The Wall Street Journal reports: The U.S. has conferred newfound legitimacy on the Syrian Kurdish militia fighting in Kobani, which is linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in neighboring Turkey. The U.S. and Turkey both list the PKK as a terrorist group.
Washington’s decision to send in supplies by air to fighters loyal to the Democratic Union Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PYD, followed a U.S. assessment that the Syrian Kurdish defenders would run out of ammunition in as little as three days.
Iraqi Kurdish leaders told American officials they were considering sending reinforcements from their region to Kobani. To reach the town, they would have to pass through other parts of Syria. U.S. defense officials looked at the route and told the Kurds it would be a suicide mission.
The U.S. asked the Turkish government to let Iraqi Kurdish fighters cross through Turkish territory to reinforce Kobani. U.S. officials said Turkey agreed in principal and that Massoud Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, proposed sending a specially trained force of Syrian Kurdish refugees.
But events on the ground forced Washington’s hand. U.S. contacts in Kobani sent out an urgent SOS.
“We needed weaponry and fast,” said Idris Nassan, the deputy foreign minister of the Kobani regional government.
To tide the Kurds over until Turkey opens a land corridor, U.S. Gen. Lloyd Austin, who runs the air campaign against Islamic State, decided on a delicate plan: dropping supplies using C-130 cargo planes.
The U.S. didn’t think Islamic State fighters had sophisticated antiaircraft weapons, but the Pentagon decided out of caution to fly under cover of darkness.
Gen. Austin presented the proposal to the White House on Friday. President Barack Obama approved it immediately, U.S. officials said.
Until recently, the White House wouldn’t even acknowledge U.S. contacts with the PYD because of its close ties to the PKK and the diplomatic sensitivities over that in Turkey. [Continue reading…]