The recent developments in Egypt and Turkey, as well as the May 11, 2013 general election in Pakistan, that marked the first transition between civilian governments in a country ruled by the military for more than half of its history, brought to the attention the complex phenomena resulting from the influence of two co-existing and often competing forces: the often secular military and the political Islamist movements.

Most analysts agree that Egypt’s evolution since the 2012 “Tahrir revolution” that brought down the Mubarak regime have parallels in Pakistan and Turkey, where overbearing militaries have also manipulated the democratic process. In Pakistan, the result is a state that most consider as failing. In Turkey, civilians have prevailed, producing an economically strong, regionally influential country, but with dangerous trends towards, if not a dictatorial, a least an Islamized, non-secular regime, very different from the one designed by Kemal Atatűrk in the 1930s.

In 2012, Egypt’s generals have dismissed the elected parliament, arrogated new powers, and put Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood on notice that he can assume the presidency only if he accepts the military’s oversight. When Egypt’s interim government rejected an assistance package from the International Monetary Fund, it was at the urging of the military. The IMF demanded reforms that would have affected prerogatives of the military, whose enterprises account for a third of the economy.

The military was also behind raids on nongovernmental organizations working to promote democracy in Egypt, and it warned the political parties, especially Islamist groups, not to take their newfound liberties too seriously. In the end, the world saw again the Egyptian military in action, this time against an elected government, albeit one considered to be drifting towards an authoritarian regime.

In many of their moves, Egypt’s generals seemed to be following the 1988 script of their Pakistani counterparts. The military ousted from power the civilian government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979, but after the 1988 death of military dictator Zia ul-Haq in a plane crash, the Pakistani army withdrew to its barracks and let free elections bring a civilian government to power. However, the generals informed Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto that her authority was limited to simple administrative issues and she could not interfere with the military’s role in the economy. When she defied them, the military used a constitutional amendment from Zia’s days to dismiss her. It did the same with the following civilian governments, until a 1999 military coup interrupted democracy. Pakistan resumed elections in 2008, but democratic institutions remain feeble. Two decades of this charade have made for a weak country, infested with corruption and extremism, on the edge of instability.

Turkey’s military also marked the country’s history with several coups and tightly controlled the democratic process until 2002, mostly using the judiciary to discipline and control politicians. The courts dismissed an Islamist-led government in 1997 and twice banned Islamist parties. But in Turkey, beginning in 2002, with the landslide parliamentary victory of the mildly Islamist Justice and Development Party, the military’s hold on power began to slip and civilians have gained the upper hand. However, the recent uprisings showed the unhappiness of the society about the perceived drift of the ruling forces towards radical Islam and dictatorship.

The June 2013 uprisings in Turkey, as well as the Egypt developments showed the powerful influence of the political Islamist groups that in all three countries share the ideology promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood. The complex relationship between radical Islam and the military is a distinct feature in all the three countries and its analysis may offer interesting conclusions for their future evolution, as well as for the regional and international implications.


I. Three groups, similar Islamic ideologies: the Muslim Brotherhood, Jamaat-e-Islami, the Gűlen Movement


According to some historians, political Islam may have its origins at the beginning of the 20th century, when the British used Islam to legitimize the rulers they imposed after taking over the Middle East in World War I. Because of this, Islam was seen by much of the Arab population as just another part of the colonial establishment and the anti-colonial movements, such as those of Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt), Mossadegh (Iran) and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (Pakistan), were nationalist, but primarily secular in nature. When the nationalist movements began to succeed, the British turned to their Islamic allies to subvert the new independent regimes. The Muslim Brotherhood and its Pakistani counterpart, Jamaat-e-Islami, emerged as the most important movements of this kind.

The Muslim Brotherhood: early Masonic connections in Egypt

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB)[1] emerged out of Egypt in 1928 and its original mission was to Islamize society through promotion of Islamic law, values, and morals. An Islamic revivalist movement from its early days, it has combined religion, political activism, and social welfare in its work. In its ideology, the Brotherhood is looking at a mythical past as a solution for the current problems. Yet its modus operandi is using the methods of modern political movements to spread its ideas and mobilize support. The Brotherhood seeks the Islamization of society for the creation an Islamic state, through proselytizing, spreading the ideas of the group, and convincing people to buy into this interpretation of Islamism.

Some British historians sustain that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was connected with the British Intelligence and British Freemasonry. Its connection with the British Intelligence Service was allegedly through dame Freya Stark[2] during World War II. Starting in the 1950s, according to former intelligence official William Baer, “The CIA (funneled) support to the Muslim Brotherhood because of “the Brotherhood’s commendable capability to overthrow Nasser”[3]. These covert links to the CIA were allegedly maintained throughout the government of Hosni Mubarak.

Other historians point to the influence, in the process of the Muslim Brotherhood’s creation and early development, of the British Freemasonry, which came to Egypt after the British occupation in 1882.

Freemasonry appeared in Egypt soon after Napoleon’s conquest in 1798, when General Kléber, top commander in Napoleon’s army and a French Mason, established the Lodge of Isis. French Masonry dominated Egypt until British lodges began to appear.

Two 19th century Islamic leaders who inspired the Brotherhood’s founder were Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, who is considered the founder of the political pan-Islamic movement and Mohammed Abduh, mufti of Egypt, were also Freemasons. Al-Afghani entered the Kawkab Al-Sharq (“Star of East”) Masonic Lodge on 7 July 1868 during his stay in Cairo. He also founded the Masonic Lodge of Cairo and became first Grand Master of it. Throughout his life he was an activist for Muslim self-determination, but several times he visited London where, according to one biographer, he connected with his lodge members. Al-Afghani agitated against British imperialism and advocated modernization for the Muslim world. Before being expelled from Egypt, he became an important figure at Al-Azhar University in Cairo and his most important disciple was Mohammed Abduh.

Mohammed Abduh studied logic, philosophy and Islamic mysticism at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Under al-Afghani’s influence, Abduh combined journalism, politics, and his own fascination in Islamic mystical spirituality. In 1899, he was appointed Mufti of Egypt and he held this position until he died. Mohammed Abduh also joined the “Star of the East” Masonic lodge and, in line with the Masonic principles, he sought to encourage unity with all religious traditions. When asked why he and his teacher, al-Afghani became Masons, he replied that it was for a “political and social purpose”.

Two of the main mentors of Hassan al-Banna, the MB’s founder, were students of Mohammed Abduh: al-Banna’s father, Sheikh Ahmad Abd al-Rahman al-Banna, and Mohammed Rashid Rida, a freemason who moved in the British circles of influence, publisher of the monthly magazine, The Lighthouse, which reflected the British point of view by agitating against the Ottoman Empire[4]. Al-Banna grew up reading Rida’s publication and, at his death in 1935, Rida had placed all of his hope for an Islamic resurgence in al-Banna’s Muslim Brotherhood. The other factor in Hassan al-Banna’s life was Freemasonry, since, as a young man, he also was a member of the Masonic Brotherhood. This was usual for someone growing up in the higher echelons of Egyptian society at the time and his membership was not considered a betrayal of Islamic values.

Historians consider that the Muslim Brotherhood’s success in the early stages could not have been achieved without the approval of the British ruling establishment, and al-Banna’s association with the Masonic Brotherhood may explain how efficiently it was organized and how it fit into Egyptian society. Like the Masonic Brotherhood it was established initially as a charitable organization. However, while Freemasonry was liberal and allowed members of all faiths to join, the Muslim Brotherhood was focused specifically on Islam and was aimed for Muslims only. Like Masonry, the Muslim Brotherhood was devoted to secrecy and it was run according to a pyramidal command structure.

After World War II ended, al-Banna found himself in a struggle for power against the monarchy and the secular Wafd party, and his organization was seen as the most militant, the most radical and the most dangerous. In 1948, members of the Muslim Brotherhood were implicated in the assassination of the police chief of Cairo and the government retaliated in December of 1948 dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood. On February 12, 1949 Hassan al-Banna was himself assassinated by Egypt’s secret police.

Jamaat-e-Islami: for Pakistan and the entire Muslim world

The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI – “Islamic Society”) was founded in 1941 and it has its ideological origins in the thought of Maulana Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi (1903-1979), an Islamist intellectual who opposed the secular nature of the British-sponsored Pakistani government. His works also influenced the global Muslim Brotherhood[5] with which the JI always had close relations. Both organizations still consider themselves branches of the same movement.

The Jamaat-e-Islami ideology was based on the all-encompassing nature of Islam and the concept of “Tajdid”, which is, according to Mawdudi, “an effort to re-establish Islam in its pristine purity and to reconstruct the fabric of life and society in given space-time context in accordance with Islamic values and principles”. For Mawdudi, the “Tajdid”, was the purpose of the Jamaat-e-Islami, which also needed a reformer who would lead in carrying out these actions.

According to Mawdudi, the Jamaat-e-Islami was to identify, select and organize those who responded to the revolutionary call on one common platform, and to devise a program for their moral, intellectual and social uplift. Mawdudi emphasized the need for creating first a small, informed, dedicated and disciplined group who would provide the leadership to the community through precepts and examples and achieve the objectives of the Islamic revolution. Then, it would be time to start an all-out campaign for the regeneration and the reconstruction of the collective life of the community along Islamic concepts of life.

The Jamaat began as a movement with the premise that the Hindu and British influence and power had led the Muslims of the sub-continent astray from the path of Islam, which he held synonymous with material and spiritual prosperity. Jamaat-e-Islami was not supposed to be a movement just for the Muslims of India, but was to transcend all geographical boundaries and encompass the welfare of the whole world.

Jamaat-e-Islami supported the overthrow of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto by General Zia ul-Haq. As in the case of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt, Bhutto was considered an enemy of the West, for having withdrawn Pakistan from the British Commonwealth, for implementing nationalistic policies, for leaning towards the Soviets and for seeking to develop nuclear energy. When General Zia ul-Haq announced a death sentence on the imprisoned Bhutto, he executed it in spite of the international protests, but only after receiving assurances from Jamaat-e-Islami that the execution would not lead to internal unrest. In the years that followed the Jamaat-e-Islami became Zia’s most important backer and Pakistan was driven into a process of Islamization.

Jamaat-e-Islami was also instrumental in the developing by the U.S. and British intelligence of the Islamic opponents of the Afghanistan pro-Soviet regime even prior to the Soviet invasion. General Zia and the Jamaat-e-Islami were two crucial elements that made the mujahedeen revolt in Afghanistan successful.

The Gűlen movement: a “success story” (?!) in Turkey

Although the Turkish system developed by Kemal Atatűrk in the 1930s was strictly secular, the political Islam was present in Turkey, being represented, in the 1960s, by the groups led by Islamic politician Necmettin Erbakan, who launched in 1969 a manifesto titled Milli Görüş (“national vision”)[6]. The manifesto[7] remained associated with a religious-political movement with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and a series of Islamist parties inspired by Erbakan, one succeeding the other as they were banned for violating Turkey’s secularist legislation.

Among these groups the most successful proved to be the one led by Fetullah Gülen, the son of a village imam in Anatolia who was inspired by the teachings of Said Nursi, a Kurdish Sufi preacher. When Ankara, in its fight against communism in the 1980s, invoked the ideology of the “Turkish-Islamic synthesis”, Gülen seized the opportunity. He founded schools in Turkey and abroad, and he became an adviser to the secular Prime Minister Tansu Ciller.

In one of his sermons, Gülen called upon his students to establish a new Muslim age. He advised his supporters to undermine the Turkish state and act conspiratorially until the time was ripe to assume power. When a recording of this speech was leaked to the public in 1999, Gülen had to flee from Turkey. He has been living in exile in the United States ever since, claiming that his words were manipulated.

People who have broken ties to Gülen and are familiar with the inner workings of this community characterize the movement as a sect or an ultraconservative secret society. The Gülen movement has two sides: One that faces the world and another that hides from it. Its finances are particularly murky. Rich businessmen donate millions, but civil servants and skilled manual workers also contribute to the financing of Gülen projects. Fethullahcis are said to donate an average of 10 percent of their income to the community, with some giving up to 70 percent.

Gülen movement’s influence in Turkey was enhanced when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s party, the AKP, won the parliamentary election in 2002. Observers believe that the two camps entered into a strategic partnership at first, with Gülen providing the AKP with votes while Erdoğan protected the cemaat (the Gülen movement’s religious communities). According to information obtained by US diplomats, almost a fifth of the AKP’s members of parliament were members of the Gülen movement in 2004, including the justice and culture ministers. In 2006, former police chief Adil Serdar Sacan estimated that the Fethullahcis held more than 80 percent of senior positions in the Turkish police force. “The assertion that the TNP (Turkish National Police) is controlled by Gülenists is impossible to confirm but we have found no one who disputes it”, wrote in a 2009 cable James Jeffrey, the US ambassador in Ankara.

The influence of the movement in Turkey may be measured by the fate of some of its critics and investigators. Ilhan Cihaner, former chief prosecutor of Turkey, who was considered a hero among secular Turks since he investigated illegal financial transactions in the Gülen community in 2007, was taken off the case and subsequently arrested in 2010. He was accused of being a member of the “Ergenekon” organization, who had allegedly planned to overthrow the government. Cihaner was eventually released because of insufficient evidence, and became a member of the opposition in the Turkish parliament.

In September 2010, Hanefi Avci, a former Turkish police chief and former Gülen sympathizer, was arrested and accused of having participated in the “Ergenekon” conspiracy. He had just published a book in which he accused Gülenists in the police of illegally wiretapping their enemies’ telephone conversations and manipulating trials.

Istanbul-based journalist Ahmet Sik was arrested in March 2011, shortly before the publication of his book about the Gülen movement, “Imamin Ordusu” (“The Imam’s Army”), and the manuscript, in which Sik described how the Gülen movement has allegedly infiltrated the police and the judiciary in Turkey was confiscated. The investigative reporter, who was also charged of being a member of “Ergenekon”[8], was subsequently released following international protests.


II. Egypt: the power of the military


In Egypt, the year-long struggle between deposed president Morsi and the military is the culmination of a longstanding conflict. On the one hand, the military fought the rising power of the Muslim Brotherhood, so as to maintain its dominance in what had been a military society since the 1952 revolution brought the army to rule. On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood, the political winner in 2011, had no intention to let the military enjoy full power as in the past. The Brotherhood survived almost eight decades in clandestine or semi-clandestine activities, and most of its leaders had been in the regime’s jails during the course of their careers.

The fundamental question in Egypt is whether the election of Morsi represented the end of the regime founded by Nasser or was simply a passing event, with power still in the hands of the military. The country is now gripped by a showdown between two of its most undemocratic institutions – the army and the Muslim Brothers.

Gamal Abdel Nasser: the military as artisan of the new state

In post-WWII Egypt, as the monarchy continued to decline, two groups worked behind the scenes to control Egypt’s destiny: the Free Officers and the Muslim Brotherhood, the army and the Islamists. In November 1948, following several bombings and assassination attempts, the Egyptian government banned the Brotherhood. In succeeding months Egypt’s prime minister was assassinated by a Brotherhood member, and soon after, Al-Banna himself was assassinated in what is thought to be a cycle of retaliation.

In 1952 Egypt’s monarchy was overthrown by nationalist military officers led by Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser who was committed to modernizing Egypt. As Kemal Atatűrk before him, he saw the army as the only real instrument of modernization and a guarantor of the stability of the Egyptian nation.

At first, the coup was supported by the Brotherhood and attempts were made to include them in the new government, but the Brotherhood over-estimated its strength and influence and demanded too much, according to some historians, while others claim that the Brotherhood opposed the secularist constitution of the coup leaders.

Some historians claim that an October 1954 assassination attempt against Gamal Abdel Nasser was used to blame the “secret apparatus” of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was again banned and thousands of its members were imprisoned.

It was this break that paved the way for a new relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the intelligence services of Britain and the U.S. which were trying to remove Nasser’s regime, considered as being linked to the USSR during the Cold War. In effect, the Nasser regime, that inaugurated six decades of military rule, created a state that was secular, authoritarian and socialist. As a result, Nasser’s relations with Western powers grew tense, leading to a withdrawal of funding for the planned Aswan Dam and Nasser’s retaliatory move to nationalize the Suez Canal Company in 1956, a move welcomed by the Egyptian people, but that attracted retaliation from the United Kingdom, France and Israel, which occupied the Canal zone. After the tripartite forces withdrew from Egyptian territory amid international pressure, Nasser’s political standing was significantly boosted. From then onward, Nasser’s popularity in the region grew substantially and calls for pan-Arab unity under his leadership increased, culminating with the formation of the United Arab Republic (1958-1961). Also, beginning in 1961, Nasser sought to promote a “second revolution” in Egypt with the purpose of merging Islamic and socialist thinking to satisfy the will of the population. To achieve this, he began enacting several reforms to modernize the al-Azhar Mosque, the de facto leading authority in Sunni Islam, and ensure its prominence over the Muslim Brotherhood and the more conservative Wahhabism promoted by Saudi Arabia.

Notwithstanding its links to the Western intelligence services, the Brotherhood remained largely ineffective within Egypt throughout Nasser’s regime, even though they were involved in several more unsuccessful attempts on his life (Nasser died of a heart attack in 1970, after the conclusion of an Arab league summit where he brokered the end of the conflict between the PLO and Jordan).

Anwar Sadat: friend of the West, victim of the Brotherhood

Anwar el-Sadat, who had been Interim President following Nasser’s death and officially elected as President on 5 October 1970, had been a close confidant of Nasser and a member of the Free Officers movement that led the 1952 Revolution. Aware of the Egyptian people’s strong political and emotional attachment to Nasser’s memory, he promised to “continue the path of Nasser”. However, while ostensibly maintaining many of the general themes of Nasserism, Sadat instituted political, economic, and foreign policies that exhibited significant departures from the Nasser era. One such policy was a substantially more limited advocacy of pan-Arabism and a re-examination of the conflict with Israel that prioritized the liberation of Egyptian territory.

Sadat’s distance from the Nasserist policies grew after the October 1973 war with Israel, a fact that angered a large segment of Egyptian society who saw the institution of economic liberalism, the stress on Egypt’s Islamic character, realignment towards the Western world and the shift from confrontation to coexistence regarding the conflict with Israel as affecting their national memory and political views.

Initially, one of Sadat’s most powerful opponents was the Arab Socialist Unity Party, and he began to reconcile with the Muslim Brotherhood as a way to pressure the Arab Socialists and to solidify his regime. He released hundreds of Muslim Brothers from prison in his first few years in office, but he did not lift the official ban on the Brotherhood as a political group. Even so, the Brotherhood quickly emerged as a political force and tried to make itself an image of a “moderate” Islamic organization. Behind the scenes, it began to agitate against Sadat after he signed the Camp David peace agreement with Israel in 1978. Militants associated with these groups assassinated Sadat in 1981 and martial law was declared as the new leader, President Mubarak, launched a vigorous crackdown on the Islamists.

“Post-Tahrir” Egypt: final confrontation (?)

During the Mubarak regime, the Muslim Brotherhood was tolerated by the military to varying degrees, with periodic arrests and crackdowns. It sought to participate in Egyptian politics, and in the 2005 parliamentary elections, the Brotherhood’s candidates, who had to run as independents because of their illegality as a political party, won 88 seats and became the first opposition party of Egypt’s modern era. The Brotherhood remained the largest opposition group in Egypt, advocating Islamic reform and maintaining a vast network of support through Islamic charities working among poor Egyptians.

As such, the Brotherhood emerged in 2011 as a solution for the military establishment which acted overtly to maintain order and simultaneously to shape the Egyptian political order. According to many local observers, the army was interested in forcing the succession that the aging Hosni Mubarak resisted, but wished, as always, to remain in the background while maintaining its status of ultimate arbiter of power in Egyptian politics as well as its considerable economic force. This advantage made the Brothers the best available civilian partners but also the only ones who could have, eventually, posed a credible threat to the army’s black budget and other privileges.

The Egyptian army runs about 10% of the economy. Military-backed companies produce cement, olive oil and household appliances as well as arms. They also provide pest control, catering and even child care. The army owns large chunks of Egypt’s most precious commodity, land, particularly on the Red Sea coast. It also leans on private companies to provide powerful retirees with jobs. A diplomatic cable from Cairo to Washington in 2008 (subsequently aired by WikiLeaks) put its finger on the main reason why Egypt’s old government tolerated the so-called “khaki capitalism”. The army was a “quasi-commercial enterprise”, with Egypt’s military chiefs expanding their business empire after the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, to provide work for thousands of demobilized conscripts, but also make considerable profit.

However, the Morsi government did not really take control of the machinery of government, partly because Morsi was politically weak, partly because the Muslim Brotherhood was not ready to govern, and partly because the military never quite let go. The Brotherhood found itself in a potential cold war with a host of institutions of the state it was trying to lead, as well as with the official Islamic religious establishment and the state-run media.

The very qualities that made the Brotherhood so effective as an opposition group – secrecy, discipline, streamlined hierarchy and a paranoid suspicion of all outsiders – proved crippling in office. They never made the transition from an oppositional party and secret society to an open, effective and governing movement capable of consultation, conciliation and compromise.

On the other hand, the Morsi government was never able to secure the loyalty of the country’s police and Central Security Forces. Because of the police and security forces’ strikes, the military was called on at times to act, a fact that severely undermined the government’s credibility in the eyes of the military. Morsi’s inability to establish independent command of police and security forces away from the military, combined with deteriorating economic conditions made the Muslim Brotherhood an increasingly unpopular choice for the military to rule through.

The Muslim Brotherhood also never developed a working relationship with the Egyptian judiciary, much less asserted any kind of control over it. Many of the judges were appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak and remained loyal to entrenched interests and the military. Morsi’s attempts to navigate around the limitations imposed upon him by the military and judiciary ultimately led to the sentiment that he was trying to seize power for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Some analysts argue that the Brotherhood’s chances to stay in power were minimal since the beginning, mainly because Mubarak had fallen, but the organs of his 30-year dictatorship, Egypt’s pampered 440,000-man military, judiciary, academia, media, police, intelligence services and bureaucrats, remained in place. Even Morsi’s presidential guard remained under control of the Mubarak forces. The Brotherhood stumbled from one crisis to the next as Egypt’s economy, already in terrible shape before the 2011 revolution, sank like a rock. Tourism, that provided 17% of national income, evaporated. Unemployment soared over 13%, and over 50% among angry urban young. Egypt’s curse is that it cannot feed its surging population of over 90 million. The U.S. sustained the Sadat and Mubarak regimes with boatloads of wheat discounted 50%. This vital aid tapered off when Morsi took power. Food prices in Egypt rose 10%. Equally important, ever since Anwar Sadat invited in the US to rearm his outdated military, Egypt’s armed forces have become joined at the hip with the Pentagon, just as Turkey’s 500,000-man armed forces were, until 2002, and Pakistan’s so remain today.

Short and middle term trends

This dynamic culminated in the demonstrations of the 2013 “Egyptian Summer” and once again the military put the uprising to use. In part, the military did not want to see chaos and it saw itself as responsible for averting it. In part, the military distrusted the Muslim Brotherhood and wanted to see it forced out of office.

The week after Morsi’s ejection witnessed a mind-numbing battle over nomenclature. The generals (in cooperation with others) grabbed the state from an elected president, but their action was precipitated by millions who revolted against the Muslim Brothers’ government. On their part, the Islamists quickly appeared as more interested in consolidating their grip on power than in building a democratic order. The Brothers preserved all the institutions of the Mubarak regime that did not overtly threaten their authority, including, notoriously, the security apparatus. They failed to address ordinary Egyptians’ economic grievances and quickly became viewed as a secretive, untrustworthy clique that placed the organizational interest above any other.

After Morsi’s ousting, the military was quick to hand over the reins of government to a civilian prime minister, but not one that represents revolutionaries or democrats. The army is at the core of a revanchist alliance of unrepentant Interior Ministry personnel and assorted Mubarak-era holdovers wearing silk suits instead of khaki, including a number of crony capitalists. This confederacy is sometimes dubbed (as in Turkey) Egypt’s “deep state”. All of the major political forces in Egypt seem to be playing a winner-takes-all game where the prize is total control of the state, and the true victor tends to be the entrenched power broker, here the military and its “economic friends”. It was seen as a telling sign that while the Army chief, General al-Sisi, declared that he remained committed to upholding a road map towards democratic elections, his aides have repeatedly quashed rumors that he was considering running for president.

The political forces endorsing the June 30 protests seem already to go on separate ways. The mainstay of the new regime is the army, backed by the Arab states that are relieved to see Morsi gone and the Brothers weakened. The situation today stands in stark contrast to the one the prevailed in 1976 when Anwar Sadat broke Egypt’s long-standing ties with the Soviet Union to begin a relationship with the West. The U.S. is no longer the most important financial backer of Mr. Morsi’s government and Saudi Arabia has little use for Mr. Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood ruling party, which it views as a long-term Islamist threat to the region.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates promised aid worth an estimated $12 billion. Meanwhile, the United States hesitates to label the events a “coup” (that would mean the intention to ignore U.S. laws requiring a cutoff of aid to countries that have suffered military coups) but reconsiders plans about the delivery of F16 fighter jets to Egypt[9] as part of its annual aid package.

The U.S. attitude can also be explained by the close relationship between the leaders behind the military coup and their U.S. counterparts. The objective of the military takeover was to ensure that the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood government does not result in a political transition which undermines U.S. control over the Egyptian State and military. Defense Minister, GeneralAbdul Fatah Al-Sisi, the man behind the coup, is a graduate of the U.S. War College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania and was in permanent liaison with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel from the very outset of the protest movement. Also, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in permanent contact with his counterpart General Sedki Sobhi, chief of staff of Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

The recent events established a difficult precedent for the military and its management of the Egyptian state. Since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian society has increasingly looked to public protest and social unrest as a means of affecting political change. While the military has remained the final arbiter of power, its position has become less secure following each wave of unrest.

With the fall of the Morsi government, the military has again stepped into the and difficult role of having to reconcile the various political factions while maintaining its own interests, within the geopolitical constraints of the Egyptian state (namely, its obligations not to attack Israel and to keep the Suez Canal free and clear to international trade). And with the Muslim Brotherhood again in the role of the opposition, the Egyptian military is sure to face rising challenges to its goal of quietly guaranteeing the security and stability of the Egyptian state from behind the scenes, even as economic, energy and food security problems continue to mount. As the Muslim Brotherhood and the democratic process continue to weaken the military’s absolute hold on power, the stability of the Egyptian state and the broader region will increasingly come into question.

On its part, the Muslim Brotherhood cannot afford to be excluded from the post-Morsi political arena process for too long and Islamist politics in Egypt are unlikely to disappear, despite the failure of Mr. Morsi to create an effective government.

However, with Islamism far from a monolithic set of values or political alliances, the Brotherhood will take time to recover as a political force and, in the meantime, the Salafi movements might be influential players. However, the Brotherhood remains a rooted social movement, with the best organization and structure in Egypt, including an underground network that can vividly operate and adapt within an oppressive environment. While the political project of the Brotherhood was defeated when it fell short in addressing Egypt’s many problems, as a religious and social movement, it will remain as long as Egypt has a highly conservative and religious society.


III. Pakistan: political Islam as “civilian arm” of the military


As in Egypt, the beginning of the modern Pakistani state was marked by the presence of the two powerful actors, the military and the political Islam represented by Maulana Mawdudi’s Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).

The early years of Pakistan: Jamaat vs. the Muslim league

The specific feature of the Jamaat was its opposition not to the military, but to the “Movement for Pakistan” launched by the Muslim League and to the creation of the new State, since the League had no intention of making Pakistan an Islamic state. The Muslim League represented a competing “Muslim Nationalism”, and argued that the new homeland for the Muslims of India would be a Muslim country, where the state religion would be Islam, but it would be possible to maintain a Western style democracy, parliament and law. In his turn, Mawdudi held that a national government based on secular or Muslim nationalism would not be different from the imperial government of India and rejected the existence of Muslim nationalism as incompatible with Islam.

Finally, when the Muslim League started using religion in politics and ended up scoring a remarkable victory in the elections of 1945-46, Mawdudi became convinced that “Islam constituted the ultimate source of power and legitimacy among the Muslim community”. When Pakistan finally got independence, Mawdudi realized this was the chance to create his Islamic state, and he recognized the Pakistan on the condition that it became a model country for Muslims all over the world. Once Pakistan was formed, Jamaat made a tactical adjustment and started talking about “Islamic nationalism” (not “Muslim nationalism”) as the first step in the establishment of a universal Islamist revolution.

By the end of 1957, Mawdudi contended that Pakistan was an Islamic Republic only in theory and the Jamaat had no choice but to capture the state authority for without it, the pious order which Islam envisages could never be established. Mawdudi proved his point by theorizing “the struggle for obtaining control over the organs of the state, for the sole purpose of establishing Islam, is not only desirable but in the light of the Koranic verse XVII:80, obligatory”. However, Mawdudi declared that the capturing of the state power must be accomplished through constitutional means i.e., elections, since Shariah forbids resorting to unconstitutional means for the transformation of the political system.

From 1941 to 1988, the Jamaat used “contentious” actions to spread the movement because the repressive nature of the Pakistani regimes. After the independence, Pakistan had an interim government for 11 years until 1958, then Ayub Khan ruled as a military dictator for 13 years banning all political parties. The Zulfikar Ali Bhutto regime also used secret police to suppress all opposition and it was followed, until 1988, by the military regime of Zia-ul-Haq.

The Jamaat formed the “Common Opposition Party Alliance” against Ayub Khan, the “Nizam-e-Mustafa” (The Prophet’s System) Movement against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the “Movement for Restoration of Democracy” (MRD) against Zia ul-Haq. Also, the Jamaat engaged in protest actions, processions and gave fatwas (religious rulings) against the leaders, but, as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, did not become a political party.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto: victim of political Islam (and the Cold war)

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a lawyer with a Western education who entered politics in 1958, was the country’s first civilian chief martial law administrator since 1958, as well as the country’s first civilian president. He became foreign minister in 1963 and president of Pakistan in December 1971.

With Bhutto assuming the control, the leftists and democratic socialists entered and became power players in country’s politics. Bhutto significantly transformed Pakistan’s hitherto pro-Western foreign policy into one more independent of the U.S. influence. He strengthened ties with China, which was complementary to his aggressive policy towards India, as well as with Saudi Arabia. Bhutto also played an important role in initiating Pakistan’s nuclear program.

On 2 January 1972, Bhutto announced the nationalization of all major industries, a new labor policy and reforms limiting land ownership and a government take-over of over a million acres (4,000 km²) to distribute to landless peasants. More than 2,000 civil servants were dismissed on charges of corruption. Bhutto also dismissed some main military chiefs on 3 March the same year after they refused orders to suppress a major police strike in Punjab.

In early 1972, Bhutto also withdrew Pakistan from the Commonwealth of Nations and SEATO. On 2 July 1972, he signed the Simla Agreement with India and secured the exchange of the occupied territories and release of Prisoners of War.

Bhutto introduced a new constitution in 1973, which changed Pakistan from a presidential system to a parliamentary one. Bhutto was duly elected by the House to be the Prime Minister, and he was sworn in on 14 August 1973.

The Jamaat obtained from the Bhutto regime that the 1973 Constitution rename Pakistan as “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”, stipulate that the Prime Minister and the President had to be Muslims and for Islam be the state religion. However, from 1973, the Jamaat-e-Islami began to oppose the government. By 1977, the Jamaat was the leading force of the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), a political and religious group of rightist parties that demanded the implementation of the “Nizam-e-Mustafa” (the system of the Prophet), and their actions led to the arrest of Maulana Mawdudi. The government of Saudi Arabia intervened to secure Mawdudi’s release by dangling the specter of “revolution” in Pakistan.

Facing the growing unrest, Bhutto called fresh elections in 1977 that were won by his party but contested by the PNA. The Islamist leaders, among which Jamaat’s leader Maulana Mawdudi, called for the overthrow of Bhutto’s regime, and on 5 July 1977, Bhutto was deposed by his appointed army chief, General Zia ul-Haq. In 1979, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was submitted to a controversial trial and executed for supposedly authorizing the murder of a political opponent.

Many political analysts and scientists suspected that the riots and coup against Bhutto were helped by the U.S. government and the CIA, because the United States allegedly feared Bhutto’s socialist policies that allowed the Soviet Union to be involved in Pakistan. In 1998, Bhutto’s daughter, Benazir Bhutto, publicly announced her belief that her father was “sent to the gallows at the instance of the superpower for pursuing the nuclear capability”. However, the United States refused any involvement in Bhutto’s fall, and argued that it was Bhutto who had alienated himself over his last five years in power.

Zia ul-Haq regime (1977-1988): Jamaat and the military

Within a couple of years, General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, who seized power in Pakistan in 1977, transformed a relatively secular nation into a fundamentalist Islamic dictatorship that had, ironically, strong ties to the United States.

The United States was a staunch sponsor of Zia’s military regime and was the major ally of Pakistan’s military, seen as the “front line” ally of the United States in the fight against Communism. American legislators and senior civilian and military officials made frequent trips to Pakistan advising on expanding the idea of “establishment” in the Pakistani political circles. Some historians point that the U.S. conservatism might have influenced General Zia-ul-Haq to adopt his idea of Islamic conservatism as the primary line of his military government, forcefully enforcing the Islamic and other religious practices in the country.

The Islamic system was announced on December 2, 1978, after Zia ul-Haq accused politicians of exploiting the name of Islam, saying that “many a ruler did what they pleased in the name of Islam”. Since the Islamist parties were already against Bhutto, they had the most influence on Zia-ul-Haq’s government and the Nizam-e-Mustafa, which had been the rallying point of the PNA during the electoral campaign, become enforced, which meant a 180 degree turn from Pakistan’s mainly secular law.

At the same time, the Zia ul-Haq regime introduced the so-called “Hudood” Ordinances (that sanction “hudood” or “excess”), religious codes which stem from Islamic law, stipulating severe punishments for “hudood” offenses ranging from adultery and premarital sex to alcohol consumption.

Unlike the system of “honor killing”, which is illegal but common in Pakistan, the Hudood Ordinances are the law itself. Not all Muslim countries have adopted hudood penalties in their criminal justice codes, and Islamic scholars debate whether such laws are a correct interpretation of the Koran.

The Hudood laws have been instrumental in locking up thousands of raped women for alleged adultery. Similarly, religious minorities like Hindus and Christians have been imprisoned (even handed the death sentence) for “insulting Islam” under the “blasphemy” laws that were hardened under Zia’s rule. Many Pakistani politicians said the laws should be reviewed, but they seem to have become as unalterable as the Koran itself. Conservative Islamic activists and scholars say the Hudood Ordinances cannot be repealed. To do so would be a rejection of the Islamic system, and an offense to Islam itself. The laws are still passionately fought over in every major election in Pakistan, particularly since Islamic parties including Jamaat-e-Islami openly endorse their continuation.

After Zia ul-Haq’s coup, the Jamaat became for the first time a part of the authority. The Jamaat hoped to head a coalition government and put pressure on Zia to organize elections. On 21 August 1978, an agreement was concluded between Zia and the Pakistan National Alliance for the formation of a government. The Jamaat-e-Islami was given the ministries of Production and Industry, Information, Oil and Minerals, Water and Electricity and Planning. However, on 21 June 1979, a month after Bhutto’s execution, Zia dissolved the government.

During Zia ul-Haq’s regime, Jamaat was active in the education system, as well as in the media, with almost 90 percent of the leading Urdu columnists, writers and opinion makers having been at some point associated with the Jamaat-e-Islami. Also, a large number of military officers, especially in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI), were either JI members or influenced by the Jamaat-e-Islami religious and political ideology.

The Zia ul-Haq regime was the continuation of the Pakistani military’s efforts to maintain its control over the state, as well as its economic power (currently, Pakistan’s military is said to control a $15 billion empire, with hundreds of companies making everything from fertilizers to breakfast cereals). Zia ul-Haq increased the role of the religious leaders and clerics in the civilian administration without compromising the superior status of the armed forces. Senior commanders of the military included many who did not practice religion in their private lives. They did not mind ruling in the name of Islam and they accepted greater Islamization of laws and the judicial and economic systems; but they could not accept ceding power to any organized group.

In the late summer of 1988, Zia, most of his top military command and an American diplomat were killed when the Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft they were traveling in crashed soon after takeoff from an airstrip in Bahawalpur, about 330 miles south of the capital Islamabad. Bhutto’s eldest daughter, Benazir, was elected Prime Minister only three months after the C-130 crash.

A version sustained by conspiracy theorists in Pakistan holds that the CIA wiped out Zia because he was lagging in efforts to set up a democracy in Pakistan and was getting too close to the Afghan mujahedeen, particularly the fundamentalist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. In other words, Zia had outlived his usefulness to the Americans, who may have viewed the photogenic, Western-educated Benazir as a more suitable ally in Pakistan.

In fact, it was the Jamaat-e-Islami which consolidated the links it had since 1965 with the Afghan Hizb-i-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, contacts exploited by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Pakistan army once the anti-Soviet jihad started in the 1980s. Pakistan turned into a hub of the “Islamist orbit” and a division of tasks took place between the Jamaat and the Pakistan army. The capture of Kabul by the Taliban in 1996 was a setback for the Jamaat, especially when Jamaat’s Amir, Qazi Hussain, negotiated a deal between Hekmatyar and Ahmad Shah Massoud factions of the Northern Alliance. Within a few days, Jamaat lost its utility for the ISI, dramatically affecting its capacity to influence Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Zia’s death continues to reverberate in Pakistan because his influence in the country is still strongly felt. Despite efforts by subsequent governments to repeal much of the harshest Sharia laws backed by Zia, the modernization efforts have failed to take hold in parts of the country, particularly in conservative rural areas.

Nawaz Sharif and Pervez Musharraf: the first round

After Zia’s death and Benazir Bhutto’s election as Prime Minister in 1988, the conservative Pakistan Muslim League (which included the Islamist groups) elected as leader Nawaz Sharif (born 25 December 1949), who had begun his career as a supporter of the military government of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq during the 1980s and was appointed Chief Minister of Punjab by Zia in 1985. Sharif also had close ties with the Director-General of the ISI, Lieutenant-General (retired) Hamid Gul, who played a substantial role in the formation of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) – a conservative political alliance that supported Sharif.

As prime minister, Nawaz Sharif continued General Zia-ul-Haq’s controversial Islamization policies and introduced new Islamic laws. On August 29, 1998 he proposed a law to create an Islamic order in Pakistan and establish a legal system based on the Koran and the Sunnat.

Although considered to be one of the country’s wealthiest men (nicknamed the “Lion of the Punjab” or the “Tiger of Pakistan”), Nawaz Sharif had a difficult relationship with Pakistani military. Elected Prime Minister in 1990, he was forced to resign in 1993, under pressure from the Pakistan Armed Forces, following disputes with the president over authority issues. Under the scrutiny of the Pakistani Armed Forces, a transitional government was formed and new parliamentary elections were held after three months, won by Benazir Bhutto’s party.

Serving as the Leader of the Opposition during Benazir Bhutto’s second tenure, Sharif was re-elected Prime Minister in 1997. With rising unemployment and record foreign debt, Sharif’s second term also saw tussles with the judiciary and army. In 1998, Sharif named as Army chief General Pervez Musharraf, a career military officer well regarded by the general public and the armed forces, with an excellent academic standing. Musharraf was also recommended by Nawaz Sharif’s colleagues in the government as a straight officer with democratic views.

However, after a dispute over the Kargil intervention[10], Nawaz Sharif antagonized the military with the decision to replace Musharraf (the third replacement of the top military commander in less than two years). When he attempted to relieve Musharraf from his command on 12 October 1999, the army instead ousted the government and Nawaz Sharif had to spend fourteen months in prison and go into exile to Saudi Arabia. However, observers of that period consider that Sharif was a prime minister vengeful and autocratic, subverting the judiciary and undermining the press. Nobody was surprised about the coup and hardly anybody regretted his departure. There were no organized protests within the country to the coup.

On 12 May 2000, the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared the coup to be legal and justified, but also ordered that army rule be limited to three years. Consequently, Musharraf held a national referendum (contested by the opposition) on 30 April 2002 that allowed him to extend his presidential term for another five years.

General Pervez Musharraf’s coup was welcomed by Jamaat leader Qazi Hussain, but once the former began brandishing “Kemalism” as his model of governance, Jamaat once again donned the role of vigilante and warned that “Pakistan’s destiny lay in the Islamic revolution”.

Despite promising to resign from the army, Pervez Musharraf ruled as a military dictator and by August 2007, polls showed 64 percent of Pakistanis did not want him for another term. In 2007, Musharraf declared emergency rule, sacked members of the Supreme Court and began a roundup of journalists, lawyers and human rights activists.

Musharraf was supported by the U.S. Bush Administration after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he helped the United States’ drive to oust the Taliban from power in Afghanistan and to seize high-profile al-Qaeda suspects. However, in Afghanistan the regime played a dangerous double game, helping the Taliban while taking American money to allow drone strikes against militants in its tribal areas.

Round two: after the Lawyers’ Movement

The event that triggered Musharraf’s demise was the so-called “Lawyers’ movement”, a popular mass protest started by the lawyers of Pakistan in response to the unconstitutional demise by Pervez Musharraf of the Chief Justice of Pakistan. The protests, supported by several political groups including Jamaat-e-Islami, contributed to Musharraf’s resignation in August 2008 and to the election of Asif Zardari, the late Benazir Bhutto’s husband, as President.

Some Pakistani observers noted several worrying similarities between the situation in Egypt and the 2008 events in Pakistan, pointing that deposed Egyptian president Morsi came to power in similar conditions with Nawaz Sharif. The movement that brought Morsi to power was – they say – a cover for the military establishment to replace a secular dictator (Mubarak) with an Islamist one. This was similar to the Lawyer’s Movement, allegedly formed by Islamist right wing, army generals and bureaucrats but which had as a “cover” several NGOs of the so-called civil society.

The Lawyers’ Movement served as a comeback vehicle for Nawaz Sharif just as the Tahrir Square Movement served to launch the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi as the next leader. The Morsi regime’s electoral victory could be attributed an organized Muslim Brotherhood cadre. Nawaz Sharif’s election in Pakistan too was alleged to be heavily rigged in his favor particularly in the Punjab province.

After his return to Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif became again leader of the opposition, until the 2013 Pakistani general election, when his party (Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz – PML-N) achieved the largest number of votes and he formed a coalition to become the 18th Prime Minister of Pakistan, returning to the position after fourteen years, for an unprecedented third time.

Pervez Musharraf also dramatically returned in March 2013 to compete in the elections (he was barred by the justice), ending four years of self-imposed exile and defying death threats. Currently he faces trials in at least four criminal court cases, including a possible charge of treason.

Short and medium-term trends

Observers who analyzed the outcome of the May 2013 elections that brought back to power Nawaz Sharif note that he will need to compromise with the military, which will be closely supervising his actions. As the Pakistani “vertical power”, the army looks upon Sharif’s return with suspicion. The relationship between the PML-N leader and the establishment (meaning the Pakistani army and Secret Services) is rather tense. An early test for Nawaz Sharif is whether Musharraf will be tried for treason. Nawaz Sharif claimed that he has no issue with the army and that Musharraf was a dangerous lone actor when organizing the coup against him. However fictitious, this was interpreted as a signal of his wish for cordial relations. The armed forces may also be willing to go along with some of Mr. Sharif’s new priorities.

On the other hand, since his comeback, Sharif has been the champion of re-balanced powers in Pakistan, in favor of the civilian government. “The chief of the army works under the federal government”, he declared during the campaign. The “Third Force” (PTI), led by Imran Khan (supported by the army, according to many analysts) should be leading the opposition and will give the army a way to curtail Sharif’s emancipating tendencies.

On subjects like the relationship with Afghanistan, India, or the United States, Sharif will try to impose the views of his civilian government, but analysts estimate that it will be hard for him to do anything without the army’s cooperation.

Already Jamaat-e-Islami condemned a declaration of Nawaz Sharif that every effort will be made to improve ties with India while backdoor diplomacy has already been started. The Jamaat considered that the statement was “most unfortunate”, against the national interest and sentiments of the people of Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif must also take into account the power of the Jamaat, which sees itself as the defender of the ideology of Pakistan and it may be considered a civilian regiment of the Pakistani military establishment. The Jamaat has been pursuing security goals of the military establishment in the civilian sphere by following an aggressive agenda that often approves violence and hatred in the name of Islam and nationalism. The Jamaat still uses the education system, media and the military to set the political and social agenda for Pakistan. Besides, they started infiltrating into right-wing political parties, with many activists and supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami joining not only the PML-Nawaz, but also Imran Khan’s PTI. Many JI activists and supporters have joined the PTI ranks. Due to such elements, at times, the PTI seems like a modern version or rebirth of the Jamaat-e-Islami.


IV. Turkey: the end of the military’s political power


Since 1934, it has been the task of the Turkish military to “protect the Turkish Republic”. Up until now, the military has considered itself responsible for external but also for internal security as protectors of the founding principles laid down by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey’s first president. Since 1960, there have been four military coups in Turkey that threw out elected governments. The last time a coup threatened the government in Turkey was 2007, when the military had a stand-off with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and posted a memorandum online hinting it might stage a coup.

Coups and “post-modern coups”

The first military coup took place in May 1960, at a time of sociopolitical turmoil and economic hardship, and it was staged by a group of Turkish officers, acting outside the Staff Chiefs’ chain of command, against the Democrat Party government. The Democrat Party (DP) was the first democratically elected government in Turkey’s history and had been in office for 10 years in Turkey, but once in power, the DP pursued authoritarian and repressive policies.

The military junta forced 235 generals and more than 3000 officers to retirement; purged more than 500 judges and public prosecutors, and 1400 university faculty members; put the chief of the General Staff, the president, the prime minister and other members of the administration under arrest, and appointed the chief of the Army Staff as president, prime minister and the minister of defense. The politicians were charged with high treason, misuse of public funds and abrogation of the constitution and Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fatin Rüştü Zorlu and Minister of Finance Hasan Polatkan were executed on 16 September 1961. A month later, the administrative authority was returned to civilians.

For the next half-century, the military had a strong influence in Turkey’s political life, especially through the National Security Council. The Constitutional Court, created by the military to perpetuate its institutional preferences, continued to play an important role in Turkish political affairs, striking down legislation and dissolving political parties whose agendas are inconsistent with the founding principles of the Republic.

The 1971 coup d’état was is known as the “coup by memorandum”, that came amid worsening domestic strife and growing aggressiveness of the Islamist movement and its party, the National Order Party, which openly rejected Atatürk and Kemalism, thus triggering the reaction of the armed forces.

On 12 March 1971, the Chief of the General Staff handed the prime minister a memorandum, really amounting to an ultimatum by the armed forces, demanding “the formation, within the context of democratic principles, of a strong and credible government”. If the demands were not met, the army would “exercise its constitutional duty” and take over power itself. Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel resigned after a three-hour meeting with his cabinet; veteran politician and opposition leader Ismet Inönü sharply denounced any military meddling in politics.

The commanders who seized power were reluctant to exercise it directly, since they were already aware of the problems that faced, at that time, the Greek junta. They had little choice but to rule through an Assembly dominated by conservative, anti-reformist parties and an “above-party” government which was expected to carry out the reforms. The military chiefs would give directives from behind the scenes. The regime rested on an unstable balance of power between civilian politicians and the military; it was neither a normal elected government, nor an outright military dictatorship which could entirely ignore parliamentary opposition. As a new wave of terror began, martial law was declared and renewed every two months for the next two years. By summer 1973, the military-backed regime had achieved most of its political tasks. The constitution was amended so as to strengthen the state against civil society and special courts were instituted to deal with all forms of dissent. In the October 1973 elections, the Republican People’s Party won an upset victory. Nevertheless, the very same problems highlighted in the memorandum re-emerged. A fragmented party system and unstable governments held hostage by small right-wing parties contributed to political polarization. The economy deteriorated and political terrorism, mainly from the “Grey Wolves”[11] and the left-wing groups, escalated. This was the justification when the Chief of Staff Kenan Evren carried out a military coup to stop clashes between groups from the left and the right that bordered on civil war.

Many of the conflicts between political groups or ethnic communities are still considered as being provoked and programmed by Turkey’s “deep state”[12], a shadowy world that exists between the state, the police and the criminal underworld.

In 1980, the military led by General Kenan Evren, carried out another coup, seeking to end the right-wing/left-wing armed conflicts. According to some historians, the Turkish military allowed the conflicts to escalate in order to create a pretext for a decisive intervention and some say they actively adopted a strategy of tension.

The violence abruptly stopped after the 1980 coup and for the next three years the Turkish Armed Forces ruled the country through the National Security Council (MGK). The National Security Council extended martial law throughout the country, abolished the Parliament and the government, suspended the Constitution and banned all political parties and trade unions. They invoked the Kemalist tradition of state secularism and the unity of the nation, arguments that also justified the precedent coups, and presented themselves as opposed to communism, fascism, separatism and religious sectarianism.

Within three years, the generals passed some 800 laws in order to form a militarily disciplined society. They decided to adopt a new constitution that included mechanisms to prevent what they saw as impeding the functioning of democracy. On 7 November 1982, the new constitution was put to a referendum, which was accepted with 92% of the vote. On 9 November 1982 Kenan Evren was appointed President for the next seven years.

The military’s engagement was initially welcomed by many, but then it expanded significantly: there were 650,000 arrests, 50 executions, and 171 deaths by torture. Tens of thousands of citizens were stripped of their citizenship and forced to flee abroad.

The 1980 coup was also supported by the U.S., as acknowledged by the CIA Ankara station chief who, after the government was overthrown, cabled Washington, saying, “our boys [in Ankara] did it”. The U.S. State Department itself announced the coup during the night between 11 and 12 September: the military had phoned the U.S. embassy in Ankara to alert them of the coup an hour in advance.

The 1997 coup took also the form of a military memorandum, containing the decisions issued by the Turkish Military leadership on a National Security Council (MGK) meeting at 28 February 1997. The memorandum precipitated the resignation of Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan of the Welfare Party and the end of his coalition government. Since the Erbakan government was forced out without dissolving the parliament or suspending the constitution, the event was labeled a “postmodern coup”. The process that took place after the coup is alleged to have been organized by a clandestine group within the military.

In the 1997 memorandum, the generals submitted their views on issues regarding secularism and political Islam. The MGK also made several decisions during this meeting, intending to protect the secularist ideology in Turkey, and the Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan was forced to sign them and also to resign. His Welfare Party was closed by the Constitutional Court in 1998 and Necmettin Erbakan was banned from politics for 5 years. In the following years, former members and mayors of the Welfare Party joined the newly formed Virtue Party. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was at that time the Istanbul mayor and also member of the Virtue Party, was given a prison sentence after he had read a nationalist and Islamist poet and he was banned from politics forever. The Virtue Party was also closed by the Constitutional Court in 2001 but, although former Istanbul mayor Erdoğan was banned from politics, he managed to form the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a reformist party that declared not to be a political party with a religious axis.

The AKP regime: putting an end to the military’s political power

Since taking the power in 2002, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government and his AKP (Justice and Development Party) acted to curb the political powers of the military, as well as the secular Kemalist elite, in spite of the warning of the Turkish top brass that this process would undermine Mustafa Kemal Atatűrk’s legacy and that AKP’s “democratization” would mean Islamization.

In time, AKP reasserted Turkey’s Ottoman and Muslim legacy. However, AKP’s activist foreign policy enabled it to co-opt many senior civil servants, diplomats and generals who did not approve the ideological assumptions of the neo-Ottoman paradigm, but subscribed to the ostensibly traditional, nationalist components of Davutoğlu’s neo-Ottoman concept of “strategic depth” for the sake of Turkey’s status as a first-rate regional power. Back in the fragile early days of 2002-2003, the AKP leadership wisely grasped the need for the secularist nationalists to be given a slot in the national consensus on Turkey’s multi-layered identity.

At its turn, the military and the old secular elite challenged Erdoğan from the time of his rhetorical excess as mayor of Istanbul in 1998.

In 2007, protests organized by the military in alliance with the opposition Republican People’s Party brought hundreds of thousands of people the streets in an effort to block Erdoğan from winning the election. Consequently, the army posted on-line a memorandum in which it warned the AKP that it was on dangerous ground and could be removed. The chief public prosecutor also attempted to ban the AKP and its prime minister in 2008. The attempt failed and left Erdoğan more powerful than before. The military delivered a more subtle series of hints about their willingness to act against the Islamists during the approach to the election of 2011, but this time it was simply ignored.

The formal grounding of the new legitimacy in Islam at home and neo-Ottomanism abroad was achieved by Erdoğan and his AKP on September 12, 2010, when Turkey’s voters approved in a referendum, by a large margin, a 26-article package which ended the role of the Army as the guardian of secularism. The 26 amendments to the 1982 Constitution included the abolition of an article which prevents military coup leaders from facing trial or legal reprisal. The power of military courts was curtailed, removing their authority to try civilians in peacetime. The procedure to ban political parties, one of the Turkish’s judiciary’s most important powers, has also been amended so that members of banned political parties remain in Parliament. The amendments made it also harder for Turkey’s Kemalist judges to ban Erdoğan’s AKP, as they tried to do in 2008.

The arrest in early 2011 of hundreds of military officers as part of an investigation into an alleged plot to topple the government was the final chapter in the demise of the Turkish army as a relevant political factor. The active and retired officers were accused of involvement in the so-called “Sledgehammer Plot”[13] dating back to 2003. The suspects included the former commanders of the Turkish navy and air force. The “Sledgehammer” case was seen as a successful attempt by the AKP regime to neutralize Turkey’s military, to discredit the officer corps and thus facilitate the abolition of the Army’s traditional role as the guardian of the country’s secular political system. The trial – that ran for 21 months – was also to represent the end of an era when the top brass believed themselves beyond the reach of the law, justified in their actions because Turks needed protection from radical Islam and could not know what was best for them.

Short- and medium term trends

Notwithstanding the continuing efforts of Erdoğan and the AKP to further curb the influence of the secular elite, the Gezi protests in June 2013 revealed that such a process might not be easily accepted by the political class that increasingly perceives such measures as aiming to introduce a presidential system similar to Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The prime minister’s political ambitions are aiming to get enough support for a constitutional referendum that would transform Turkey from a parliamentary system to a presidential system. His planned constitutional changes aim to give the president, a largely ceremonial figure, the authority to issue decrees with the force of law, to dissolve parliament, to call elections and to decide whether to send the military into action.

If successful, the changes would enable Erdoğan, whose term as prime minister expires in 2015 and who under his party’s rules shouldn’t serve a fourth term, to run for president in 2014 and, eventually, to continue leading Turkey until the hundredth anniversary of the Turkish republic in 2023.

The next step in curbing the military’s role in Turkey’s politics consists in a proposed change of Article 35 of the Turkish military’s internal laws that gave the military the possibility to get involved in domestic affairs. The change in Article 35, which parliament is expected to vote on in autumn 2013, would make the military only responsible for “threats from abroad” and this is considered to be an attempt to avoid future military coups.

According to local observers, there is a connection between the June 2013 Gezi protest movement and the proposed change to Article 35, since military officials were seen helping the demonstrators and the situation would be ripe for a military intervention.

The ruling party’s main secular opposition is alarmed at Erdoğan’s policies that are seen as compromising the core founding principles of the state as defined by Kemal Atatűrk, mainly the principle that Turkey must remain secular and avoid overextending itself beyond the republic’s borders. The growing dissent against the party also comes from the perception that AKP is pursuing an aggressive form of capitalism that defies environmental considerations as well as Islamic values. Within business circles, frustration is building over the number of concessions handed out to Erdoğan’s allies.

The Gezi protests also show a distancing trend between Erdoğan’s AKP and the Gülen movement, which is considered to be a crucial component of the ruling party’s broader support base. The movement has been increasingly critical of Erdoğan, strongly suggesting that he and his party have become too powerful. Editorials from the Gülenists’ newspaper “Zaman” admonished Erdoğan for his “excessive” behavior and sided with the protesters.

In the aftermath of Turkey’s urban uprisings, Erdoğan and his closest circles are increasingly perceived as reminiscent of the radical Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood, and beginning to alienate important parts of the Islamic conservative movement. When Erdoğan spoke of Turkey’s “shared values” with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, both President Abdullah Gül and the influential Gülenist community distanced from him and stressed the commitment to further democratic reform and the European Union, and opposed Erdoğan’s presidential ambitions. Several cabinet ministers and a good chunk of the AKP parliamentary group feel the same way.

Analysts also stress that Turkey has too few checks and balances on the prime minister’s power, and that its democratic foundations, including an independent judiciary, free media and strong political parties, are shallow. If he succeeds in changing the system, then Erdoğan would become Turkey’s version of Vladimir Putin. Erdoğan is now in full control of the country, and the changes he proposes are seen as aimed to weaken, rather than strengthen, Turkey’s democracy.



*  *

The evolution trends in the three countries show that the competition between the military secular structures and political Islam is bound to continue, although this competition aims only the control of the countries and neither actor is seen as having a solution for the economic and social problems that all three countries are facing in different degree.

Although the military is still looked upon as a guarantor of the state’s stability and order, in all three countries a full democracy, if attained, must someday challenge the military’s autonomy, economic interests and singular role as the source of legitimacy and authority, items the officers will not give up willingly.

On the other hand, political Islam is not bound to disappear in any Muslim-majority society, and will likely prove capable of learning lessons and adapting.

Analysts already point out to a gradually developing split between those who stick to traditional approaches and an emerging so-called post-Islamist trend.

An emergent post-Islamist orientation would retain the essential Islamist trait of reclaiming the centrality of Muslim identity. But it would no longer misread Islam as a political ideology. It would not look for policy prescriptions in faith and apply “Islam has the answers” to the detailed, technical problems of governance. Instead, this emerging or potential post-Islamist trend returns Islam to the realm of identity and values, rather than law and policy.

[1] A detailed presentation of the Muslim Brotherhood may be found at http://eurasia.ro/?p=44965 (The Muslim Brotherhood: from nationalist NGO to world force)

[2] A British explorer and travel writer, with more than two dozen books on her travels in the Middle East and Afghanistan. During World War II she joined the British Ministry of Information, and contributed to the creation of the propaganda network Ikhwan al Hurriya (“Brotherhood of Freedom”) aimed at persuading the Arabs to support the Allies or at least remain neutral.

[3] 1954-1970: CIA and the Muslim Brotherhood Ally to Oppose Egyptian President Nasser

[4] He praised the “Young Turk” movement, but after World War I he castigated Turkey’s nationalist revolution under Atatűrk.

[5] According to historians, Mawdudi’s ideas inspired Sayyid al Qutb, the radical Islamist thinker of the Muslim Brotherhood. Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini had personal contacts with Mawdudi and translated some of his works in Farsi. The Palestinian jurist, Abdullah Azzam, considered to have been a teacher of Osama bin Laden, was also influenced by Mawdudi.


[6] Details about Milli Görüş and the Gülen movement may be found at http://eurasia.ro/?p=43548 (Turkey’s new geopolitical dimensions).

[7] The manifesto, which warned against Turkey’s rapprochement to Europe and the European Union and called for closer co-operation with Muslim countries, spoke in general terms of Islamic moral and religious education, but, according to author Banu Eligur, Erbakan and his party “used the code words national and culture to refer to Islam, and National Vision to refer to the project of Political Islam”, since it was illegal in Turkey to use religious symbols for political purposes (apud www.wikipedia.org).

[8] Ergenekon is the name given to a Turkish alleged clandestine, secularist, ultra-nationalist organization, with possible ties to members of the country’s military and security forces. Ergenekon is accused of terrorism in Turkey and alleged members were indicted on charges of plotting with the ultimate goal of toppling the incumbent government, but  many analysts sustain that the only thing they have in common is opposition to the ruling AKP.

[9] On the 25th July 2013, President Obama, in his first punitive response to the ouster of Mohamed Morsi as president of Egypt, has halted the delivery of four F-16 fighter planes to the Egyptian Air Force. Mr. Obama, administration officials said, wanted to send Egypt’s military-led government a signal of American displeasure with the chaotic situation there, which has been marked by continued violence, the detention of Mr. Morsi and other leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, and a transition that has not included the Brotherhood. Also, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, called on the Egyptian military to release Mohammed Morsi and other detained Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

[10] A March-May 1999 Musharraf-planned secret infiltration of Kashmiri forces in the Kargil district, on Indian territory. The operation resulted in war with India and international pressures on Pakistan.

[11] The common name of the “Idealist Youth”, a Turkish ultra-nationalist, neo-fascist organization responsible for a wave of terrorist acts against the left-wing partisans. After being useful for Kenan Evren’s coup, the National Security Council outlawed the “wolves”, together with all the other political parties. According to several historians, the Gray Wolves were at the command of the Turkish branch of Operation Gladio, the stay-behind NATO paramilitary organization which was supposed to prepare networks in Europe for guerrilla warfare in case of a Soviet invasion.

[12] For details about the Turkish “deep state” see the analysis Turkey’s new geopolitical dimensions at http://eurasia.ro/?p=43548

[13] The “Sledgehammer” was connected to the reported “Ergenekon conspiracy”, in which the “Deep State” (a shadowy coalition of senior military officers, the intelligence services, the judiciary, and organized crime) planned terrorist attacks to foment unrest leading to a military takeover.