The military-corporate battle of Turkey and Egypt

This post was published in Nezavisimaya Gazeta. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.


MOSCOW, (BM) – In the event of an impending armed conflict between militarily held states, it is traditionally customary to compare their military and military-industrial potentials, evaluate the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the armed forces, as well as the capabilities of the allied forces that they can use in the confrontation. Based on this, the outcome of the party is predicted.

In a possible clash of Turkish and Egyptian forces on Libyan territory, the situation is much more interesting, the test will be carried out primarily on the viability of the military machines of the two countries, which in the recent past were largely identical – military corporations that actually controlled the states.

But President Recep Erdogan changed the concept, and the Turkish army lost its former political power and, obviously, self-confidence, but the Egyptian Armed Forces, headed by Field Marshal President Abdul-Fattah Al-Sisi, retained their previous dominant positions in society after a short “Islamist” pauses in the management of the country.

Egyptian force

Since the creation of the Arab Republic of Egypt (ARE), the officer corps has held key posts in government and business, creating over time, in fact, the country’s largest state-owned corporation, built on a caste basis.

However, the influence of the generals on state affairs reached the highest level only after the “Arab Spring”, when the Muslim Brotherhood, headed by Mohammed Mursi, banned in Russia, came to power in Egypt. As a result of the military coup of 2013, Mursi was overthrown, and the military took power in the full sense of the word.

According to the new Constitution of 2014, the army is the pillar of the Egyptian state. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (AF), created back in 1954 and comprising 25 high-ranking military leaders, is, in fact, in charge of all issues of war and peace. It is headed by the Minister of Defense. During the 2011 revolution, the Supreme Council of the Supreme Council took control of the country for almost a year and a half.

Officially, neighboring Israel has always been the main military opponent of Egypt. But now its paramount enemy status in the plans of the Egyptian General Staff, as well as the emphasis on conducting large-scale military operations against the regular army, is simply a tribute to tradition.

A tribute to the allied duty with the Arab monarchies is Egypt’s constantly declared readiness to repulse hypothetical Iranian aggression. At the same time, Egypt skimmed on allied commitments, refusing to participate in the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which had been trying unsuccessfully for a year to defeat the Hussite rebels supported by Iran in Yemen.

After the “Arab Spring”, the Egyptian armed forces as a whole did not learn too well to deal with asymmetric threats – with radical Islamist groups on the Sinai Peninsula and in neighboring Libya.

The Egyptian military is more occupied with the economy, they directly control a significant part (according to various sources, from 20% to 50%) of economic activity in the country, including in the field of housing and communal services, education, healthcare, trade and tourism. The Ministry of Defense may impose a ban on any commercial project for reasons of national security.

Representatives of the armed forces informally oversee the work of all civilian ministries and departments. At the same time, the army enjoys the real trust of society, unlike any political parties, both secular and Islamic.

Turkish march

Since the creation of the Republic of Turkey, the national army has always been the most authoritative and influential state institution – the keeper of the secular state and the legacy of its creator Kemal Atatürk.

It was also an Egyptian military state corporation, but much more influential. Usually a crisis political situation was resolved by military intervention. In the 21st century, the relationship between Turkish society, the political elite and the military caste radically transformed, and the military gradually lost a decisive influence on political processes.

And the failed military coup on July 15, 2016 only completed the picture of defeat. The repression against the officer corps that followed, together with large-scale structural reforms, reformatted the system – now the armed forces have come under the control of the executive branch. President Erdogan received an obedient tool to achieve his ambitious foreign policy goals.

Soon a series of military operations of the Turkish army in Syria began, before their planning and implementation was hampered due to overt sabotage of Erdogan’s instructions in the army. But after the defeat of the coup and access to the Syrian open spaces, the process began, now Turkey is already fighting in Libya.

The accumulation of real combat experience, previously based only on local operations against detachments of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, has acquired vast geography. Turkish military bases were deployed in Somalia (200 troops) and Qatar (3,000), consolidating the country’s military presence in the strategic Gulfs of Aden and Persia.

Plus up to fifty deployed Turkish bases and infrastructure in Iraq and Syria. Albania granted Turkish ships access to the Mediterranean naval base Pasha Liman and permission to temporarily deploy in another military port of Durres.

Finally, Turkey remains a member of the North Atlantic Alliance, which for a long time expanded the country’s military geography and was believed to have a beneficial effect on the process of military training.

But against the backdrop of a sharp cooling of Ankara’s relations with Brussels and Washington, beginning with the repressions after the July coup and ending with the Kurdish issue, the alliance factor ceased to play any serious role.

The meeting of two military corporations

The Egyptian military retained and strengthened power; the Turkish officer corps lost it. The Egyptian army retained the trust of society, the authority of the Turkish in society is no longer so unequivocal.

At the same time, the level of their combat experience is unequal – the number of wars waged by Turkey is only multiplying. The Turkish military structure is more flexible, but the motivational component is questionable – the armed forces have left a lot of hidden enemies of President Erdogan, and at the crucial moment one cannot rule out the turning of bayonets against him or acts of sabotage.

In addition, the loss of self-confidence, coupled with the danger of reprisals, affects the manifestation of the officer initiative, which is so important on the battlefield. Therefore, now the Turkish army relies more on equipment, primarily UAVs.

Both countries spend significant financial resources on the purchase of the most modern weapons, including Russian ones. Turkey also has a powerful military-industrial complex by regional standards.

But Egypt has significantly more allies in the region, its operational lines come close to the Libyan theater of operations, stretching them to Tripoli is a matter of technology, and Turkey needs to overcome the Mediterranean Sea. None of the opponents have a decisive advantage.


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