Ken Stier explains Egypt's relationship with its military.
All eyes turned to Egypt's military as protests shook the regime and President Hosni Mubarak's grip on power. Described again and again as the most trusted and stable of the country's institutions, it is, at the same time, one of the most mysterious and veiled. It is also one of the most powerful and untouchable. While the Cabinet and ruling party were revamped, the military portfolio remained the same. Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi remains both Defense Minister and Minister of Military Production, which makes him, in effect, CEO of a vast military-run commercial enterprise that seeps into every corner of Egyptian society.
It's hard to overstate how entrenched the military is. It is universally hailed for its heroism fighting against the colonial British, and later against the Israelis. Virtually all Egyptian families have contributed officers or conscripts to its ranks, which number nearly half a million soldiers in uniform and about the same number in reserves. The military also fields and sponsors several of the country's most popular sports organizations. And, during recent bread riots, it helped mollify angry crowds by ramping up production from its own bakeries.