Two seemingly unrelated developments in the Middle East, one in
and one in ,
represent a radical departure from the 20th century history of the
On Friday, after a decade-long trial,
sentenced 322 military officers to long sentences for the failed ‘Sledgehammer’
plot to topple the Islamist Erdogan government in 2003. After decades of
dominance over the politics of the country, and repeated coups against civilian
governments that dared to contest their power, Turkey ’s generals had finally met
their match in the Islamic AK party of Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey
On August 13, President Morsi of
Egypt forced the resignation of Field Marshall
Tantawi and his top generals, the de facto rulers of since the fall of Mubarak.
After 60 years of regimes headed by military men, from Egypt Nasser
to Sadat to Mubarak, the generals had thought to continue to rule behind the
throne, and accordingly staged what amounted to a coup to strip the presidency
of its powers when it became clear that the Islamist Morsi had been elected
president in June. In August, Morsi made his highly risky move to reassert the
powers of the civilian executive, and prevailed: Tantawi and the other top
brass obeyed orders to resign.
As President Morsi boasted in an interview in the New York Times today: “The president of the Arab Republic of Egypt is the commander of the armed forces, full stop.
now is a real civil state. It
is not theocratic, it is not military. It is democratic, free, constitutional,
lawful and modern.” Egypt
The last statement remains to be validated, but there is no denying the quantum shift in the power politics of the state of
. To many,
the acquiescence of the generals to Morsi’s demand for their resignation came
as a surprise. But it is possible that the example of the once all-powerful
generals in Egypt Turkey, on trial
for their lives, served as a caution for ’s generals. As they say in
the Egypt Middle East, it was the lesson of the
flying head of the wolf.
In the Middle Eastern fables of Kalila and Domna, from which La Fontaine derived many of his fables, the lion, who is King, is displeased with an answer the wolf gives him, and swats his head off with a blow of his paw. When it is the fox’s turn to answer the same question, the fox gives the right answer, and the Lion King asks him: “Who taught you that?” To which the fox replies: “The flying head of the wolf.”