FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

ISIS on the Verge of Victory at Kobani

Isis is close to capturing the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, just a short distance from the Turkish border, after a three-week siege in which US air strikes turned out to be ineffective in preventing Isis winning an important victory.

With Isis fighters also making advances into western Baghdad, which may allow them to close the city’s airport with artillery fire, President Obama’s strategy of containing the Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria is in ruins.

Kurdish militiamen are battling to stop Isis capturing Kobani, but a Kurdish spokesman in the city was quoted as saying that the town “will certainly fall soon”. Fighting has reached the eastern outskirts of Kobani where Isis fighters raised their black flag over one building at the entrance to the town.

Earlier the Kurds claimed a success when they drove Isis fighters from high ground overlooking the city called Mishtenur hill, but they appear to have lost it again. Some 3,000 civilians are believed still to be in Kobani, while 160,000 of its people have already fled.

A Kurdish female fighter called Deilar Kanj Khamis, better known by her military name, Arin Mirkan, blew herself up in the course of the fighting on Sunday, killing 10 jihadists. She had stayed behind as Kurdish forces withdrew and mingled with the attackers before detonating explosives.

The battle for Kobani has united Kurds across the region who see it as their version of the battle of Thermopylae, with their heroic soldiers fighting to the end against Isis forces superior in numbers and armed with heavier weapons.

Isis is using tanks and artillery it seized from the Iraqi and Syrian armies when it overran their bases during the summer.

Isis forces have also captured Hit in Anbar province and parts of the provincial capital Ramadi.

The successful advance of the militants shows that the Iraqi army is little more capable of resisting Isis than when it lost Mosul and Tikrit in June.

The ability of Isis to resume offensive operations may also be a sign that the effectiveness of US air power, without highly trained observers on the ground to call in air strikes, is limited when used against well-led forces.

A veteran Kurdish leader, Omar Sheikhmous, said that Isis “is saying that ‘we can still win victories on the ground’ and the capture of Kobani will give them complete control over territory stretching from Mosul to Aleppo.”

He said that Turkey had used the desperation of the Kurds in Kobani to extract political concessions from them before allowing reinforcements and supplies to reach the 2,000 to 3,000 fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) who are holding the town.

The fall of Kobani would be a bad blow to the US and its anti-Isis coalition which has been bombing Isis positions in Syria since 23 September and in Iraq since 8 August.

But in both countries Isis is still on the offensive and is making gains in Anbar province in western Iraq and in towns close to Baghdad. Isis fighters have responded to air attacks by spreading out so they are difficult to find and target.

The YPG said that there were 50 clashes with the enemy on Sunday in which 74 Isis fighters, as well as 15 Kurdish militiamen, were killed.

Mr Sheikhmous said that, unlike the situation in Sinjar in Iraq, where Kurdish villages were overrun before their inhabitants could flee, the Kurdish local authorities had told civilians “to flee from their villages into Turkey because they could not defend them”.

 

Kobani is one of three Kurdish cantons on the Syrian side of the Turkish border where many of Syria’s two-and-a-half million Kurds live.

President Bashar al-Assad withdrew his forces from these enclaves earlier in the war, leaving them in the hands of the Democratic Unity Party (PYD) whose militia is the YPG. Both are effectively the Syrian branch of the PKK that has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since 1984.

The long-running peace process between the PKK  and the Turkish government could be one casualty of  the fall of Kobani. Turkish forces have done nothing to help the Syrian Kurds hold the town and there is no sign of powerful Turkish military forces along the border intervening.

The leader of the PYD, Salih Muslim, is reported to have met officials from Turkish military intelligence to plead for aid but was told this would only be available if the Syrian Kurds abandoned their claim for self-determination, gave up their self-governing cantons, and agreed to a Turkish buffer zone inside Syria. Mr Muslim turned down the demands and returned to Kobani.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been expressing outrage that the US Vice-President Joe Biden should have identified Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as the states whose military and financial support led to the growth of Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra.

Mr Biden told a meeting at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics on 2 October that the Turks, Saudis and UAE “poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons against anyone who would fight Assad, except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist element of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”

For all Mr Erdogan’s disclaimers, Turkey still evidently regards Isis as a lesser enemy than Assad.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

September 26, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Time to Wake Up: the Neoliberal Order is Dying 
David J. Detmer
History Distorted: Sam Wineberg’s Critique of Howard Zinn
Robert Hunziker
An Unforeseen Climate Beast Awakens!
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Many More Women Are There?
Jörg Wiegratz
The Age of Fraud: the Link Between Capitalism and Profiteering by Deception
John Kendall Hawkins
Now There’s a Wall Between Us, Something There’s Been Lost…
William Kaufman
Brett Kavanaugh’s Wayward Penis: A New Twist
Michael Welton
A Wake-Up Call to the Canadian Left
Patrick Irelan
Brett Goes to School 
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
All Wars Are Illegal, Let’s Act!
Dean Baker
Robots, China and the Failure of Economics Reporters
Matthew Johnson
Cancel Kavanaugh
Rohullah Naderi – Rustam Ali Seerat
The Option of Self-Defense for Hazaras
September 25, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Fact-Finding Labour’s “Anti-Semitism” Crisis
Charles Pierson
Destroying Yemen as Humanely as Possible
James Rothenberg
Why Not Socialism?
Patrick Cockburn
How Putin Came Out on Top in Syria
John Grant
“Awesome Uncontrollable Male Passion” Meets Its Match
Guy Horton
Burma: Complicity With Evil?
Steve Stallone
Jujitsu Comms
William Blum
Bombing Libya: the Origins of Europe’s Immigration Crisis
John Feffer
There’s a New Crash Coming
Martha Pskowski
“The Emergency Isn’t Over”: the Homeless Commemorate a Year Since the Mexico City Earthquake
Fred Baumgarten
Ten Ways of Looking at Civility
Dean Baker
The Great Financial Crisis: Bernanke and the Bubble
Binoy Kampmark
Parasitic and Irrelevant: The University Vice Chancellor
September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail