ISIS vs the farmers. Who turned the field into a battlefield?

ISIS and its social media followers have been celebrating the death of a ten-year old boy with the nom de guerre Abu Ubaidah.

There are also Kurdish children fighting against ISIS.

Some observers in the West are perturbed by the idea that a double standard is being applied on the involvement of children in war based on whether they happen to be fighting with the “good guys.”

But this looks to me like one of those situations where allegiance to a particular principle (in this case, opposition to the use of child soldiers) is coming at the expense of common sense.

The difference between the armed jihadist father and son and the armed farmer and son is that it is the former who insisted on turning the latter’s field into a battlefield.

One was content to farm, while the other demanded to fight.

The farmer and his family could have fled, but they can hardly be faulted as they make a desperate effort to defend their land.

ISIS is an invading army on a ruthless campaign of conquest. Their actions are no more excusable than those of any imperial power.

Those who turn these combatants into equals just because both are using guns and arming their children are denying the fundamental inequality in this conflict.


The ISIS stranglehold on Kobane

Thomas van Linge has created some maps that make clear how isolated the Kurds in Kobane have become in the last few weeks.

At the beginning of September, the YPG controlled an area around Kobane that ran from the Euphrates river about 50 miles eastward. In the map below, this is shown as the central yellow enclave.

The area now controlled by ISIS (shown in gray) has reduced the YPG foothold to less than the Kobane city limits.

To view either of these maps in greater detail just click on the images above.


Michael Klare: Washington wields the oil weapon

You remember. It was the oiliest of administrations. The president was a (failed) West Texas oilman. The vice-president had been the CEO of the giant oil field services company, Halliburton, and before taking office, when speaking at the Petroleum Institute and elsewhere, was known to say things like, “The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.” The national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, long on the board of Chevron, had a double-hulled oil tanker named for her. They were a crew with the global flow of oil and how to control it on the brain.  Just in case you forgot, and I know you haven’t, the new vice president had barely taken office and set up an “energy task force” to develop future policy that he himself would chair when a parade of top oil executives began arriving at the White House to meet secretly with it.

And then, after 9/11, came the assault on the oil heartlands of the planet. I’m sure you remember how, amid the chaos of a burning Baghdad, American troops were ordered to guard only the buildings of Iraq’s Oil and Interior Ministries, and… well, I don’t really have to review all of that for you, do I? Then, of course, Americans put into office the guy who swore he was going to end oil wars and attend to our global warming future instead — a fellow named Barack Obama who, everyone knew, would step into office without an oil slick in his head.

That was then and this is now. The Barack Obama of 2014 is essentially running a drill-baby-drill White House in a country where oil consumption is actually rising. His administration has been opening up ever more coastal areas to exploration and drilling from the East to the Arctic waters of Alaska, while encouraging the creation of a “Saudi America” in the American frack lands.  The result: a torrent of crude oil and natural gas and something else as well, as Michael Klare, TomDispatch’s indispensable energy expert, points out today. Buoyed by the country’s new energy wealth, our president has been putting oil to work abroad. He has been using energy as the spear of his already highly militarized foreign policy.  The result has been a sophisticated weaponization of oil that puts the energy mavens of the Bush administration to shame.  But let Klare tell you the whole grim tale. Tom Engelhardt

Obama’s new oil wars
Washington takes on ISIS, Iran, and Russia
By Michael T. Klare

It was heinous. It was underhanded.  It was beyond the bounds of international morality. It was an attack on the American way of life.  It was what you might expect from unscrupulous Arabs.  It was “the oil weapon” — and back in 1973, it was directed at the United States. Skip ahead four decades and it’s smart, it’s effective, and it’s the American way.  The Obama administration has appropriated it as a major tool of foreign policy, a new way to go to war with nations it considers hostile without relying on planes, missiles, and troops.  It is, of course, that very same oil weapon.

Until recently, the use of the term “the oil weapon” has largely been identified with the efforts of Arab producers to dissuade the United States from supporting Israel by cutting off the flow of petroleum. The most memorable example of its use was the embargo imposed by Arab members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on oil exports to the United States during the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, causing scarcity in the U.S., long lines at American filling stations, and a global economic recession.

After suffering enormously from that embargo, Washington took a number of steps to disarm the oil weapon and prevent its reuse. These included an increased emphasis on domestic oil production and the establishment of a mutual aid arrangement overseen by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that obliged participating nations to share their oil with any member state subjected to an embargo.

So consider it a surprising reversal that, having tested out the oil weapon against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with devastating effect back in the 1990s, Washington is now the key country brandishing that same weapon, using trade sanctions and other means to curb the exports of energy-producing states it categorizes as hostile.  The Obama administration has taken this aggressive path even at the risk of curtailing global energy supplies.

Continue reading


35,000 year-old Indonesian cave paintings suggest art came out of Africa

The Guardian reports: Paintings of wild animals and hand markings left by adults and children on cave walls in Indonesia are at least 35,000 years old, making them some of the oldest artworks known.

The rock art was originally discovered in caves on the island of Sulawesi in the 1950s, but dismissed as younger than 10,000 years old because scientists thought older paintings could not possibly survive in a tropical climate.

But fresh analysis of the pictures by an Australian-Indonesian team has stunned researchers by dating one hand marking to at least 39,900 years old, and two paintings of animals, a pig-deer or babirusa, and another animal, probably a wild pig, to at least 35,400 and 35,700 years ago respectively.

The work reveals that rather than Europe being at the heart of an explosion of creative brilliance when modern humans arrived from Africa, the early settlers of Asia were creating their own artworks at the same time or even earlier.

Archaeologists have not ruled out that the different groups of colonising humans developed their artistic skills independently of one another, but an enticing alternative is that the modern human ancestors of both were artists before they left the African continent.

“Our discovery on Sulawesi shows that cave art was made at opposite ends of the Pleistocene Eurasian world at about the same time, suggesting these practices have deeper origins, perhaps in Africa before our species left this continent and spread across the globe,” said Dr Maxime Aubert, an archaeologist at the University of Wollongong. [Continue reading…]


Why is the world ignoring the revolutionary Kurds in Syria?

David Graeber writes: In 1937, my father volunteered to fight in the International Brigades in defence of the Spanish Republic. A would-be fascist coup had been temporarily halted by a worker’s uprising, spearheaded by anarchists and socialists, and in much of Spain a genuine social revolution ensued, leading to whole cities under directly democratic management, industries under worker control, and the radical empowerment of women.

Spanish revolutionaries hoped to create a vision of a free society that the entire world might follow. Instead, world powers declared a policy of “non-intervention” and maintained a rigorous blockade on the republic, even after Hitler and Mussolini, ostensible signatories, began pouring in troops and weapons to reinforce the fascist side. The result was years of civil war that ended with the suppression of the revolution and some of a bloody century’s bloodiest massacres.

I never thought I would, in my own lifetime, see the same thing happen again. Obviously, no historical event ever really happens twice. There are a thousand differences between what happened in Spain in 1936 and what is happening in Rojava, the three largely Kurdish provinces of northern Syria, today. But some of the similarities are so striking, and so distressing, that I feel it’s incumbent on me, as someone who grew up in a family whose politics were in many ways defined by the Spanish revolution, to say: we cannot let it end the same way again.

The autonomous region of Rojava, as it exists today, is one of few bright spots – albeit a very bright one – to emerge from the tragedy of the Syrian revolution. Having driven out agents of the Assad regime in 2011, and despite the hostility of almost all of its neighbours, Rojava has not only maintained its independence, but is a remarkable democratic experiment. Popular assemblies have been created as the ultimate decision-making bodies, councils selected with careful ethnic balance (in each municipality, for instance, the top three officers have to include one Kurd, one Arab and one Assyrian or Armenian Christian, and at least one of the three has to be a woman), there are women’s and youth councils, and, in a remarkable echo of the armed Mujeres Libres (Free Women) of Spain, a feminist army, the “YJA Star” militia (the “Union of Free Women”, the star here referring to the ancient Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar), that has carried out a large proportion of the combat operations against the forces of Islamic State.

How can something like this happen and still be almost entirely ignored by the international community, even, largely, by the International left? Mainly, it seems, because the Rojavan revolutionary party, the PYD, works in alliance with Turkey’s Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK), a Marxist guerilla movement that has since the 1970s been engaged in a long war against the Turkish state. Nato, the US and EU officially classify them as a “terrorist” organisation. Meanwhile, leftists largely write them off as Stalinists.

But, in fact, the PKK itself is no longer anything remotely like the old, top-down Leninist party it once was. Its own internal evolution, and the intellectual conversion of its own founder, Abdullah Ocalan, held in a Turkish island prison since 1999, have led it to entirely change its aims and tactics.

The PKK has declared that it no longer even seeks to create a Kurdish state. Instead, inspired in part by the vision of social ecologist and anarchist Murray Bookchin, it has adopted the vision of “libertarian municipalism”, calling for Kurds to create free, self-governing communities, based on principles of direct democracy, that would then come together across national borders – that it is hoped would over time become increasingly meaningless. In this way, they proposed, the Kurdish struggle could become a model for a wordwide movement towards genuine democracy, co-operative economy, and the gradual dissolution of the bureaucratic nation-state. [Continue reading…]


Obama administration not too concerned about the fate of Kobane

First the U.S. does almost nothing to impede the ISIS advance on Kobane. Countless opportunities to strike militants while they are exposed in open territory are passed up for no obvious reason.

Then, as soon as ISIS enters the city, the U.S. ramps up airstrikes, slowing ISIS while damaging the city’s infrastructure.

Then officials from the Pentagon and the State Department fan out across the media suggesting it doesn’t really matter that much whether ISIS takes control of the Kurdish city.

CNN: The key Syrian border city of Kobani will soon fall to ISIS, but that’s not a major U.S. concern, several senior U.S. administration officials said.

If Kobani falls, ISIS would control a complete swath of land between its self-declared capital of Raqqa, Syria, and Turkey — a stretch of more than 100 kilometers (62 miles).

The U.S. officials said the primary goals are not to save Syrian cities and towns, but to go after ISIS’ senior leadership, oil refineries and other infrastructure that would curb the terror group’s ability to operate — particularly in Iraq.

Reuters: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry suggested on Wednesday that preventing the fall of the Syrian town of Kobani to Islamic State fighters was not a strategic U.S. objective and said the idea of a buffer zone should be thoroughly studied.

“As horrific as it is to watch in real time what is happening in Kobani … you have to step back and understand the strategic objective,” Kerry told reporters at a news conference with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

“Notwithstanding the crisis in Kobani, the original targets of our efforts have been the command and control centers, the infrastructure,” he said. “We are trying to deprive the (Islamic State) of the overall ability to wage this, not just in Kobani but throughout Syria and into Iraq.”


Flurry of U.S. airstrikes as ISIS ‘in control of large parts of Kobane’

Karam Shoumali is reporting for the New York Times.


Kobane and the Kurds: Clueless at the New York Times

Turkish Inaction on ISIS Advance Dismays the U.S.,” a report in today’s New York Times identifies three reporters in the byline: Mark Landler and Eric Schmitt in Washington, and Anne Barnard in Beirut.

It sometimes seems like the more names there are in the byline, the worse the reporting and the less the accountability.

Even though international journalists are offered a grandstand view of the battle in Kobane from the relative safety of Turkey, the Times does not appear to currently have a staff reporter there. No disrespect to “news assistant” Karam Shoumali, but it’s hard to understand why they have no one else there right now.

Today’s report makes vague references to “Kurdish fighters” in Kobane but doesn’t identify them as belonging to the People’s Protection Committees, the YPG, until the penultimate paragraph.

As the headline suggests, the general narrative is of American “frustration” and “dismay” at Turkey’s unwillingness to defend Kobane.

The Kurds are crying for help, the Turks aren’t listening, and the Americans are wringing their hands (“the United States took pains to emphasize its support for the embattled Kurds in Kobani”).

Kurdish fighters in Kobani said they were running out of ammunition and could not prevail without infusions of troops and arms from Turkey.

The Guardian reports more accurately: “the US, reluctant to commit ground troops itself, wants Turkey to send in soldiers to confront Isis.”

But the point is this: unlike the U.S., the Kurds have no desire to see Turkish troops enter Kobane. Their arrival would be seen as having more to do with Turkey’s desire to suppress Kurdish autonomy than an effort to thwart ISIS.

As Jenan Moussa in the tweet above says, the appeal the Kurds are making is for their own fighters to be allowed to cross the border and for their dwindling supplies of ammunition to be replenished. Additional weapons, such as American TOW anti-tank missiles would help too.

As much as American officials may want to cast themselves as willing defenders of the Kurds as they face an ISIS onslaught, both the U.S. and the Kurds frustrated by a lack of support from Turkey, the lack of support has come just as much from Washington, hamstrung by its own anti-terrorism fundamentalism.

The New York Times peddles the administration’s excuses:

“We have anticipated that it will be easier to protect population centers and to support offensives on the ground in Iraq, where we have partners” in the Kurdish pesh merga fighters and the Iraqi Army, said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. “Clearly, in Syria, it will take more time to develop the type of partners on the ground with whom we can coordinate.”

For this reason, the official said, the military strategy in Syria so far has focused on “denying ISIL safe haven and degrading critical infrastructure — like command and control and mobile oil refineries — that they use to support their operations in Iraq.”

The report correctly notes that the Kurds have been left feeling abandoned: “even though they are the sort of vulnerable minority group that Mr. Obama has made a priority of protecting — political moderates who have women fighting alongside men and have provided refuge for internally displaced Syrians of many ethnicities.”

So when U.S. officials talk about the time needed to develop “partners on the ground,” they are trying to obscure the fact that the YPG is already qualified to serve as such a partner. In its gender equality, it’s even more progressive than the U.S. military itself!

Moreover, President Obama owes a personal debt of gratitude to the YPG because after he promised “to prevent a potential act of genocide” when in early August thousands of Yazidis stranded on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq were in peril from ISIS, it was the Syrian Kurdish fighters who enabled their escape by creating a safe corridor for their evacuation.

As Global Post reported:

Despite a widely publicized US bombing campaign to save them, family after family tells the same story of escape: While the Western media narrative has emphasized the US role and that of the Iraqi Kurds’ peshmerga fighters battling IS in recent weeks, it was instead the Kurds coming in from Syria and Turkey who saved the Yazidis’ lives. A limited number were airlifted off the mountain, but the mass exodus took place on foot. The much-vaunted peshmerga [in Iraq], meanwhile, initially ran.

“The PKK [a political and militant Kurdish party based in Turkey] saved us. They cleared a path for us so we could escape the Sinjar Mountains into Syria.”

“Thank God for the PKK and YPG [a Syrian branch of the PKK].”

“If it wasn’t for the Kurdish fighters, we would have died up there.”

For the U.S., the problem with the YPG is its affiliation with the PKK which has been designated as a terrorist organization. This has resulted in calls from some quarters that the PKK be delisted. Were that to happen, it would antagonize Turkey but also highlight the arbitrariness with which the U.S. labels terrorists.

The real problem is not that the YPG or the PKK can be linked to terrorism; it is that criminalizing membership of organizations is itself incompatible with the basic principles of democracy.

How can the United States on the one hand recognize the constitutional right of Americans to join anti-democratic extremist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, while at the same time refusing to partner with a group like the YPG that is genuinely and literally fighting for democracy?

The United States does not lack a partner on the ground in Kobane with which it could currently be coordinating its air strikes on ISIS. It lacks the willingness to discard a counterproductive security doctrine.


Washington’s secret talks with Syria’s branch of the PKK

Foreign Policy reports: Every day, the jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) advance closer to Kobani, a predominantly Kurdish town in northern Syria, close to the Turkish border. As the Islamic State rains down mortars on the town, the vastly outgunned People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia, are attempting to resist the weeks-long assault. While Turkish troops watch from across the border and the U.S.-led air campaign continues, none of the powerful forces in the region have intervened decisively — leaving the YPG to face the jihadist advance on its own.

The United States has rejected formal relations with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the party that is essentially the political wing of the YPG. The PYD, which has ruled Kobani and other Kurdish enclaves inside Syria since President Bashar al-Assad’s forces withdrew in July 2012, is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a militant organization that has fought Turkey since 1984 — and has consequently been listed as a terrorist organization by both Turkey and the United States. But interviews with American and Kurdish diplomats show that Washington opened indirect talks with the PYD years ago, even as it tried to empower the group’s Kurdish rivals and reconcile them with the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Though Washington has declined PYD requests for formal talks, the United States opened indirect talks with the group in 2012, former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told Foreign Policy. “We did meet someone who was an intermediary between the U.S. and the PYD. We met him on several occasions: myself once, and other diplomats on other occasions,” Ford said. The talks happened “maybe once every six months” and were mediated by a “Syrian citizen in Europe,” according to Ford.

The talks have continued since Ford’s departure and are conducted through the U.S. Embassy in Paris, two Kurdish sources familiar with the meetings told Foreign Policy. “They’re just briefing each other [on developments in Syria]. We’re not sure if the contact is going further, to the top of the administration in the U.S.,” one of the Kurdish sources said. Both Ford and the Kurds declined to identify the intermediary.

Concerns about a possible backlash from Ankara shaped Washington’s approach to the talks. [Continue reading…]


ISIS issues rules for journalists. Rule #1: swear allegiance to al-Baghdadi

Syria Deeply reports: Many local journalists fled Deir Ezzor when ISIS arrived – and the ones who stayed behind are forced to abide by the extremist group’s draconian rules

After raging battles between rebel forces and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, the latter gained control of much of Deir Ezzor province. Local journalists documented the instability and chaos.

But then ISIS swiftly implemented new rules for journalists working in areas under their control. The new rules drove many journalists to flee either to other parts of Syria or neighboring countries.

But some chose to stay and abide by the new restrictions. Amer, a journalist in Deir Ezzor, said while it was a risk to stay and keep working, he was motivated to document events taking place in ISIS territory. He felt that someone had to stay behind to report from within, to share the news with the world.

Amer said that the new rules from the ISIS press office dictate the local media’s scope of work.

“A meeting was held between independent journalists and the ISIS media staff to state how [journalistic] work will be conducted after ISIS gained control of the Deir Ezzor governorate,” said Amer.

At that meeting, a list of non-negotiable conditions was issued “for those who wish to continue working in the governorate.” [Continue reading…]


Kurds getting killed by both ISIS and Turkey

Reuters reports: At least nine people were killed and dozens wounded in demonstrations across Turkey on Tuesday, local media reported, as Kurds demanded the government do more to protect the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani from Islamic State militants.

Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters who burnt cars and tires as they took to the streets mainly in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish eastern and southeastern provinces. Clashes also erupted in the biggest city Istanbul and in the capital Ankara.

Five people were killed in Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish city in the southeast, which saw clashes between protesters and police.

A 25-year-old man died in Varto, a town in the eastern province of Mus, and at least half a dozen people were wounded there in clashes between police and protesters, local media reported.

Two people died in southeastern Siirt province, the governor was quoted as saying by CNN Turk Television, and another died in neighboring Batman. Curfews were imposed in five predominantly Kurdish southeastern provinces after the protests, in which shops and banks were damaged.


Kurds occupy the European Parliament in Brussels

Vice News reports: Around 100 Kurdish protesters overwhelmed security to demonstrate inside the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday, demanding military action to protect the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane from Islamic State fighters.

As demonstrations spread across Europe, the Kurdistan National Congress told VICE News a 25-year-old protester had been shot and killed during a Kobane solidarity protest in Varto, Turkey. He was named as Hakan Buksur.

Peaceful protesters in the European Parliament occupied the VoxBox multimedia stage, carrying banners and flags, some of them showing Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The PKK called for its supporters to take to the streets to urge European military action to defend Kobane, which is on the brink of falling to IS militants.

The demonstrators left the European Parliament after representatives spoke to President Martin Schulz. [Continue reading…]


Kurdish fighters in Kobane have the advantage of local knowledge but need immediate military support

Newsweek reports: As the black flag of the Islamic State (ISIS) rose above the Syrian town of Kobane on Monday, the soldiers of NATO’s second largest army stood and watched only a few hundred metres away.

As gunfire and explosions echoed across the border, fears were voiced about the potentially devastating long-term price Turkey may pay for remaining ambivalent to the plight of the Kobane’s Kurdish defenders.

“We will do everything possible to help the people of Kobane because they are our brothers and sisters,” Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told CNN as the town was close to falling on Monday.

However, they would only do so, he added, if there was a broader military commitment by Turkey’s allies to create a no-fly-zone in northern Syria, a move the United States has so far refused to back.

The Telegraph reports: The Turkish leader [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] is strongly mistrusted by the Kurds of Turkey and Syria. Many accuse his government – anxious about Turkey’s own Kurdish separatist movement – of conniving with Isil and of failing to act to prevent it committing atrocities against the Kurds in northern Syria.

At least three dozen Turkish tanks parked in a circle on a hill overlooking Kobane – apparently ready for action but still not deployed – further fuelled Kurdish suspicions, which on Tuesday boiled over into angry protests in Istanbul and other cities and left one man dead.

Yet Mr Erdogan’s view on air strikes struck a chord.

In Kobane itself, the local knowledge of Kurdish guerrillas in the YPG [People’s Defence Units] militia was likely to be more effective in combating the invading jihadists than air strikes, according to Ahmed Shekho, 24, head of the Syrian Kurdish students union, who fled at the weekend as the Isil attacks became fiercer.

“Now that Isil are in the eastern side of the town, a street war has started. It’s like gang warfare,” he said. “The YPG fighters know every street. Most of them are sons of Kobane and they are famous for their street fighting.

“Isil are better armed but when it comes to street fighting, maybe the situation could be different. The fighting has been intense and 350 jihadist fighters have been killed on the eastern side of Kobane.”

On the air strikes, Mr Shekho – who, like thousands of other Syrian Kurds, has sought refuge in the Turkish border town of Sururc – shared Mr Erdogan’s scepticism.

“For the Kurds, the American air strikes were the only hope, but they seem to have been more effective in Iraq,” he said. “There’s a valley to the south-west of Kobane that had 2,000 Isil vehicles in it for 11 days, yet the Americans have never targeted them. It’s as if they only want to scare them or do a little damage. I was in the south-west of Kobane and I saw an American air strike hitting a water pump belonging to a local farmer.” [Continue reading…]


Why did the U.S. help the Kurds in Iraq but leave ISIS to massacre them in Syria?

Cale Salih writes: The divergent US policy toward Kurds in Iraq and Syria is reflective of Washington’s general mistaken tendency to presume distinctions between the two countries that do not actually exist. According to US officials quoted this week in the Wall Street Journal, for instance, US airstrikes in Iraq are designed to help Iraqi forces beat back Isis, whereas in Syria, “We’re not trying to take ground away from them. We’re trying to take capability away from them.” A policy that decisively targets Isis in Iraq but half-heartedly in Syria is doomed to fail. It will, at best, only briefly postpone the immediate threat Isis poses to American interests in the region. And the new air strikes aren’t even really working.

A key difference between the new US war strategy in Kurdish-majority parts of the region was Washington’s decision to bolster its Kurdish partners on the ground in Iraq but not in Syria. In Iraq, the US not only carried out air strikes but also armed the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga and sent military “advisors”. As a result, the peshmerga were able to provide ground intelligence to guide US air strikes, and, in conjunction with Kurdish fighters from Turkey and Syria, they followed up on the ground to retake important territories lost to Isis.

In Syria, the US has been more hesitant to develop such a bold Kurdish partnership. At first glance, the Kurdish fighting force in Syria – the People’s Defence Units (YPG), linked to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which the US designates as a terrorist group due to its decades-long war with Turkey – is a less natural partner than the widely recognized Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. Yet it was YPG and PKK forces that provided the decisive support on the ground to the Iraqi Kurds, allowing KRG peshmerga to regain territory lost to Isis in Iraq. The US in great part owes the limited success of its airstrikes in north Iraq to the PKK and YPG.

The lesson the US should learn from its experience in north Iraq is that you can’t win a war in the air alone. Iraq showed that air strikes against Isis can work – but only when combined with efforts to arm and advise a reliable local force capable of following up to actually retake and hold territory on the ground. The YPG is that force in Syria, and any air strikes without the kind of support sent to the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga will be futile. [Continue reading…]


First ISIS destroys Kobane and then Turkey can save it?

AFP reports that Turkey’s President Erdogan says Kobane is “about to fall” and that a ground operation is needed to defeat ISIS.

Of course Kurdish forces are already in the midst of a valiant ground operation — they just haven’t received the support they need.

Thus far, Turkey has appeared resolute in its military inaction as its armored forces have quietly watched ISIS advance on Kobane. Likewise, until the last few hours, U.S. airstrikes have been minimal.

An explanation of U.S. objectives with ISIS was provided by an official who said: “We’re not trying to take ground away from them [in Syria]. We’re trying to take capability away from them.”

That’s an ambiguous statement when it’s widely recognized that the territory ISIS holds in Syria is the foundation for its capabilities. So the official explanation about why the U.S. has not been more forceful in preventing ISIS from capturing Kobane really makes little sense.

At the same time, it’s been said by many that it looks like Turkey would prefer to see ISIS rather than the PKK-aligned YPG controlling this part of the Syrian border. But even though the Turkish government feels threatened by the presence of an emerging Syrian Kurdish state, Rojava, ISIS is surely an unacceptable neighbor.

Maybe — and this is just speculation — there has been some cunning in American and Turkish inaction and neither power has any intention of allowing ISIS to gain full control of Kobane.

A Kurdish fighter tells Jenan Moussa: “ISIS brought in 1000s of fighters to Kobane. Seems whole of Raqqa is standing at our gates.”

Might this be what the U.S. and Turkey have been hoping to see as the prelude to a joint U.S.-Turkish operation? Turkish ground forces “rescue” Kobane as high concentrations of ISIS fighters approaching the city make themselves easy targets for air strikes.

At the end of the battle and after the self-congratulatory statements about the devastating impact this has had on ISIS, Turkey then establishes what it calls a “buffer zone” and what Kurds will see as the occupation of Rojava.

If a scenario along these lines is unfolding, it probably means that in the eyes of the U.S. and Turkey, the Kurdish men and women fighting on the front lines against ISIS are not engaged in a heroic struggle — they are simply bait.


Protesters around the world stand up for Kobane