CAIRO — Political allies of Egypt's military lined up behind its call for huge rallies today to show support for the country's top general, pushing toward a collision with Islamist opponents demanding the return of the nation's ousted president.
But there was widespread uncertainty over the army's intentions — and worry that the military is whipping up a dangerous populist fervor.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who ousted Egypt's elected president on July 3, took many by surprise when he announced this week that he wanted people to take to the streets in large numbers today to give him a popular mandate to take the necessary measures against "violence and terrorism."
El-Sissi's call was widely interpreted as a prelude to a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the ousted Mohammed Morsi's Islamist group, and other Islamists who have been camped out for about a month at sit-ins in Cairo and elsewhere calling for Morsi's reinstatement.
Islamists also plan pro-Morsi rallies today, raising the possibility of street clashes, as have happened repeatedly in recent weeks.
In a boost to el-Sissi, the Obama administration told lawmakers Thursday it won't declare Egypt's government overthrow a coup. That allows the United States to continue providing $1.5 billion in annual military and economic aid to the Arab world's most populous country.