How the bat­tle for Kobane and Pesh­merga de­ploy­ment eroded bor­ders be­tween Kurds

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

Barely a few weeks ago, Kobane was sur­rounded on three sides by heav­ily armed Is­lamic State (IS) forces and in dan­ger of im­mi­nent col­lapse. Now, Kobane has pro­pelled it­self as the sym­bol of the in­ter­na­tional bat­tle against IS but more im­por­tantly it has placed the Syr­ian Kurds un­der great in­ter­na­tional spot­light.

Few would have imag­ined that this small dusty town would have brought to­gether in one way or another, Kurds in Iraq, Syria and Turkey, Free Syr­ian Army (FSA), Turkey, the US, Euro­pean Union, Saudi Ara­bia and var­i­ous coali­tion part­ners.

Events on the ground as well as the po­lit­i­cal dy­namic have trans­formed to the ex­tent that John Allen, the re­tired US gen­eral in charge of over­see­ing the US cam­paign against IS, stated that the town is no longer in dan­ger of fall­ing into IS hands.

This week in a highly sym­bolic move, 150 Iraqi Pesh­merga forces crossed the Turk­ish bor­der to help in the de­fense of the town. 150 troops is an im­por­tant but nev­er­the­less sym­bolic fig­ure, how­ever the heavy weaponry that ac­com­pa­nies them add to their con­sid­er­able clout.

Of greater sig­nif­i­cance is the boost in morale and op­ti­mism that Kobane and the lo­cal Kur­dish pop­u­la­tion have re­ceived with this re­in­force­ment. The jour­ney of th­ese Pesh­merga, to rap­tur­ous wel­come of Turk­ish Kurds, was also sym­bolic as it crossed three parts of Kur­dis­tan.

With Kurds in Iraq, Turkey and Syria cheer­ing equally res­o­lutely, the de­ploy­ment of the Pesh­merga forces greatly en­hanced Kur­dish unity. The de­ploy­ment also opens a new chan­nel that will not re­main closed, if the sit­u­a­tion dic­tates the path is clear for fur­ther Pesh­merga re­in­force­ments to ar­rive.

Just weeks ago, Kobane was con­founded to a lo­cal prob­lem. It is now cross-bor­der Kur­dish prob­lem as well as a firm strate­gic goal of the coali­tion forces.

Kobane has not been with­out its ironies. Turkey has faced a back­lash over its stance on Kobane. Although it has wel­comed Iraqi Kur­dish and FSA forces, at the same time it has loathed any support for the Peo­ple De­fense Unit (YPG) forces for their sym­pa­thies to the PKK.

In par­al­lel with Pesh­merga re­in­force­ments, FSA forces re­cently en­tered to support Kobane, a key de­mand from Turkey to try and give the Kobane bat­tle a more Syr­ian and anti-As­sad feel, than a united Kur­dish cam­paign based on na­tion­al­ism. Although it won’t trans­form the his­tor­i­cally cau­tious re­la­tions be­tween FSA bat­tal­ions and Kur­dish forces overnight, this lat­est co­op­er­a­tion may pave the way for a join­ing of forces to oust As­sad once the IS headache is re­solved (as Ankara has long de­manded)

This week, Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter, Ahem Davu­to­glu hit back at grow­ing crit­ics, stat­ing his re­fusal to be part of a ‘game’ for a few weeks to sat­isfy Amer­i­can or Euro­pean opin­ion.

The bat­tle for Kobane has marked the brave re­sis­tance of Syr­ian Kur­dish forces but it has also placed into clear con­text the strength of IS. On Wed­nes­day alone, there were 10 US led air strikes against IS po­si­tions in Kobane with dozens more since the al­lied cam­paign in­ten­si­fied in re­cent weeks.

Yet, even with other front lines in Iraq and other parts of Syria, and an avalanche of air strikes, IS has be­come weak­ened but largely pre­vailed. Lit­er­ally hun­dreds of IS ar­mored ve­hi­cles and po­si­tions have been de­stroyed – this only shows how much of a force and a prob­lem that IS had be­come.

It de­vel­oped tremen­dous strength over the past 2 years, es­pe­cially since its con­quests in Iraq, but the West ig­nored this stark re­al­ity and re­acted too late. In­deed for the YPG, the bloody bat­tles with IS over the past year or so of­ten with lit­tle support and recog­ni­tion, is not new.

Now a vi­cious war rages against IS in Syria and Iraq. What makes all this a remark- able irony is that this is only a war within a war. A greater Syr­ian civil war still rages with over 200,000 killed and with Bashar al-As­sad firmly in power, re­gard­less of how the bat­tle against IS now dom­i­nates the head­lines.

It was the Syr­ian civil war, se­cu­rity vac­u­ums and lack of a clear Western pol­icy that cre­ated IS. Now, with much more in­vest­ment, in­tense fight­ing and a great deal of sacrifice, IS will be de­feated but what then for Syria and the other fronts of war?

De­feat­ing IS is one thing, let­ting them re-spawn is another mat­ter en­tirely that the West can­not over­look.

US De­fense Sec­re­tary Chuck Hagel fi­nally ad­mit­ted a well­known re­al­ity, that the cam­paign against IS is ben­e­fit­ting As­sad even if their long-term tar­get re­mains his re­moval from power.

Syr­ian and IS need a com­pre­hen­sive so­lu­tion. Above all, both re­gional and global pow­ers now need to look at the new re­al­i­ties of the war in Syria. The sit­u­a­tion can never re­turn to any pre-civil war era. With ev­ery sacrifice and valiant re­sis­tance, the Syr­ian Kurds con­sol­i­date their hard fought and de­served au­ton­omy. Kobane could well serve as the iconic bridge that brought all of great Kur­dis­tan to­gether both now and the fu­ture.

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