Kamal Alam discusses the implications of last Friday's failed military coup for Turkey's military ? the second largest in NATO. 

As Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey's first president, returned from the Syrian front in November 1918 and then escaped from Istanbul into the heartland of Anatolia to reorganize the Ottoman army, he famously said, "geldikleri gibi giderler," which roughly translates as, "as they come, shall they go." "They" referred to the Allied countries that had occupied Constantinople, as it was called then, the Dardanelles and the Bosporus.  If it wasn't for Atatürk, Turkey would have been a land locked country like Afghanistan begging its neighbours for access to the sea and vital trade routes. As it turned out Atatürk not only left plenty of sources of water but also made Turkey perhaps the single most geographically strategic country in the world.

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Events in Turkey last Friday 15th July caught much of the world unaware.  The failed coup attempt by the Turkish military has left more questions than answers. Whilst Turkey's political identity has always been confused the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk has never been in question. Turks are now more divided than ever. Many Turks who oppose the iron grip of Recep Tayyip Erdo?an do not believe this was a real coup; there is almost unison amongst secular Turks that this attempted coup was an elaborate hoax in order to give Erdo?an more power. Whilst now it is obvious that Erdo?an is using this failed coup to imprison thousands of his political and judicial opponents, it is less obvious how much of a role the Turkish military had in this coup. The world might quietly caution Turkey of its obligations to human rights and international law the most disturbing element is the fate of the Turkish military which is the second largest in NATO.

The Turkish military is no ordinary military ? it was born out of the world's longest lasting dynasty the Ottoman Empire and quickly built itself as one of the most modern armies on the planet with a very sophisticated indigenous weapons industry and one of the finest air forces in the world. Disturbing images have emerged of beheadings of Turkish soldiers and a severely bandaged former head of the Turkish Air Force. The Turkish Air Force itself is the vanguard of Turkey's defences. Whatever the facts might be ? we may never quite know who planned this coup and whether it was authentic few disgruntled officers or actually an elderly cleric from Pennsylvania ? one thing is for certain the Turkish military has been humiliated in front of entire world. Did no one in the General Staff officer corps realise what was brewing in their young cadres of officers? Did they quietly acquiesce to please Erdo?an? One thing is certain that ? the Syrian crisis has come full circle to haunt Turkey. After five long years when Erdo?an predicted that Assad would fall in a few weeks and he would be praying in Damascus ? it is Assad who still holds Damascus and is now goading Erdo?an of his coming defeat as the battle for Aleppo heats up with the Syrian Arab Army advancing towards Erdo?an backed rebels. The impact of the Syrian war on Turkey and its military cannot be ignored.

The Turkish military's greatest fight has always been the terrorist insurgency led by the PKK. Prior to the coming of Bashar al Assad as Syrian President, one could argue Turkey was facing a losing battle against the PKK. Bashar reached out to Turkey and overturned the previous support for PKK and its leader Öcalan. Syrian and Turkish military and intelligence started cooperating over not just the fight against the PKK but also the war raging in Iraq after the ouster of Saddam Hussein. The Turkish military found an able ally in Syria with its secular constitution and military more akin to Atatürk's military than that of other Arab countries. Previous Chief of Staff ?lker Ba?bu? reached a strong understanding with his Syrian counterparts. The Syrian war also coincided with the unravelling of Ba?bu? and many other Generals who opposed Erdo?an's war in Syria. As Turkish stability and security spiral out of control the greatest threat remains the dismantling of the Turkish military. The Turkish military is no mickey-mouse army ? the facts do not add up. Surely this coup has not come from the core of the military. The Turkish military is seen as Atatürk's army and its soldiers are treated as demi-gods in Turkey however as they are disrespected and accused and worse humiliated physically and publicly ? a dangerous precedent could be set. As Turks seem to quarrel over the facts of the coup and the future of the constitution ? they must not lose sight of their military being the ultimate guarantor of stability. Atatürk built modern Turkey from a patch of barren land that was surrounded by victorious allies. His children seem to be lost and caught between several wars. Much of Europe's future depends on the fate of Turkey. Erdo?an seems to want to return to Atatürk's last Syria outpost in Aleppo as a victor. However in trying to do so he might sink Atatürk's army.

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