eyes of the audience, and so he brought those who could create that sensation. Looking at the history of the Brotherhood, you must realize the deep disagreement between the group and the Armed Forces reaching back to the historical disagreement between the Brotherhood and the leaders of the July 1952 revolution, particularly former leader Nasser. You should also realize the ideological differences between the two groups. While the Armed Forces is loyal to the nation and its borders, the Brotherhood is loyal to itself and the ideas of the caliphate which transcends borders. The Brotherhood and their supporters do not realize the significance of the national flag and anthem, as well as national days like the celebration of the glorious 6th October War. The Brotherhood does not understand the need to remind the generations of the war’s significance and to honor its heroes and their families. The result was that the celebration excluded the heroes and featured the killers who belong to the Brotherhood or have ties with it. This was shocking to us at the Armed Forces. Still, as a disciplined institution, we did not show disappointment or reject such irresponsible acts which did more harm to the state, the people and the Arab world, a partner in the victory, than to the Armed Forces. Regarding the Brotherhood leadership and their websites’ insults against the Armed Forces, the Armed Forces has dealt with them in the same disciplined way. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces held a meeting with the Brotherhood and presented a comprehensive report on the former president in order to communicate the Armed Forces’ disappointment regarding his [Morsy’s] actions. His acts were not in line with the Brotherhood’s desire to achieve rapprochement with state institutions and revealed a desire to clash with everyone–the police, the judiciary, the media, intellectuals, the Armed forces and the opposition. On 11 December, you called for a community dialogue to find a way out of the political crisis. This came after Morsy issued a constitutional declaration that sparked great fury and then an amended declaration which did not appease the masses. This meeting was called off hours before it was going to be held. What happened? We all agree that the constitutional declaration and the amended declaration uncovered the Brotherhood’s scheme to hegemonize, and they sparked crises between the former president, his group and supporters on one hand and state institutions and the opposition on the other. Against this backdrop, the Armed Forces made the invitation for dialogue out of a desire to create an atmosphere which would restore dialogue and trust between parties rather than a desire to participate in the political process. The idea was well received by all parties, including the presidency.

We were keen on their [the dialogues’] success because that would have been a success for the Egyptian state, but we thought that the state of instability could continue in light of the existing economic conditions and challenges. So we said that those who want the country to stabilize and grow should help the regime that was elected by the people succeed. You cannot restructure state institutions all at once; reform has to take its time. When political disagreements grew between the presidency, the state and political powers, I felt that we, the Armed Forces, would get implicated in this problem and that the state would pay the price for it. I did not want the Armed Forces to get implicated or the state to lose. So I called Morsy and the head of his office answered. I asked him to tell the president about the Armed Forces’ invitation to dialogue. He welcomed the idea and I told him to tell the president and to have him phone me. Morsy phoned me and welcomed the idea. I asked if we should get started and he gave the green light. We extended invitations to different parties, but then I learned that some people had called up the president and pushed him to cancel the invitation in order to prevent an opportunity for rapprochement between the group and national powers, a trend which continued until 30 June. Those were the same people who called for the continuation of the Rabaa al-Adaweya sit-in after 3 July. They lack proper political and security judgment and their advice is the cause of what we have now.

Are those people from inside Egypt or outside?

They are Egyptians. Do they belong to the Brotherhood? This is not the issue. I just want to say that their advice was to prevent the dialogue session by the Armed Forces from being held. The Armed Forces, as a patriotic, disciplined institution which only wants to give advice and does not covet power, submitted to the president’s demand to cancel the invitation out of respect for the president’s status and a desire not to further complicate the crisis. You once told the former president, “You have failed and your project has ended.” When did that happen and how? That was in February. We used to meet and talk a lot. Even though the discussion of political affairs between a president and the Armed Forces is a reserved affair, I felt ethically and nationally responsible to speak very frankly, even if it led to me relinquish my position, for in all cases, I would only leave my position at the time specified by God. I remember telling him, “Your project has ended and the repulsion you have created among Egyptians is unparalleled by any former regimes. You achieved that in [just] 8 months.” On 12 April, Morsy attended his last meeting with the SCAF. The situation was tense because there were rumors that the defense minister was going to be removed. Other controversial issues related to national security, such as the Suez Canal project and the Halayeb standoff, had also surfaced. On that day we had to convey our assessment of the situation. We might bear talk that harms us [the Armed Forces] but we cannot bear to see our country in danger. In that meeting, we said that the nation was in danger and that major procedures had to be adopted in order to respond to the people’s demands to resolve the crisis.

I remember that the meeting called for by the president came at a time when rumors were circulating and reports tackled the Suez Canal project and its drawbacks, Morsy’s stance on Halayeb after visiting Sudan, and how the Freedom and Justice Party posted a map of Egypt on its website without the Halayeb triangle. The purpose of the meeting was to speak frankly and to transparently express the military institution’s concern. The meeting brought about several results. It most importantly emphasized the relationship between the presidency and the military institution and the rejection of any talk that demeans the military institution. It also emphasized adherence to the Armed Forces’ vision of national projects, particularly the project to develop the Suez Canal in conformance with development plans and national security requirements. The meeting also denied rumors about Halayeb. The leaders of chief army branches were also promoted as the step had been put off for some time. I want to say that what preoccupied us was the issue of the borders and the canal project. It concerned us more than anything that was being said about the removal of leadership. National security is at the top of our priorities. Let us move on to the Dahshour meeting with intellectuals and media professionals on 11 May. Many were shocked when you said that renewed involvement of the army in politics would pull the country back 30 or 40 years, which some saw as a sign that the army was going to let the people down. Then at the end of the meeting you said “Do not be in a haste!” What message were you sending across? Here I would like to point out the importance of not taking a statement out of its context. The statements in this meeting also emphasized the main tasks of the Armed Forces and the country’s need to engage in dialogue and cooperation in order to overcome the crisis, complete the political process and to urge the people to resort to the ballot box to establish democracy as a better option than resorting to the Armed Forces. This would have risked dragging the country backwards or pushing it into experiences similar to other countries that we would not want to go through. These statements came at a time when the political process had reached a stalemate and there were calls for the Armed Forces to intervene before the situation deteriorated further. Foreign powers were looking at scenarios for the Armed Forces to intervene. The statements a message urging all internal parties, especially the regime, to cooperate and engage in dialogue to overcome the crisis which occurred because everyone [the regime] had ignored warnings on the dangers of threatening the foundations of the state and plunging into chaos. The statement also answered foreign powers’ attempts to interfere in internal issues and cast suspicions on the patriotic role of the Armed Forces. I wanted to give the former president a chance to change his position to save face, and I called him after that meeting and said, “You now have an opportunity for a genuine initiative.” I gave him a chance to launch a real initiative to resolve the crisis in order not to complicate matters further. At the same time, I did not want the public opinion to be too harsh on the Armed Forces because I felt that the public were starting to hold the army fully responsible for what was happening and to regard it as responsible for making change happen. This was very dangerous. Why? Had I not addressed the misconception that the Armed Forces would solve all problems and end the crisis between the people and the presidency, it would have been a coup. I did not want to launch a coup, as launching coups is not the role of the Armed Forces. It [the army’s actions] is all in the interest of the Egyptian state. I wanted to tell the people that I was not going to launch a coup, but the people would have thought that we [the army] had let down their trust. I did not want to let people down or to cause them to lose hope in the army. I thought that every party should bear its responsibility and emphasized that there would be grave dangers in the case of a coup and that change would be better brought about through the ballot box.

In that meeting, you wanted to get the idea of a coup out of the people’s heads and to tell them that they had to consider another solution?

Yes, because it is very dangerous for the army to launch a coup. In the second part of our interview, we will discuss the 30 June revolution and the army’s intervention on 3 July to support the people’s revolution, but I want to ask how you assessed the situation before you intervened. The army’s decision to intervene was dictated by national interest, national security necessities, and fears of a civil war breaking out within two months if the situation continued as it was. The Armed Forces was following up on the developments and we believed that if we reached civil war, then the army would not be able to stop it. At the end of April, Tamarod called for protests and its call spread quickly among people. On 23 June, you gave a seven-day grace period for ending the crisis.

Why did you give a grace period and how did you predict the protests on 30 June?

All indicators from official reports, especially from the Information and Decision Support Center led by a Brotherhood member at the time, and unofficial reports showed Tamarod to be doing three to 15 times better [than the Brotherhood in mobilizing supporters]. In light of these indicators and reports, projections estimated four to six million people would participate in the 30 June protests. The real protests were a surprise with the lowest estimations putting turnout at 14 million people and the highest at 33 million. As I just mentioned, all projections had predicted high levels of participation and that the protesters would stage sit-ins until the regime met their demands. Meanwhile, the regime was being obstinate and it was likely that its supporters would clash with the protesters. Perhaps what we saw during the protests on June 21 and 28 in Rabaa al-Adaweya provide evidence of what I am saying. Regarding the Tamarod movement, we honestly did not speak with them until we met them on 3 July. On 23 June, we thought of giving a chance [to the regime] by proposing an initiative that incorporated the demands of the people. The highest of the demands was to put the president’s continuation in office to a referendum, a demand which we had hoped he would respond to. If the people had agreed to keep him in power [through the referendum], this would have silenced the opposition. How did the president respond after the army gave a grace period? Did he phone you? Before issuing the statement on the seven-day grace period, I briefed him on its details. I met with him frequently. He was not angry about the statement but expressed reservations on the response. However, when I gave the 48-hour ultimatum on 1 July, he was angry. I told him we had 48 hours to resolve the issue because people had taken to the streets on 30 June in extremely large numbers. I was with him when the ultimatum was given on 1 July.

When was the last time you met before the army intervened?

On 2 July. I was trying to resolve the crisis until the last minute.

Did you meet him after 3 July?

No.

One day before the former president delivered his speech at the Conference Center, Khairat alShater, deputy supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood , asked to meet you. What happened in this meeting? I remember that Saad al-Katatny phoned me and said that he and Shater wanted to meet me. I met them on 25 June and listened to them. Shater spoke for 45 minutes, and he warned of terrorist attacks and violence by Islamist groups that neither he nor the Brotherhood would be able to control. He said they were in Sinai and the Nile valley. He also said that he did not know those of them who had come from Arab countries. He also kept pointing his finger like he was pulling a gun trigger.

Was he giving his warning to the army or to the people?

I do not know, but he said that if the president left his position, those groups would go about striking and killing and that nobody would be able to control them. There would be intense fighting, he said. He said they [the Brotherhood] were being subjected to great pressures and that certain people had made the president fail. He also said that the Armed Forces’ position towards the Brotherhood had increased tensions and caused them to lose control over the Brotherhood’s bases and its Islamist members. He said the latter possessed weapons smuggled from Libya and across the borders. I know that your response was violent in that stormy meeting. What he said provoked me like never before in my life because it came across as arrogant and a show of force. I blew up, saying, “What do you want? You devastated the country and did harm to religion.” “Is it either we accept this or you kill us? Is it either you rule or kill us?” He then fell into silence. I believe he realized how we [the military] were going to respond. Katatny then asked me what the solution was and I said, “Res olve your problems with the judiciary, the church, Al- Azhar, the media, political powers and public opinion.”

Before the president delivered his speech at the Conference Center on Wednesday 26 June, did you sit with him and discuss the speech?

Yes, we sat together from 11 AM to 1 PM on that day. He [Morsy] said, “Katatny will come and we will do everything you say.” There were several solutions, and if he had found a way to satisfy the people, there could have been a reasonable way out of the crisis.

Why were you present when the president delivered his speech, even though the event seemed to have a partisan rather than national nature? And why were you smiling while he was delivering his speech?

I was there because when I am asked to solve a crisis, I do not say no. As for the smile, it was one of surprise because Katatny had told me before we entered the conference hall that everything I had recommended was going to be done, but everything that Morsy said was the opposite of what he agreed on with me and Katatny. The exception was the apology he made at the beginning of the speech. I smiled because he submitted to the orders of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership without considering the interests of the state. He relied on advisers who caused him to make mistakes and prepare a speech that did not suit a president. He could have been sued because of the speech, which is what happened in the days following the speech. “They [the Brotherhood] are already threatening the people,” I thought to myself.

Is it true that there was a list of army leaderships and public figures that Morsy was going to detain after the speech?

I want to leave this matter to fact-finding and investigation committees, but based on the position he was in at the time, he could not have done that. There was a major crisis and they [the Brotherhood] did not know how to resolve it. I believe they were resigned to letting the crisis take them whichever way, which is a sign of desperation.

When did you think there was no hope?

After the speech, it was clear that the Brotherhood saw the situation differently. I believed the [initial] protests being staged around that time did not show the reality of the situation to them well. I realized that 30 June would be the decisive moment [in which the Brotherhood understood the extent their popularity had eroded].

How did you spend the 30 June and why did you postpone the issuing of the Armed Forces statement to the following day–the 1 July–after the seven-day grace period had expired?

On 30 June, my concern was to follow up on the developments on the ground and to assess the conclusions reached before intervention. My concern was to prepare for intervention in order to protect citizens and public property if any party attempted to undermine security and threaten citizens and buildings. On 30 June, I watched what happened like everybody, and I expected large crowds to pour onto the streets. What happened was amazing and a watershed moment Egypt’s history. Egyptians took to the streets because they feared for their moderate [Islam and religion] and the future. They did not feel that the country was theirs, and this is what triggered the 30 June protests. Tens of millions of people took to the streets and made the Armed Forces face its historic responsibility of achieving the people’s will again. Simple people took to the streets, as well as young people, members of the elite and families. It was as though they were abandoning danger and fleeing to safety. They were abandoning their [unstable] reality for a secure Egyptian state, a new aspired reality. The people took to the streets to say “no we will not live this way.” They abandoned a reality they feared for a future they hoped for. Egyptians took to the streets everywhere. There were places where there were rallies but were not filmed from the air. I would like to tell Islamist to beware when dealing with Egyptians, for you treated Egyptians as though you were good and they were bad, as though you were the survivors and they were the ones who will die, as though you were the believers and they the disbelievers. This is sheer arrogance. Unprecedented crowds took to the streets and squares, yet we still have those who claim the protesters numbered only 120,000. It was the former president who alleged so. When did he say so? On 1 July, he said the number of protesters was 120,000. I told him that I would bring him CDs with the aerial footage of the protests. Why did you renew the grace period on 1 July for another 48 hours? I saw grave dangers and thought that any resolution was better [than army intervention].

When did you notify the former president of the second grace period?

I read the statement out to him as we entered the meeting with him. Someone preparing to launch a coup would not speak of it with anyone [before he launched it], would he?

How did you spend the night before the 3 July?

What were you thinking to yourself?

Did you expect the public response that welcomed the statement?

The only matter that preoccupied us [the military] during that period was how to achieve national will with the least amount of damage to the capacities of the Egyptian state. This prompted us to review and scrutinize all plans and cover all possible scenarios. I enjoyed peace of mind, because we do not covet power or have a certain [political] interest. We were seeking to achieve popular will. We only feared God and his Prophet. I was also sure of the popular support for the practices of the Brotherhood eroded their popular base. Still, I was hoping the standoff would be resolved and I had three people close to the former president tell him that the way out of the crisis was to hold a referendum on whether he should continue even though the public might not accept that. But it seemed they thought the army feared confrontation and that it will eventually step back at a certain point.

How did you prepare for the announcement that the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court would manage the country and the rest of the situation when you read out the statement?

I thought religious institutions such as Al-Azhar and the church had to be present because they are responsible for society. We also invited Mohamed ElBaradei, representatives of women, Tamarod, Nour Party and the judiciary, as well as the Freedom and Justice Party, but they did not respond to the invitation. The statement reflected popular demands for early presidential elections under the auspices of a neutral government. The elections would be held after a limited transitional period during which the Constitution would be amended and the people’s economic and security demands met. The image of all those [various religious leaders, political leaders, and representatives] clearly reflected the alliance of national powers to achieve the will of the people. Did you inform the U.S. of the statement before reading it out? I said clearly that we did not notify, cooperate, coordinate or take permission from anyone. The incidents and the statement are an internal Egyptian affair. No country, no matter what the relations are, has the right to interfere in Egyptian affairs. Also, the statement was meant to achieve popular will agreed on by all segments of society and was an expression of Egyptians’ desires that brought them to the streets for the big revolutions in January 2011 and June 2013. These demands included freedom of opinion, expression and creed, as well as freedom from subordination to any foreign powers. Our foreign relations are based on mutual interest and respect as well as non-acceptance of interference in internal affairs and attempts to change decisions made in national interest.

How did you spend the night after reading out the 3 July statement?

I read the statement and then went to my mother’s place.

What did she say to you? My mother is at an age where she cannot follow what is going on, but I am strongly attached to her. She is a genuine Egyptian woman in every sense of the word. She raised me to rely on God and accept destiny. What prayers did she make for you? (His eyes swelling with tears) She said, “May God protect you from all evils.”

How did your family respond?

They knew that this marked the beginning of hardship.

How many children do you have?

Four. A girl and three boys.

Do you have grandchildren?

I have four, thank God. The eldest is a four-year old girl. After the 3 July statement, a constitutional declaration was issued that discussed a roadmap for the second transitional period beginning with amending the constitution and then electing a parliament and president.

Was this order of events a lesson learned from the first transitional period?

There are lots of lessons that we learned from the first transitional period, the first of which is that the Armed Forces should not be at the forefront [of the transition] and that power has to remain in the hands of a civil government and president. Second, there are problems [which must be addressed] that spark dissatisfaction among the populace, such as failing to amend the Constitution. We also learned that the parliamentary and presidential elections should follow the amendment of the Constitution with nomination being open to everyone. I want to say that what the people did as well as what we did was only a response. They [the Brotherhood] were making the initial actions, and the people and the army were responding. If they had properly assessed the situation, we would not have reached this point. It would have been better for them to accept advice and acknowledge their mistakes. Keeping the country out of danger is a national duty and a religious responsibility. Calls to bring down the police and the army will lead to years of instability and result in the deaths of many.

Who will take responsibility for this before God?

You addressed the people on 24 July and asked them to take to the streets two days late r in order to authorize you, the army and the police to face potential violence and terrorism. How did you think of this?

Based on studies, science and understanding, you have to realize that the intellectual paradigm governing the religious bloc would [eventually] lead them to resort to violence because they think they are right. I expected escalation. We are indeed seeing people who possess weapons and bomb places. We arrest armed militants on a daily basis. Imagine if the police had been broken and had not received that morale boost from the people? Reconciliation between the people and the police was a divine miracle. When you were addressing the people, did you really believe they would respond? I did not doubt that they would, not even for a second. I was sure they were going to take to the streets. In your address, you said, “This is the first time I ask something of you.” I feel a certain closeness with Egyptians.We both feel it.

Were you worried when you went to sleep that night?

No.

Was the only goal of the rallying call to get the authorization to face potential breakouts of violence and terrorism?

The goal was not this as much as it was to emphasize to the world how much the people want change, especially after some started to seek support from foreign powers on the pretext that what happened was a military coup. I placed my trust in Egyptians based on the belief that change would satisfy the people and achieve the ambitions and goals of the revolution: bread, freedom, social justice and human dignity. The widespread, popular response to my call burdened me and my colleagues with further responsibility to achieve the ambitions and dreams of Egyptians. The Egyptian people placed their trust in us, and God and history will hold us accountable for it.

Did you expect the numbers to be that big?

Frankly, I expected more people, and I even said, “This is not the number I expected to take to the streets.”

You say that even though tens of millions took to the streets in an unprecedented way?

To be frank, yes.

I always strive for the highest levels of perfection. Still, I was very happy until the Nasr City clashes broke out on 27 July. The decision to confront attempts to storm the Republican Guards House was quick, while the decision to disperse the Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda sit-ins was delayed.

Why is that? And were your estimations of the casualties close to the real tolls?

First, you cannot compare the Republican Guards House incidents with the dispersal of these two sit-ins. In the case of the Republican Guards House, there was an attempt to storm a military establishment using force. This placed army forces in a position of self-defense and the response had to be swift. This was confirmed by the incident reports. There were untrained people shooting, which caused unintended losses. People were flocking to the place where the former president was kept– which is also a military zone– and they were attempting to break into it and light fires. The same day, we transferred him [Morsy] to another location. As for the decision to disperse the Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda sit-ins, the state was keen to give a appeasement a chance through political means and took into consideration the fact that it was Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr. Time was also given for examining and planning in order to avoid losses on both two sides after it had been confirmed that the two sit-ins were armed. After 48 days, not hours, and several warnings, security bodies decided to implement the judicial order to break the two protests in conformance with international standards. Both sides incurred losses as a result of the protesters’ use of weapons. Regarding the numbers of victims, there were several reports, and there are considerable discrepancies between official reports and what other sources found. It is best to wait for the results of fact-finding committees and investigations. How did you feel after hundreds of people died during the dispersal of the sit-ins? First, all national institutions and state officials are keen not to spill Egyptian blood. Regrettably, blood is being spilled due to conflicts over power and for the interests of a select group [the Brotherhood]. They use this blood to feed the impression that they are the victims in order to win the support of foreign powers to threaten the Egyptian state. Of course, the Egyptian state is keen on restoring security and stability and preserving lives, but it will not let go of security for the sake of a group that does not value its country and spills the blood of its followers.  The dispersals came after the state waited 48 days. The continuation of those sit-ins would have had catastrophic repercussions for national interests. The sit-ins infringed on the freedom of the residents living in those areas, especially after the sit-ins armed themselves and started to carry out criminal activities against the residents. They also had negative impacts on the environment, public health, transportation and the economy. They also threatened societal peace. The sit-ins became all the more threatening when they provided a platform for empowerment from foreign powers, threatening the Egyptian state and its integrity. This would have paved the way for reproducing the current situation in Syria. We feared there would be more losses and the other side was waging a mental war against us. We asked them to end the sit-ins, but they did not want to listen or think.

What would have happened if the two sit-ins had not been dismantled?

The country would have begun to disintegrate.

Could Egypt be on the verge of civil war again like it was toward the end of Morsy’s rule?

This cannot happen. We intervened to protect the country at the request of the people. To those who call for putting the roadmap to a referendum, I say, we are already past this and working to achieve the people’s demands.

Did you expect to get the support of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan?

We appreciate their support, and Egyptians will not forget that. Frankly, their support was beyond expectations.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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