Muhammad Tantawi

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Hussein Tantawi
حسين طنطاوي
Tantawi in 2002
Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
In office
11 February 2011 – 30 June 2012
Prime Minister
DeputySami Anan
Preceded byHosni Mubarak (as President)
Succeeded byMohamed Morsi (as President)
Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement
In office
11 February 2011 – 30 June 2012
Preceded byHosni Mubarak
Succeeded byMohamed Morsi
Minister of Defense and Military Production
In office
20 May 1991 – 12 August 2012
Prime Minister
Preceded bySabri Abu Taleb
Succeeded byAbdul Fatah al-Sisi
Personal details
Born(1935-10-31)31 October 1935
Cairo, Kingdom of Egypt
Died21 September 2021(2021-09-21) (aged 85)
Cairo, Egypt[1]
Political partyIndependent
Alma materEgyptian Military Academy
  • Liberation Order
  • United Arab Republic Anniversary Order
  • Distinguished Service Order
  • Order of the Nile
Military service
Allegiance Egypt
Branch/service Egyptian Army
Years of service1955–2012
Rank Field Marshal
CommandsCommander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces

Muhammad Hussein Tantawi Soliman (Arabic: محمد حسين طنطاوي سليمان, romanizedMuḥammad Ḥusayn Ṭanṭāwī Sulaymān; 31 October 1935 – 21 September 2021) was an Egyptian field marshal and politician. He was the commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces[2] and, as chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, was the de facto head of state from the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak on 11 February 2011 until the inauguration of Mohamed Morsi as president of Egypt on 30 June 2012.

Tantawi served in the government as Minister of Defense and Military Production from 1991 until Morsi ordered him to retire on 12 August 2012.

Military career[edit]

Field Marshal Tantawi with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, 7 March 2006

Tantawi, who was of Nubian origin,[3][4] joined the Egyptian Military Academy in 1952 and received his commission as an Army officer on 1 April 1955 in the infantry. The following year he took part in the Suez War (or the Tripartite Aggression as it is often known in Egypt) as an infantry platoon commander. He was promoted to major in 1961 and commanded an infantry company in Yemen during the North Yemen Civil War. Later in his career he was involved in the Six-Day War of 1967 as a battalion commander, the War of Attrition of 1967–1970, and the October or Yom Kippur War of 1973. During the Yom Kippur War he was a lieutenant colonel commanding the 16th mechanized infantry battalion. He held various command and staff appointments including both the Chief of Staff and then Commander of the Second Field Army between 1986 and 1989. Additionally he served as a military attaché to Pakistan between 1983 and 1985, an important role given the two countries' political and military links. Tantawi served as a Commander of the Republican Guard Forces between 1989 and 1991, and later a Chief of the Operations Authority of the Armed Forces. In 1991, he also commanded an Egyptian Army unit in the U.S.-led Gulf War against Iraq to force Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, which it had invaded in 1990.

On 29 May 1991, following the dismissal of Colonel General Youssef Sabri Abu Taleb, Tantawi was promoted to lieutenant general rank and appointed minister of defense and military production and commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces. After one month he was promoted to general colonel rank, which he held for two years before being promoted to the rank of field marshal, the highest rank in the Egyptian military, in 1993. It is believed that Tantawi would have succeeded Mubarak as President of Egypt had the assassination attempt in June 1995 been successful.[5] Early in 2011, Tantawi was seen as a possible contender for the Egyptian presidency.[6]

Robert Springborg wrote that "Foreign military professionals... liken[ed] Tantawi to the CEO of the largest corporate conglomerate in Egypt" because his primary concern was the economic well-being of the military, not the performance of its nominal tasks and duties.[7]

Egyptian Revolution[edit]

On 11 February 2011, when President Hosni Mubarak resigned, after 18 days of protests from the Egyptian people, Field Marshal Tantawi transferred authority to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, headed by himself. The council, overseeing issues with the Chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Farouk Sultan, dissolved the Egyptian parliament,[8] oversaw the referendum over temporary constitutional amendments which took place on 19 March, and presided over summons to justice, for accountability, of Air Chief Marshal Mubarak and many of the former regime's top figures.

Field Marshal Tantawi with U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 11 February 2012

On a personal level, Tantawi kept a relatively low profile since the handing over of power to the council, only making a first public appearance in an address to mark the graduation of a batch at the Police Academy on 16 May 2011. He opted to leave most public speeches and press releases to other senior members in the council; he also appointed Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and his cabinet. Tantawi also received a number of foreign officials, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

After a new series of protests in November 2011, that escalated by 22 November to over 33 dead and over 2,000 injured in the wake of the use of force by the police to quell protests at Tahrir Square and its vicinity, Tantawi appeared on Egyptian national television to pledge the speeding up of presidential elections – the principal demand of protesters – and that the armed forces "are fully prepared to immediately hand over power and to return to their original duty in protecting the homeland if that's what the people want, through a popular referendum if necessary."[9]

On 12 August 2012, Egypt's president Mohamed Morsi ordered Tantawi to retire as head of the armed forces and defence minister.[10] Tantawi was decorated with the Order of the Nile and appointed, instead, as an advisor to Morsi; there was speculation that his removal was part of a pre-arranged withdrawal by the military from political power in exchange for immunity from prosecution for earlier actions.[11]


Criticism of Field Marshal Tantawi in Egypt was manyfold,[12] including many chants in Tahrir for him to leave.[13] Chants against Tantawi included "Tantawi stripped your women naked, come join us."[14] Protesters also "demanded the execution of Tantawi."[15]

Nabeel Rajab, the head of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, criticized Tantawi for his reception for Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain, in October 2011. "This is a very bad message from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to the international community, the Egyptian and Bahraini people", he said. "Continuing this path threatens Egypt's democratic future", he added.[16]


Tantawi died on 21 September 2021, following a period of ill health.[17][18]

Medals and decorations[edit]

Egypt National honors[edit]


  • October War 1973 Medal
  • October War 1973 Combatants Medal
  • Wounded of War Medal
  • Longevity and Exemplary Service Medal
  • Kuwait Liberation Medal (Egypt)
  • Silver Jubilee of October War 1973 Medal (1998)
  • Silver Jubilee of Liberation of Sinai Medal (2007)
  • 25 January 2011 Revolution Medal
  • Army Day Medal
  • Golden Jubilee of 23rd 1952 Revolution Medal (2002)
  • 23rd 1952 Revolution 10th Anniversary Medal (1962)
  • 23rd 1952 Revolution 20th Anniversary Medal (1972)
  • Liberation of Sinai Decoration (25 April 1982)
  • Military Duty Decoration, First Class
  • Distinguished Service Decoration
  • Military Courage Decoration
  • Commemorative Decoration of Establishment of the United Arab Republic
  • Military Decoration of Independence
  • Liberation Decoration (officers)
  • Military Decoration of Evacuation
  • Victory Decoration
  • The Republic's Military Decoration
  • Training Decoration, First Class


Foreign honors[edit]


  1. ^ "Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, Egyptian general and placeholder for military rule, dies at 85". The Washington Post. Associated Press. 21 September 2021.
  2. ^ "The Cabinet". Website of the President of Egypt. 2005. Archived from the original on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 12 October 2007.
  3. ^ "Egypt State Information Service (Official Egyptian government website)".
  4. ^ Paradise Lost[permanent dead link] Egypt Today (Google cached version)
  5. ^ Sobelman, Daniel (2001). "Gamal Mubarak, President of Egypt?". Middle East Quarterly. 8 (2): 31–40.
  6. ^ Morrison, James (30 January 2011). "Cairo in Chaos". The Washington Times. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  7. ^ Springborg, Robert. "Learning from failure: Egypt." In The Routledge handbook of civil-military relations, Routledge, 2013, p. 95.
  8. ^ Lee Ferran (25 January 2011). "Egypt Trades Torture Supervisor for 'Mubarak's Poodle'?". ABC News. Retrieved 2 February 2023.
  9. ^ "Egypt military pledges to speed up power transfer". BBC News. 22 November 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2023.
  10. ^ "Egypt leader Mursi orders army chief Tantawi to resign". BBC News. 12 August 2012.
  11. ^ Hussein, Abdel-Rahman (13 August 2012). "Egypt defence chief Tantawi ousted in surprise shakeup". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  12. ^ "Egyptian Military Maintains Censorship Where Criticism of Its Leaders is Concerned". 7 December 2011.
  13. ^ "Million-strong protests in Egypt demand end of military rule, Tantawi accepts Cabinet resignation, battle continues – Egypt". Ahram Online.
  14. ^ "Egypt: 10,000 march in protest at woman dragged half-naked through street". The Daily Telegraph. London. 21 December 2011.
  15. ^ Hamza Hendawi (21 December 2011). "Egypt women march against army in fury over abuse". Arab News. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  16. ^ Ahmed Al Samany (2 November 2011). "حقوقي بحريني: "استقبال "العسكري" للملك رسال سيئة.. والجزيرة تجاهلت أحداث البحرين"". Tahrir newspaper. Archived from the original on 5 September 2015. Retrieved 27 December 2011.
  17. ^ "Former Egyptian defense minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi dies at 85". Arab News. 21 September 2021.
  18. ^ "Egypt's first post-Mubarak ruler, Tantawi, dies aged 85". France 24. 21 September 2021.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces
Succeeded by
Preceded byas President of Egypt Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of Egypt
Succeeded by
SCAF dissolved
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Defense and Military Production
Succeeded by
Preceded byas President of Egypt Head of state of Egypt
Succeeded byas President of Egypt
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement
Succeeded by