Turkey’s pursuit of Kurdish rebels: Pretext for NATO intervention in Syria?

Turkey has warned that it may take action against Kurdish rebels operating in the north of Syria. Middle East expert Franklin Lamb believes this could finally lead to Turkish and NATO intervention in the country.

The strong statement from the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, comes after reports that Kurdish militants linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) had taken control of five cities along the Syrian-Turkish border.

No one should attempt to provoke us. If a step needs to be taken against the PKK, we will not hesitate to take it,” Erdogan told a news conference.

The Turkish prime minister first spoke of a possible intervention against Kurdish militants in northern Syria on Wednesday evening. "If there are formations that are being set up right now that lead to a terrorist act, then naturally we have the right to intervene," he said in an interview with Kanal 24.

On Thursday, Erdogan also said that he believed Syria’s President Bashar Assad was “on his way out” and that Syria was preparing “for a new era.” He added that a transitional government should prepare for a new constitution as well as presidential and parliamentary elections.

Turkey has long been fighting with the PKK, which seeks the establishment of an autonomous Kurdistan. Turkey is now concerned that the creation of a Kurdish enclave in the north of Syria could provide a sanctuary to the separatists, who took up arms against the state in 1984.

In recent years Turkish forces have carried out regular attacks against PKK militants based in the mountains of northern Iraq, who use the area as a platform for attacks in Turkey.

Dr Franklin Lamb, director of Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace, told RT that it increasingly seems that Ankara is going to make good on its pledge to cross the border into Syria in pursuit of the Kurdish rebels.

Lamb stressed that Erdogan had earlier hinted that he may invoke Article 5 of the NATO charter, which considers an attack on one member of the bloc to be an attack on all. “If Syria pursues across the border [with Turkey] one can imagine that the Turks will say to their NATO partners ‘look, this is attack on all of us, we’ve got to go in.’ And that might give some excuse.”

‘Future of Assad regime to be decided in Aleppo’

The future of Bashar Assad’s regime will be decided in the flashpoint city of Aleppo claims Lamb, citing its economic importance and proximity to Turkey.

Syria’s commercial capital has become a battlefield between government and rebel forces.

The Syrian Army is reportedly using heavy armor, artillery and helicopters to drive the rebels from the areas they control. Some RT sources say the rebel forces received new weapons just before the escalation of violence.

There were unconfirmed reports of the Syrian Air Force using fighter jets to strike at rebel positions, although the use of such aircraft in urban areas is inefficient unless precision bombs and other similar weapons are used.

“If they lose that battle, they will fall. In the next few days we may see dramatic change in the balance over there,” said Lamb.