Damascus / Ankara / Moscow (AP) - The situation in northern Syria is getting worse. Five days after the start of the Turkish offensive against Kurdish militias, they ask the Syrian government for help. According to a corresponding agreement, not only Kurdish militias and Turkish army face each other near the Turkish-Syrian border - Syrian soldiers have also marched. Explodes northern Syria? And what does the situation mean for NATO?
Is there now a stop to the Turkish offensive - or the war between Syria and Turkey?
A direct military confrontation of Syrian and Turkish troops is no longer excluded. So far, there have been no major direct battles between the two sides in the Syrian civil war - Turkey had previously advanced twice into Syrian territory. But with a stop the offensive is not to be expected. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stressed that the offensive will continue despite arms embargoes or economic sanctions.
"Turkey has a run and will try to push the Kurds out of as much ground as possible before they possibly think of a political solution," said an international military in Turkey, who did not want to be named, on Monday. Especially as long as the US and the EU are still thinking about sanctions.
Militarily, Turkey could overrun the Syrian army weakened by the long civil war. The central question is how the Allies of Syria, above all Russia, react.
Will Russia interfere as an ally of Syria?
Warlike not, but definitely diplomatic. Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin and Erdogan are in telephone contact. For Moscow, as an ally of the Syrian government, the Turkish offensive even brings benefits. The withdrawal of US troops - and the subsequent offensive by the Turks against the Kurds - also helped to set in motion the dialogue between the Kurds and the government in Damascus, Moscow Foreign Minister Konstantin Kossachov said. The Russians had long called for this dialogue and the US withdrawal. The Syrian army was able to move after the call for help of the Kurds in parts of northern Syria, in which they had no power since the beginning of Kurdish self-government.
Kosachev hardly sees the danger of direct fighting between Syrian and Turkish troops, because Ankara does not intend to occupy parts of Syria. Erdogan's goals are transparent, he said. Turkey needs the offensive to settle Syrian refugees in the now-contested areas.
What are the consequences of the transfer of Syrian troops for the Kurds?
For the Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria, cooperation with the government of President Bashar al-Assad is a risky game. For the Syrian army is now returning to areas that were under Kurdish control for seven years. And the Kurds probably have no guarantee that Assad's troops withdraw after an end to the fighting. At the same time, there are also reports of residents celebrating the arrival of military reinforcements in the fight against Turkey.
Actually, the Kurds do not trust the Assad government and Russia. Greater direct battles have avoided government forces and the Kurdish militias in the civil war. But Assad wants to bring all of Syria back under his control and defends himself against Kurdish efforts to reorganize the country with a federal structure politically. In a joint struggle, for example against the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS) or now against Turkish troops, the Kurdish militias and government are more of a kind of forced or tacit alliance.
Could Turkey take the NATO partners into the conflict?
No. In Article 5 of the treaty, the NATO states have agreed that an armed attack against one or more of them will be considered an attack on all and support each other. This only applies in the case of an attack in self-defense. Article 5 does not provide for a country to ask for military support after a counter-attack on its own offensive.
Could NATO throw Turkey out?
The treaty does not contain a clause excluding unwanted members, which means that expulsion from Turkey would only be possible through a huge political effort by all the other 28 Allies. There are also strategic reasons against the exclusion of Turkey. The country has the second strongest NATO army after the US and plays a very significant regional political role. In addition, despite the military offensive, Turkey remains an important partner in the fight against IS.