Abdul Majeed Saqr leads the Egyptian “Defense” in a “turbulent” regional atmosphere

The broad change movement in the Egyptian government included the name of the Minister of Defense, as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi chose, on Wednesday, Lieutenant General Abdel Majeed Saqr, as Minister of Defense, succeeding Lieutenant General Mohamed Zaki.

While military experts considered the selection of a new Minister of Defense as “an opportunity to inject new blood into the military establishment,” parliamentarians pointed out that “the change came after the previous minister requested his dismissal due to health conditions.”

Saqr leads the Egyptian Ministry of Defense amidst a “turbulent” regional atmosphere, especially in Gaza, Sudan, Libya and Somalia, and amid expectations of an expansion of the war currently being waged by Israel on Gaza.

On Wednesday, the Egyptian president issued a decree promoting Saqr to the rank of lieutenant general, before announcing his selection as defense minister in the new government formation. The Egyptian constitution grants the president the right to select the defense minister from among the group of “sovereign ministries.” Article 146 of the constitution states that “the president of the republic, in consultation with the prime minister, shall select the ministers of defense, interior, foreign affairs, and justice.”

Before the official announcement of the new government, Abdel Majeed Saqr received wide interaction on social media, after local media outlets circulated news on Tuesday about his selection as “Minister of Local Development.” However, the final formation included the selection of Manal Awad instead of him, and assigning him the Ministry of Defense.

Extensive experience

Saqr is one of the military leaders with extensive experience, having held several positions within the Egyptian Armed Forces, including the Republican Guard Administration, and the Military Police Administration, reaching the position of Assistant Minister of Defense in 2015. He has also held the position of Governor of Suez since September 2018.

Member of the Egyptian House of Representatives (Parliament) Mustafa Bakri indicated, via his personal account on the (X) platform, that “the former Minister of Defense requested to be relieved of his position in consideration of his health condition,” which was also confirmed by informed military sources in Egypt.

Military expert and advisor to the Nasser Military Academy in Egypt, Major General Nasr Salem, said that changing the Minister of Defense in the new government is “a natural procedure by the President of the Republic to inject new blood into the military institution.”

He pointed out that “the selection came as a vision from the President of the Republic as part of a broad movement of change in the Egyptian government.” He listed the successes of former Defense Minister Mohamed Zaki over the course of 6 years. Salem explained to Asharq Al-Awsat that “the position of Minister of Defense is a political position, and its existence is not linked to a specific legal term.” He said that “the situation is different from the position of Chief of Staff, which is limited to a period of two years.”

New Egyptian Minister of Defense (Egyptian Presidency)

In July 2021, the Egyptian president ratified a law passed by parliament that limits the term of the chief of staff, branch commanders, and assistant defense ministers to “two years, instead of four years.” The government justified this amendment, in an explanatory memorandum to parliament, as “a desire to inject new blood into the major key positions in the armed forces.”

The advisor to Nasser Military Academy confirmed that “the selection of the new Minister of Defense came after consultation with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces,” noting that “the constitution gives the President of the Republic the right to choose the name of the Minister of Defense, but this is preceded by consultations with the relevant authorities in the Council.” He said that “the military history of the candidates to lead the military institution is studied, and then the President of the Republic chooses the most appropriate person based on the data provided to him by the Military Council.”

The Egyptian constitution stipulated criteria for selecting the Minister of Defense, as Article 234 stipulated that “the Minister of Defense shall be appointed after the approval of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.” Article 201 also indicated that “the Minister of Defense is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and shall be appointed from among its officers.”

It is customary to choose the Egyptian Minister of Defense from military leaders still in the service ranks of the armed forces. However, the Egyptian strategic and military expert, Major General Samir Farag, considered that this “is not a condition for choosing the name of the Minister of Defense,” noting that “the former Minister of Defense, Lieutenant General Sabry Abu Taleb (from 1989 to 1991) was previously chosen after he was the governor of Cairo.” He said that “this period coincided with regional tensions, including the participation of Egyptian forces in the Kuwait War.”

Farag believes that “the new Minister of Defense’s assumption of a civilian position (i.e. the governor of Suez) has given him extensive experience in understanding the mechanism of work of the rest of the state’s institutions and elements, in light of the internal and regional challenges.” He told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Abdul Majeed Saqr is known for his seriousness and severity, since he was an officer in the artillery corps,” and that he “possesses good educational and practical experience.”

Saqr is the third minister to assume the duties of the Egyptian Ministry of Defense, since Sisi assumed the presidency of the republic in 2014. He was preceded by Lieutenant General Sedki Sobhi, who continued in the position for 4 years from March 2014 until June 2018, and was followed by Lieutenant General Mohamed Zaki, for a period of 6 years from June 2018 until July 2024.

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