Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi
On August 12, 2012 Egypt's new President Mohamed Morsi has forced out the country's top two military officers, announcing the immediate retirement of Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi and Army Chief of Staff Sami Annan. The move comes after growing tensions over military operations in the northern Sinai, following a recent attack by militants that killed 17 Egyptian soldiers. Field Marshall Tantawi and top generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had given themselves powers before the presidential election that some analysts compared to a “check-and-balance” system. The unexpected moves by the president came as tensions mounted between him and top officers of the armed forces council.
On 11 February 2011 President Mubark resigned. The country is now ruled by the Armed Forces Supreme Council, which is the military's top body consisting of top generals and headed by Defense Minister Field Marshal Muhammad Hossein Tantawi. Tantawi was appointed minister of defense and commander-in-chief of the armed forces In 1991. During recent protests, he was also promoted to deputy prime minister, while retaining his title as minister of defense. The 75-year-old Field Marshal has been mentioned as a possible candidate for presidency. On Thursday, Tantawi chaired a meeting of the Supreme Council with neither President Hosni Mubarak nor Vice President Omar Suleiman present.
Mohamed Hussein Tantawi Soliman was born on October 31st, 1935. An Infantry officer, he was commissioned April 1st, 1956. He was awarded a Masters Degree in Military Science from the High War College.
Tantawi is aged and change-resistant. Charming and courtly, he is, nonetheless mired in a post-Camp David military paradigm that has served his cohort's narrow interests for the last three decades. He [and Mubarak] were focused on regime stability and maintaining the status quo through the end of their time. They simply did not have the energy, inclination or world view to do anything differently. The veteran of three [not five] wars with Israel is committed to preventing another one ever. But he is also frozen in the Camp David paradigm and uncomfortable with our shift to the post-9/11 GWOT. Recognizing that he is reluctant to change, the US nonetheless urged Minister Tantawi towards a broader and more flexible partnership based on shared strategic objectives, including border security, counter-terrorism, peacekeeping and civil defense.
Decision-making within MOD rests almost solely with Defense Minister Tantawi. In office since 1991, he consistently resisted change to the level and direction of Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funding and was therefore one of the chief impediments to transforming the security relationship with the United States. Nevertheless, he retained President Mubarak's support.
Tantawi and his senior leaders recognized and appreciated increased engagement with the U.S. military, which provided the US an opportunity to highlight for them the need to sharpen and focus the Egyptian military's mission to reflect new regional threats. Tantawi continued to resist US offers of additional counter smuggling assistance. Sovereignty concerns were likely driving his hesitation, along with concerns that FMF funds may be directed away from more high-profile programs like M1A1 tanks and aircraft.
Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi traveled to Washington, Tampa, and Chicago 24-28 March 2008. He met senior officials in Washington and at USCENTCOM HQ in Tampa, and viewed U.S. civil defense arrangements in Chicago. Tantawi sought assurances that the US will not condition or reduce military assistance to Egypt in the future. He emphasized Egypt's continuing value to the United States as an indispensable ally in the region, and he pressed to return BRIGHT STAR to a full field training exercise. Tantawi argued in early 2008 that Egypt was doing everything within its power to stop smuggling into Gaza but was not the only source of weapons in Gaza. He believed that Israeli politicians are blaming Egypt for domestic political reasons and resents the impact on Egyptian military assistance. He also urged the US to exert influence on Israel to ease humanitarian conditions in Gaza.
In the cabinet, where he still wields significant influence, Tantawi has opposed both economic and political reforms that he perceived as eroding central government power. He was supremely concerned with national unity, and has opposed policy initiatives he views as encouraging political or religious cleavages within Egyptian society. In a speech on 09 March 2008, Tantawi said one of the military's roles is to protect constitutional legitimacy and internal stability, signaling his willingness to use the military to control the Muslim Brotherhood in the run-up to the 09 April 2008 municipal council elections. On economic reform, Tantawi believed that Egypt's economic reform plan fosters social instability by lessening GOE controls over prices and production. Tantawi rejected any conditioning on Egyptian FMF on human rights or any other grounds. Before 2008 he thought that FMF was inviolable and regarded ESF as a layer of protection against possible cuts to FMF. He has argued that any conditions on military assistance are counter-productive. He hass also stated that the military is not behind human rights problems in Egypt and that U.S. Congressional human rights conditionally is mis-targeted.
The regime has not allowed any charismatic figures to reach the senior ranks. Defense Minister Tantawi looks like a bureaucrat. The mid-level officer corps is generally disgruntled, and one could hear mid-level officers at MOD clubs around Cairo openly expressing disdain for Tantawi. These officers refer to Tantawi as "Mubarak's poodle," and complain that "this incompetent Defense Minister" who reached his position only because of unwavering loyalty to Mubarak is "running the military into the ground."
MAJOR COMMAND POSITIONS
- Commander, Infantry Battalion.
- Chief of Operations, Infantry Division.
- Military Attache to Pakistan.
- Chief, Planning Branch, Operations Department, Field Army.
- Chief, Operations Branch, Operations Department, Field Army.
- Commander, Infantry Brigade.
- Chief, Operations Branch, Armed Forces Operations Authority.
- Commander, Mechanized Infantry Division.
- Chief, Planning Branch, Armed Forces, Operations Authority.
- Chief of Staff, Field Army.
- Commander, Field Army.
- Commander, Presidential Guard.
- Chief, Armed Forces Operations Authority.
- Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Minister of Defence and Military Production.
- 1956 WAR.
- 1967 WAR.
- 1973 WAR.
MEDALS & DECORATIONS
- Liberation Order.
- United Arab Republic Anniversary Order.
- Distinguished Service Order (Pakistani).
- End of Occupation Decoration.
- Military Independence Decoration.
- Victory Decoration.
- April 25th Decoration.
- Military Duty Decoration, Second Class.
- Training Decoration.
- Distinguished Service Decoration.
- Military Bravery Decoration, Second Class.
- Longevity Medal.
- Army Day Medal.
- Combat Injury Medal.
- The Tenth Anniversary of the Revolution Medal.
- The Twentieth Anniversary of the Revolution Medal.
- The 6th October Medal.
- Kuwait Liberation Medal (Egyptian).
- Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwaiti).
- Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi).
- Saudi Combat Decoration.
- The Tunisian Medal.
- The Pakistani Medal.
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