The following are excerpts from Washington Post senior associate editor Lally Weymouth’s Aug. 1 interview with Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, Egypt’s defense minister, armed forces commander and deputy prime minister.
Sissi: The Egyptian military does not make coup d’états. The last coup was in the fifties. There is a very special relationship that binds the Egyptians and their military.
The dilemma between the former president and the people originated from the ideology that the Muslim Brotherhood adopted for building a country, which is based on restoring the Islamic religious empire.
It was always in their minds that they have the exclusive truth and the exclusive rights. This made them lead the country only to satisfy the grass-roots that they represent. That’s what made him [Morsi] not a president for all Egyptians.
Weymouth: When did that become obvious to you?
It was obvious [from] the day of his inauguration. He started by offending the judiciary … [Then] The Brotherhood experience in ruling a country was very modest – if not absent. A major part of their culture is to work secretly underground.
We [the army] dealt with the president with all due respect for a president chosen by the Egyptians. We were very sincere in all the assessments that we referred to him throughout the period I was in my office as commander in chief.
We understand also that the military’s intervention to support the Egyptians was not a surprise. We can go back [through] my statements, starting with my invitation to the political powers in Egypt to come to a negotiating table for reconciliation in November of last year until the last 48-hour deadline I gave the president and the political powers to come to a compromise.
Was this before the constitution?
Before. There was sincere advice referred to the president [by the army] on developments on the ground and . . . proposed recommendations [as to] how to deal [with them].
So you were giving the president advice on Ethiopia and the Sinai, for example, and he was ignoring you?
The military [was] very keen and predetermined on [Morsi’s] success. If we wanted to oppose or not allow [the Brotherhood] to come to rule Egypt, we would have done things with the elections, as elections used to be rigged in the past.
Unfortunately, the former president picked fights with almost all the state institutions — with the judiciary, with the al-Azhar religious institution, with the Coptic church, with the media, and with the political powers. Even with public opinion. When a president is having conflicts with all of these state institutions, the chance of success for such a president is very meager. On the other hand, the president was trying to call in supporters from religious groups.
From inside Egypt. He was trying to call in and mobilize around him people with religious backgrounds in order to show that he had support.
But not from other countries?
Both, as a matter of fact. It was available at that time for these people to come to support him from the inside or the outside.