This story, which was originally posted on July 2, has been updated to reflect the events in Egypt today.
After days of growing protests across Egypt, the military has removed embattled President Mohammed Morsi and suspended the country's constitution, paving the way for an interim government ahead of early presidential elections.
Two years ago, during Egypt's 2011 revolution, the storyline was simple. A broad cross section of Egyptians took to the streets to demand the removal of Hosni Mubarak, the president who had been in power for three decades.
The plot is much more complicated in the latest upheaval. Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, is an Islamist who was democratically elected. The military, which was in conflict with the protesters two years ago, is now allied with the demonstrators, who have been calling for Morsi's ouster.
Here's a look at the major players — and where they stand — in the country's latest political crisis:
Mohammed Morsi: The U.S.-educated engineer became Egypt's first democratically elected president in June 2012, and was ousted from power a year later, on July 3. According to reports in the Egyptian state media, he and scores of other officials are now under a travel ban.
Morsi is using his official presidential Twitter feed to respond to his removal from power by Egypt's military, saying it represents "a full coup categorically rejected by all the free men of our nation." He also has urged his followers to "adhere to peacefulness and avoid shedding blood of fellow countrymen."
His next moves are unclear.
Morsi ran into trouble almost immediately after his election. His opponents accused him of authoritarianism and demanded that he step down. Morsi's supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood rallied strongly behind Morsi, and clashed in the streets with his opponents.
Through a spokesman, Morsi acknowledged mistakes during the standoff leading up to his ouster, but remained defiant until the end, insisting he would not step down.
The Military: The military's involvement in events this week thrust the armed forces back into the center of Egyptian politics. The military effectively ran Egypt for 16 months after Mubarak's ouster, but retreated after Morsi was elected.
Despite its role in engineering and announcing Morsi's overthrow and a plan for political transition, the military has said it is not looking to take power. And it is "still licking its wounds from the year and a half in which the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces directed Egypt's transition to democracy," writes RAND Middle East analyst Jeffrey Martini in Foreign Affairs. But, he notes, "June 2013 is not January 2011 ... Having intervened once and gotten burned in the process, the generals are likely to be a lot more circumspect this time around."
Nonetheless, the military declared it will "sacrifice even our blood for Egypt and its people, to defend them against any terrorist, radical or fool." It remains to be seen how far it's prepared to go.
Protesters: United under the name Tamarod — Arabic for rebellion — the protesters began their campaign two months ago as a signature petition to demand Morsi's ouster. The group, which said it gathered 22 million signatures, rallied in Cairo and across the country last Sunday, the first anniversary of Morsi's ascension to the presidency. The ranks of protesters swelled, culminating in Morsi's overthrow Wednesday.
Members of the youth group that led the charge against Morsi were present at today's announcement.
Protesters were calling for new presidential elections — a demand that appears to be met by the transition plan laid out today. The New York Times has written that the five friends who began the signature campaign all "worked in opposition news media, but have distanced themselves from political parties. They were all Muslims and personally devout, but deeply distrustful of the political Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood."
U.S.: Morsi's ouster may present a prickly situation to the U.S. government, NPR's Michele Kelemen says. So far, the White House has not officially commented on today's events, although Kelemen notes that U.S. officials might hesitate to call the incident a coup.
The U.S. recently released more than $1 billion in military aid to the country that is dependent on the Egyptian government meeting certain democracy standards — and precludes aid to countries where the elected head of government is deposed by a military coup or decree.
Earlier, the White House had said publicly that it's committed to democracy in Egypt, and urged Morsi to ensure "that the voices of all Egyptians are heard and represented by their government." It's a message that was reiterated earlier today during a State Department news briefing — before the military announced Morsi's removal.
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