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Updated: July 27, 2013 01:32 IST

What Morsy did not learn from Erdogan

Chinmaya R. Gharekhan
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Unlike the Turkish Prime Minister, who waited patiently to implement his Islamist agenda and sideline the army, the ousted Egyptian President rushed to impose the Brotherhood’s programme on an unwilling nation

Nations, like individuals, seldom learn from the mistakes, as well as successes, of others. Mohamed Morsy, the ousted President of Egypt, ought to have observed the hitherto cautious approach adopted by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey. Mr. Erdogan bided his time to gradually implement the Islamist agenda of his party (the Justice and Development Party) and to sideline the army’s role as the self-appointed guardian of the country’s secular character. His patient approach has paid off handsomely, with a majority of Turks backing him and his party.

Blatant acts

Mr. Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood too commanded significant support in Egypt. They had things going for them. But, unlike in Turkey, they were in too much of a hurry to implement their Islamist agenda. The fact that the Brotherhood had been persecuted for over 50 years and waited so long for power had no doubt a lot to do with its impatience. An Islam-oriented Constitution was imposed. Brotherhood members were blatantly appointed as governors and to other key positions. While the mediation between Hamas and Fatah in Palestine was successfully brought about, the ruling regime in Syria was condemned and diplomatic ties with it were ruptured. This last step was clearly carried out on sectarian considerations as also to please the Americans since it followed closely on the heels of United States President Barack Obama’s decision to provide more weapons to the rebels, and most probably did not reflect popular sentiment.

Now, it is the turn of the Egyptian military to imbibe lessons from recent Turkish history. It must not assume that it has become genuinely popular and can act in a blatantly anti-democratic manner. The genie of people empowerment has come out of the bottle in the largest Arab country and it will definitely not acquiesce in a prolonged power grab by the army. Millions will again take to the streets if they feel their hard won power is slipping away from their hands. The ‘moderate’ Islamist regimes in Tunisia and Libya would no doubt draw their own lessons from the Egyptian upheaval.

The foreign minister of Qatar, mediating on behalf of America, suggested compromise formulae during the critical days leading up to the June 30 demonstration, in essence advising the appointment of a new Prime Minister and calling for fresh parliamentary and presidential elections within about six months. The U.S. National Security Advisor was reported to be directly involved in these last minute parleys, but Mr. Morsy either did not see the writing on the wall, under-estimated popular sentiment or/and was not permitted any flexibility by the ‘murshid,’ leader of the Brotherhood.

Mr. Morsy’s behaviour could be explained by several factors, but the failure of the U.S. to read the situation correctly and its perseverance in interfering and influencing the course of developments are intriguing. It has given billions to Egypt since 1979 when the latter’s peace treaty with Israel was concluded. This gave the Americans access to the military but not a decisive clout; indeed they have become intensely unpopular in the country. The similarity with Pakistan on this count is striking.

There is yet another parallel with Af-Pak. Like with the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Americans have never had any problem with the Brotherhood. They have had very good relations with the Brotherhood for years. Though Mr. Morsy had taken certain steps, such as appearing to reopen contacts with Tehran, which the U.S. would not have approved, by and large, the U.S. was comfortable with him. According to several sources in Cairo, America had played a significant role in the events, which brought Mr. Morsy to power a year ago. Brotherhood leaders have frequently travelled to Washington. President Obama himself had received Essam al-Haddad, Mr. Morsy’s influential foreign policy advisor. Another point of striking similarity with Pakistan: the generals who overthrew the elected civilian heads of government in Islamabad and Cairo were handpicked for the job by the same civilian leaders.

The one country which was most upset with America on this score was Saudi Arabia which lost no time in expressing its pleasure at the downfall of Mr. Morsy by offering a big aid package to the new regime and prevailed upon its fellow Sunni sheikhs in UAE and Kuwait to cough up similar assistance. Qatar, which had given more than $8 billion to the Morsy regime, has suffered a setback, as has Turkey. Besides the ongoing ‘Great Game’ between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the region is witnessing another struggle for influence between the Saudis and Qataris. According to some sources, the abdication of the previous emir of Qatar in favour of his son has a complicated story, with the situation in Syria having something to do with it. The most significant development, however, is the breach of trust between Saudi Arabia and the U.S.

Persecution imminent

Israel will not have to worry about the peace treaty since it was the Egyptian military which had concluded it. There is no doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood will be persecuted. The military has always, since Nasser’s coup in 1952, dealt very harshly with it. The killing of several soldiers in the Sinai by suspected Islamic extremists is unlikely to be forgotten, much less forgiven, by the army. With the Brotherhood in the doghouse, its offshoot Hamas will become nervous about its relationship with the emerging regime in Cairo. Already there are reports of the military destroying scores of ‘tunnels’, which are the lifeline for the people of Gaza. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, would no doubt welcome Hamas’ weakening. Hamas, in turn, could resort to adventurism against Israel to remain relevant.

Impact on Syria

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria will surely welcome the developments in Cairo. In any case, no one even in Washington is talking of his early exit from power. The rebels are hopelessly divided and spending their energies and ammunition on killing one another.

The military has appointed an interim President and declared a rather speedy timetable to amend the Constitution by deleting the offensive provisions and submit it to a referendum, as well as hold presidential and parliamentary elections. Egypt will not have to go to the International Monetary Fund in a hurry in view of the largesse of Saudis and others. A professional and respected economist has been appointed Prime Minister.

Mr. Morsy’s followers are following the example of the Tahrir multitude; dozens of them have died at the hands of the security forces, but their deaths have not elicited any sympathy from the ‘secular’ crowd. This is sad. The military, like in Pakistan, has huge vested interests in Egypt’s economy. However, given the mood of the people and their ability to organise massive demonstrations through social media as well as readiness to face police excesses, it is unlikely that the army would try to overstay in power.

Needed healing touch

It is imperative for the authorities in Cairo to bring about an atmosphere of some trust and harmony; in the absence of a healing touch, Egypt could descend into a prolonged period of instability and civil strife. Egyptian general Abdel Fatah El-Sisi’s speech on July 24, exhorting people to come out on the streets and support the military’s crackdown on the Brotherhood does not bode well for two reasons: it clearly demonstrates that he is in charge and calls all the shots, and it further polarises Egyptian society. Let us hope all the similarities between Egypt and Pakistan do not lead Egypt into internal turmoil, with al Qaeda-affiliated groups fishing in troubled waters.

(The writer is Adjunct Senior Fellow, Delhi Policy Group, former Special Envoy of India for West Asia)

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In the interest of protecting the Coptic minorities the army has rightfully removed Mohamed Morsy.

Egypt is not India where democracy and secularism is ingrained in the majority of citizens.

Eqypt needs someone lik Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to remove religion from public life and promote Egyptian Identity.

Seeing the public anger against Erdogan it is clear Turks have realized the mistake they made in bringing to power and allowing successive terms for Brotherhood

from:  Sriram
Posted on: Jul 29, 2013 at 13:41 IST

I'm a great admirer of Erdogan for many reasons.... 1. He gave back Turks their identity, as Muslims and Turks without contradiction...similar to Gandhi and Mandela. Turkey is not as multicultural like France let alone India or South Africa hence the axis of race and religion is not important 2. He put the military back in the barracks without bloodshed or strife 3. He put turkey in the centre of its foreign policy (central Asia, Arab works, Europe) and joining EU aside.... Giving turkey it's rightful place in the world. 4. He gave Kurds their long denied cultural rights... The only significant minority.... Thereby paving the way to peaceful reconciliation 5. Most importantly he retained sufficient political capital all through to implement what is clearly a course correction from the army imposed westernization initiated in the post ottoman era.

from:  Taizoon
Posted on: Jul 29, 2013 at 08:02 IST

Morsy had taken certain steps, such as appearing to reopen contacts
with Tehran, that's the biggest mistakes done by brotherhood. As an
arab country Egypt could survive with support of arab countries, tehran
link never works better..

from:  mohd yoosuf
Posted on: Jul 28, 2013 at 13:12 IST

With all respect to Indian democracy, I don't think that Egyptian have
chosen any thing worse than autocrat Modi. He is killing minorities in
the country and destroying their institutions, minorities don't feel
safe under Modi and his terrorist allies. Still people are looking
towards him for next prime minister of India. Morsi didn't kill
thousands of people like Modi but he is still being criticizing, when is
world going to criticize Modi ?

from:  Farhan
Posted on: Jul 28, 2013 at 07:26 IST

whatever the analysis you might draw from the recent disturbing anti
democratic developments in Egypt, but the illegitimate and anti
democratic action of Army cannot be justified by the some political
mistakes of Morsi. The world must condemn this Egyptian Army brutality,
if it wants to remain the faith of people of democracy be alive. Authors
comparison of MB with Taliban is immature.
Let us be very genuine on democracy world wide without any prejudices.

from:  farhan sumbul
Posted on: Jul 28, 2013 at 01:18 IST

Since someone brought up Turkey, it's best to point out Erdogan has
cleverly shifted the ideal of Turkish secularism as enshrined as one
of the six arrows of Kemalism. Turkey follows the French brand of
secularism known as "laicite" or "active secularism" which means the
state shall actively stamp out religion and its expression from the
public sphere. Any policy made out on a religious basis shall apply to
all religions equally. The comment here has confused that with the
American model of secularism which is "passive secularism" ie the
state shall ignore religion in its actions.

Erdogan, by reversing Kemal Pasha's strict ban on headscarves in state
institutions, promising to build a "generation of the pious" in Turkey
in a speech loaded with Islamic agenda, instituting state funding for
Imam Hatip schools and so on has violated Turkish secularism.

from:  Aritra Gupta
Posted on: Jul 28, 2013 at 00:54 IST

Morsi's PhD proves nothing. Osama was a fully qualified engineer and
Zawahari is a certified eye doctor.
What is missing from the author's otherwise spot-on analysis is how
the mainstream media outlets are blocking out the views of the liberal
secular political bloc while constantly airing the views of the
Brotherhood which has chapters all over the world and which probably
counts the detention of Morsi as more of a political blank check than
a personal tragedy. Most of the "on the ground" reporters choose to
report from Brotherhood rally spots and seem to be giving anti-
Brotherhood gatherings a deliberate miss.
And as for "democratically elected" the mere dropping of chits of
paper into a box does not mean democracy. Democracy means making
informed choices which might prove difficult for a people with zero
exposure to a popular electoral process.
Egypt is simply going through the pains of the birth of its democracy,
nothing more.

from:  Aritra Gupta
Posted on: Jul 28, 2013 at 00:45 IST

Even from the fifties and under Gamal Abdul Nasser, Egyptians had a womens group called Binte Neel.They had been much westernised .If the muslim brotherhood wants to impose Saudi typeof social constraints, the middle classes are bound to remonstrate. This hs resulted in the removal of Morsi.One hopes that unlike Nasser and Mobarrak, the opponents are not physically done with.

from:  subbanarasu divakaran
Posted on: Jul 27, 2013 at 23:55 IST

This analysis misses the key point that the agitations from Egypt, and Tunisia to the Afghani resistance and Pakistani Taliban is a serious challenge calling for an end to American colonialism. Capitalism has always sought to enslave everyone, first a nation's workers, and later the rest of the world. This colonialism is challenged first by the workers of Russia and later peasants of China. After the collapse of Russia, American and European colonizers remained to be defeated. Iraqis single handedly brought down the American empire to the brink of collapse by 2008. Afghani Mujahedin took over from Iraq and now are dealing the next blow to the decrepit American imperialism. Egypt should be understood as a continuum of the struggle of the world to throw out the colonizers. No matter how Americans want to play this game, they do not have the resources as they are now financially dead. They cannot wage another war. Their interference will only increase the ire of the world.

from:  Vivek Verma
Posted on: Jul 27, 2013 at 23:25 IST

The writer has come out with information even the american public like me dont know.However educated he may be the art of governing is the one Mursi lacked.He was guided by his religious mentors who wanted to push on the throats of egyptian people their bitter pill.The minorities never had this problem under previous regimes.This applies even to Saddam Hussain under whom all walks of faith lived with honor.........

from:  kirubakaran
Posted on: Jul 27, 2013 at 21:40 IST

One more aspect is that Mursi ignored the lesson on how Erdogan handled the Kurds issue and declared truce. A similar approach could have been replicated by him to handle the anti-brotherhood parties within Egypt. If he had brought them to his side rather than oppose them headon , we would still be seeing him in the driver seat.

from:  Ansaar
Posted on: Jul 27, 2013 at 20:35 IST

@Misbah,
You are either blind or you are trying to mislead us into believing
those 'qualified' Muslim brotherhood leaders are good for us all. I
suggest you (and other readers too) try watching the documentary about
god by Richard Dawkins where a muslim brotherhood leader openly
threatens Dr. Dawkins by saying Dawkins is afraid of the truth and
such.

Seriously, Go get a life Mr. Misbah. We all know organisations like
Muslim brotherhood are all hell bent on bringing an islamic caliphate
on this world. It doesn't matter they have a degree or not, all they
want is islam in the world by hook or crook.

Kudos to Mr.Garekhan who reports without any bias to religion.

from:  Karthik
Posted on: Jul 27, 2013 at 20:12 IST

@Misbah,
Are you telling us that a Ph.D in Engineering makes a person smart in
politics?

or are you telling that people having these big degrees can't be closet
islamists? Do you have better arguments to Mr. Garekhan's article or do
you have poor debating skills?

from:  Karthik
Posted on: Jul 27, 2013 at 20:06 IST

Why is the example of Erdogan worth emulating when he is making Turkey
more theocratic and less secular? The bigger point is this ( and one
that budding democracies in the Muslim world will have to painfully
learn):democracy is not a default option. It takes years and years of
civilised conflict management and discipline for a nation to develop
the democratic temper. This is exactly what our freedom movement did
for us: it prepared us for democracy over nearly a hundred years.As
for secularism, we cannot be a united or civilised nation without it,
as Nehru famously said. The need is for a moderate, culturally-rooted
Islam to emerge all over the world to counter political, globalising,
fundamentalist Islam.When these nations have struggled hard with
trying to solve problems while simultaneously respecting diversity of
faith and opinion, they will be ready for democracy. Sadly, we in
India do not completely understand our own strengths and take them
much too much for granted.

from:  Dharen Chadha
Posted on: Jul 27, 2013 at 18:46 IST

Islamic countries are in a critical stage in their history. Practically in all of these countries, America has supported the monarchs and dictators at some point in history. Egypt is no different. From the time of Anwar Sadat, USA went of the way to support the military regimes. For ill or well, Muslim brotherhood was able to come to power in Egypt a year ago. Why must not the rest of the world allow Egyptians to choose their own future, that is, who should rule them, what role the armed forces play, what kind of economic structure it should follow and so on? Interference could lead to a situation like what is happening in Syria. I believe that Egypt should be left alone.

from:  Dr Srinatha HR
Posted on: Jul 27, 2013 at 18:09 IST

Egypt has been a secular state for decades and the country's large minority population felt secure. Morsy wanted to change all that and put in place Taliban like policies.

from:  krishna
Posted on: Jul 27, 2013 at 16:21 IST

Very poor analysis. It looks like a cut and paste job from western media outlets. The author has no idea of the internal political dynamics of Egypt and the larger American control on all ME monarchies to safeguard the illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel. Moreover comparing Muslim Brotherhood, a grass roots organization whose leaders are highly qualified (Remember Mr Morsy has a Doctorate from US) with Taliban is hilarious.

from:  Misbah
Posted on: Jul 27, 2013 at 15:20 IST

With the civil-war in Syria not ending and the sanctions against Iran
not fruitful, Coup of US supported regime in Egypt, skirmishes between
Turkey, a NATO member and Israel, a staunch US ally over the Flotilla
incident of 2010 and also over Palestine issue of illegal construction
in occupied areas, opposition against inhuman drone-strikes killing
many innocent citizens, world's anger against Internet Data
surveillance, spy data collectors in country embassies, erode of trust
between Saudi Arabia and US with the former pledging $8 Billion to the
interim Govt. in Egypt, Tamarod's stand to kick-out US ambassador
Ms.Patterson seen as a Muslim Brother Supporter, Division with in the
NATO and EU over use of extremists/rebels in Syrian civil war etc;
Seein this situation,it doesn't bode well for the USA.

Legitimacy is the key in West Asia as seen in Turkey, even with
Islamic laws. People in egypt might have been bit more patient, had
Morsy followed secular path with political reforms.Alas!

from:  Rajashekhar RK
Posted on: Jul 27, 2013 at 11:05 IST

Beyond my comprehension is the reason for being so gloomy about ouster of an islamist who was turning to be an autocrat.Well,the author misses one very crucial point while comparing Egyptian army with their Pakistani counterpart,the former has always vouched for secularism and vehemently fought with religious extremism,the later has tacticaly supported and nurtured it.

from:  manish
Posted on: Jul 27, 2013 at 09:44 IST

Well balanced article...

from:  Mujeeb
Posted on: Jul 27, 2013 at 08:11 IST

Mr.GHAREKHAN's analysis is superficial and is nothing but the same
tunes played on the flute of the West which he borrowed and is
broadcasting for his Indian audience. Unfortunately it does not
resonate with the reality on ground. Democracy cannot be held
hostage to either military vigilantism or to the regime change
obsession of the West and the dictatorial cravings of it's poodles
in the Middle East. Those who fail to condemn coup de'tats and
persecution of elected representatives unequivocally shame
themselves. As it was wrong in India for the opposition to conspire
with media and use Anna Hazare as a pawn to mobilise large scale
demonstrations to make the government bow to its demands instantly
without recourse to due processes it is equally wrong in Egypt,
Brazil or anywhere in the world. 70% of the elected representatives
in Egypt are shoved out of office at gun point. The future of
democracy is burning. Today we have more Neros in the West and in
house than ever.

from:  Saleem Ahmed
Posted on: Jul 27, 2013 at 07:59 IST

Disagree with Mr/Ms Gharekhan. I think the answer lies in the fact that Turkey is one of those rare secular countries where "secular" is not a euphemism for being anti religion. In Turkey secularism means the religion is irrelevant to the state. Turkey has a per capita GDP about twice that of China and the ruling party has very consistently garnered a significant portion of secular vote.

from:  Tipu Qaimkhani
Posted on: Jul 27, 2013 at 05:18 IST
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