ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. The U.S. has delayed plans to deliver F-16 fighter planes to Egypt. The move is intended to send a message of concern about the Egyptian military's management of the country after ousting the elected president. The news came on the same day that Egypt's military chief, General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, called for mass demonstrations.
He asked Egyptians to gather later this week in support of the army. Analysts are interpreting that as a sign of an impending crackdown on the Islamist supporters of former President Mohammed Morsi. Morsi's allies called it a declaration of civil war. NPR's Leila Fadel has more from Cairo.
GENERAL ABDUL FATAH AL-SISI: (Speaking foreign language)
LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Addressing a graduating class of military cadets in Alexandria, General al-Sisi called on all honorable, honest Egyptians to take to the streets on Friday. To give me a mandate and an order, he said, to confront the potential of violence and terrorism. Violence has already escalated across the country in the three weeks since the military ousted Morsi. Dozens have been killed and hundreds wounded in clashes between Morsi's supporters and the security forces, as well as between rival groups of protestors.
General al-Sisi's speech seems to signal a further escalation. His critics fear that what he's really seeking is carte blanche to go back to the days before the 2011 uprising, when members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups were routinely arrested and imprisoned.
GEHAD AL-HADDAD: That the threats made by al-Sisi, leader of the military coup, is nothing short of a full (unintelligible) on civil war and a warning that massacres will be held under a false cover of popular support. We assert that the blood of the martyrs will always and forever be victorious on the bullets of treason.
FADEL: That's a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, Gehad al-Haddad, speaking at a press conference in the middle of a sit-in of Morsi supporters in eastern Cairo. The pro-Morsi camp responded to General al-Sisi's speech with a call for rival demonstrations, pledging to fill all public squares. If that leads to violence, Haddad says, all that bloodshed will be on Sisi's hands.
He says the military chief already deserves to be tried in an international criminal court for crimes against humanity. With the rhetoric and the violence escalating, few here have much hope for reconciliation, at least in the near-term. Haddad spoke to NPR shortly before General al-Sisi's address.
AL-HADDAD: We all live with the consequences that we make. And the consequences that we have to live with are the army bullets tearing our flesh. But the consequences that the rest of Egypt's going to have to live with is a new cycle of military dictatorship with a civilian face slapped on top of it.
FADEL: Al-Sisi's speech made it clear that the military also believes the time for talk is over.
AL-SISI: (Speaking foreign language)
FADEL: Speaking to the Egyptian people, Sisi said, I ask you now to show the world your will and determination. If others want terror, the police and the army will do what's necessary to confront it. His call for mass protest drew an immediate response from Tamarod for rebellion, the grassroots group that organized the signature campaign that led to Morsi's ouster.
Many Egyptians will likely heed this latest call. The protest inspired by Tamarod late last month drew the largest crowd since the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak and the group is already pledging its support for the armed forces in what it called its upcoming war against terrorism. Analysts here accuse both the military leadership and the Muslim Brotherhood of playing with Egyptian lives to achieve their ultimate goals.
These analysts are quick to point out that a full-blown civil war here is unlikely, but as long as Egypt remains polarized, low intensity violence will continue with the potential for it to spiral out of control. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.