Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi
Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi Reuters

Egypt's top general and the head of the country's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, said on Sunday that the military will not allow a certain group to dominate national politics.

Egypt will never fall. It belongs to all Egyptians and not to a certain group -- the armed forces will not allow it, Tantawi told reporters at a military ceremony in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia.

The armed forces will not allow anyone, especially those pushed from outside, to distract it from its role as the protector of Egypt, he said. The army will never commit treason and will continue to perform its duties until Egypt reaches the shores of safety.

The statement was interpreted by analysts as an indication that the long-anticipated standoff between the SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood has begun.

Since taking over the country after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the military has gone from being the protectors of the revolution to the detractors, with many Egyptians worrying that the SCAF will not hand over power to civilian leaders. That worry expanded after a military-backed court dissolved the newly formed lower house of Parliament last month, and then blocked newly elected President Mohammed Morsi from reopening it last week.

Tantawi's statement on Sunday also hinted at the wave of xenophobia that has swept over Egypt since the revolution. Surprisingly, the Muslim Brotherhood bucked that trend this weekend, when Morsi visited with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.