Can Egypt's most popular man bring stability?

(CBS News) Cairo -- For weeks, Morsi's supporters from the Muslim Brotherhood have been staging sit-ins. On Wednesday, Egypt's new leaders ordered the police to clear the protesters out.

With another deadly crackdown looming, one man could determine what happens next.

Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is the most popular man in Egypt. He was sworn into power a year ago by President Mohammed Morsi -- the very man he ousted on July 3.

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Sisi is now widely regarded as this country's savior for ridding Egypt of a deeply unpopular president.

A woman holds a sign of Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's face.
A woman holds a sign of Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's face.
CBS News

On the street, vendors are doing a brisk business in anything that has Sisi's face on it. He's become so popular that some are asking whether he's poised to become the Arab world's next military strongman.

Last week, Sisi called for mass protests and hundreds of thousands turned out. CBS News saw people fighting to get posters of their hero.

Sisi claims he has turned over power to a civilian government, but his popularity has raised questions about his own political ambitions. Retired Gen. Sameh Seif al-Yazal isn't worried.

"He will not be involved at all; he will not run for office. Take my word," he said. "He told me that, personally."

Gen. Sameh Seif al-Yazal
Gen. Sameh Seif al-Yazal
CBS News

Sisi already holds three of the most powerful jobs: commander of the armed forces, defense minister and deputy prime minister.

On Wednesday, the interim government ordered the break-up of the Muslim Brotherhood's protest camps. There have been two mass killings of Morsi supporters in the past few weeks, but Gen. Yazal said it will be the Muslim Brotherhood's fault -- not Sisi's -- if things turn bloody.

Yazal told CBS News he doesn't think things can be resolved peacefully.

"From what I see right now and the cards on the table and knowing their mentality quite well, I think they (the Muslim Brotherhood) want to escalate the situation. They want a lot of blood."

"I know quite well that the police try definitely to make it the easy way, not the hard way," he continued. "But I'm sure they will not do it the easy way, I'm sure they will like the hard way."

The Muslim Brotherhood has said it is not threatened by Wednesday's announcement. Their spokesman has accused the military of being "hungry for more blood" and argues that their protests are peaceful. Any attempts to disperse protests, they said, will only harden their resolve.

  • Clarissa Ward

    Foreign Correspondent, CBS News

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