Egyptian Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Sisi will almost certainly run for president, preparing to combat a rising Islamic insurgency he more or less created.
Though Adly Mansour has been serving as Egypt's interim president since the Army deposed former president Mohammed Morsi over the summer, Sisi is recognized as being the country's de facto leader. On Thursday, Reuters (citing an unnamed Kuwaiti newspaper) reported that Sisi said he will run for president. Though the Egyptian Army denied that he made the statements, they did not refute his candidacy. And according to The Los Angeles Times, preparations for the campaign have been underway for months:
Unofficially, the campaign has long since begun. Posters of Sisi are ubiquitous across Cairo. Last week, Egypt's top military council publicly urged the field marshal to run, hours after he was elevated to the country's top military rank.
Sisi would have to resign his army post to be eligible to run -- and, indeed, the army is expected to reorganize its cabinet soon.
According to the Kuwaiti paper, Sisi said he is running because the Egyptian people demand it. And the Egyptian public does seem to want Sisi in power, perhaps because the Egyptian military has long been the most stabilizing force in the country, stepping in to rein in dictators and maintain calm.
But electing Sisi into office could end up destabilizing the country further by egging on Islamist extremists who have recently stepped up attacks in Egypt in response to the forcible removal of Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, and the Brotherhood's recent classification as a terrorist group. According to The New York Times:
After Mr. Morsi’s ouster in July, militants across the region turned their attention once again to Egypt. The military overthrow of a freely elected Islamist fulfilled the predictions of jihadist ideologies that power could never be won through democracy, and they have pounced on the opportunity to proclaim their vindication. International terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, began calling for Muslims inside and outside of Egypt to take up arms against the government.
Egypt, long immune to Islamist terror attacks, has seen a spate in recent months. Reuters reports "a wave of bomb attacks targeting police" in Cairo on the third anniversary of Mubarak's overthrow, hailed at the time as a peaceful triumph. According to The Times, Islamists in the region have focused on targeting Egypt's Western backers rather than the country itself, but Morsi's ouster is changing the formula:
The Brotherhood, which has publicly denounced violence for decades, once helped combat militancy by channeling Islamist opposition into the political process. But the new government has now outlawed the Brotherhood.
Two attackers, one who committed suicide in a car bomb in a failed attempt to assassinate the country's interior minister, and one who killed himself in his home during a police raid, were fighting in Syria before returning to Egypt. If Egypt joins the ranks of Middle Eastern countries plagued by Islamist terrorism, the global ramifications would be massive. Counterterrorism researcher Brian Fisher told The Times that "the world is being turned on its head, and, for the United States, the ability to rely on Egypt as a stabilizing force in the region -- rather than a source of problems -- is really being challenged."
Ultimately, the choice of whether Sisi becomes Egypt's next president following the country's upcoming election may not be up to the Egyptian public. The Muslim Brotherhood's terrorist designation means there are no viable parties to challenge Sisi, and the country's ridiculously high approval rating for its new constitution leads us to believe its definition of "democracy" is rather fuzzy. So unless there's another round of revolts, Egypt's future is written on the wall.