Thursday September 3, 2015
Israel Hayom
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Erdogan flexes muscles as former army chief gets life in prison
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Dan Margalit

Ankara on the Nile

Seventy-five years ago, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern-day Turkey, died believing that he had left his country with the legacy of a stronger constitution, which would use the army to guarantee its enlightenment and separation from Islam. Once he died, his captains and senior officers were promptly tossed into jail, including Commander-in-Chief Ilkar Bashbo. Any hope that Ataturk had for progress faded.

For several years, the army succeeded in distancing the darker elements of Islam from the centers of power. The regime may have been conditionally democratic and the advancement of millions of Turks may not have been a priority to the army, but its efficacy exceeded its flaws. Thirty years ago, Shimon Peres himself claimed that the standard consensus in Turkey of an army threatening democracy had been reversed; the Turks were using their army as a national guard.

This fact has not escaped Egypt.

There are parallels in the development levels in both countries. What started in Turkey after World War I was manifested in the Land of the Nile after World War II. The military ruled the country, and even though its position was not set in the constitution as was the case with Ataturk's ideology, it provided the tone, more so than in Ankara.

Muhammad Najib, Gamal Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak were militarily appointed presidents and commanders.

Erdogan's rule in the name of Islam cut through the army's unique position salami-style, slice by slice. This maneuver was completed on Monday. Egypt, too, once Mohammed Morsi gained power, did not stop hacking away at the military. Morsi took advantage of a minor incident in Sinai to remove his officers from key positions, and the road to Islamic control of Egypt seemed to be paved.

This parallel included a unique interaction courtesy of the U.S., which kicked off a process with Morsi underlined by the rather overdone concept that an Islamic democracy was possible in line with the Turkish model.

It can be assumed that the blinding backdrop from Ankara impacted American policy, and it turned its back on its ally, Mubarak, once Morsi was elected. America, which erred in its belief in Erdogan's democracy, yet again failed to assess Morsi as it did with Erdogan.

However, the Egyptian army had a better grasp of the situation than its peers in Turkey did and the policy makers in Washington. On Monday, senior officers in Cairo witnessed what Erdogan did to his nation's officers -- a Stalinesque purge without actual executions -- and they realized that this could have been their fate had they not returned the tanks to Tahrir Square and expelled Morsi.

But history does not repeat itself exactly. Egypt's most senior officer, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, didn't waste time, and attacked the U.S. for turning its back on him and his friends. Despite being dependent on American support, he spoke sincerely when he said that he would not forgive America for its alienation. Even if he understands that he cannot display weakness and compromise with the Muslim extremists, as was the misguided case in Iran and Turkey, there is a chance that Egypt will not fall into the hands of the ignorant.

But the question remains -- who will feed 80 million people?

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