What Is Egyptian Military's Role Going Forward? The Egyptian military convened a special session on Thursday. Hosni Mubarak, who usually chairs the session, was not present. In his place, Mohamed Tantawi, Egypt's defense minister and head of the military was leading the meeting. What is the military's role going forward? To find out, host Robert Siegel speaks to military analyst Robert Scales — a retired U.S. Army major general and former commandant of the U.S. Army War College.
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What Is Egyptian Military's Role Going Forward?

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What Is Egyptian Military's Role Going Forward?

What Is Egyptian Military's Role Going Forward?

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

The Egyptian military command convened a special session earlier today. President Hosni Mubarak, who usually chairs the council, was not there. In his place, Mohamed Tantawi, Egypt's Defense Minister and head of the military.

SIEGEL: General Scales, what do you make of what the Egyptian army is doing right now?

ROBERT SCALES: Well, I think the Egyptian army sees its role as the one institution in the country that's held together. They view themselves as the neutral force in this process of transition. And they seek to bank on the enormous regard the Egyptian people have for their military to broker some sort of transition between the old guard and the new guard.

SIEGEL: When you issue a document that's called "Communiqué Number One," it sounds like it's the start of a new era, as though something revolutionary is happening.

SCALES: And so what you see is a sort of internal tension that seems to be evolving inside the army, as one part seeks to hold onto the old and the younger generation looks for the new.

SIEGEL: The older Egyptian army, the older officers, those who let's say were senior officers back in the '80s had been in an army that had fought wars in '48, '56, '67, '73, a war of attrition in between a couple of them. The younger officers really haven't been engaged in wars.

SCALES: It's interesting, isn't it; because the rift is driven by the bloodshed by the older generation in four wars and also by the fact that they were trained and educated by the Soviets. This newer generation that came up in the late '70s were trained and educated by us. And so there really is a cultural rift.

SIEGEL: Are young officers in the Egyptian army, do they generally seem to be well-disposed toward the United States?

SCALES: Oh, absolutely. There's a strong connection, both social as well as professional, between this younger generation - many of whom have attended our staff colleges, our war colleges and trained in the United States, versus the old generation who were tried by the Soviets, Robert.

SIEGEL: Dealing with the possibility that perhaps there was some fire for all that smoke we heard earlier in the day, that President Mubarak was going, what do you make of the story the Times of London had that Saudi Arabia is offering 1.5 billion a year to pick up the U.S. tab and guarantee Mubarak regime for not going to do that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SCALES: I don't think it means much. I don't think it's about the 1.5 or $1.3 billion. It's not about buying equipment and weapons. It's about the social connection between these two armies and shared experiences that we've been having with the Egyptians since the early '80s.

SIEGEL: Bob Scales, good to see you again.

SCALES: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: Retired General Robert scales.

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