Peshmerga, YPG and ISIS in Kobane as Turkey maintains stance
Saturday, 25 October 2014
Ceylan Ozbudak /Al Arabiya
Not a day passes in my ever-tumultuous Middle East without “breaking news.” First it was announced that President Obama called President Erdogan concerning Kobane. Then we heard that the United States airlifted weapons and medical supplies to the YPG. Following this, we received news that Turkey had allowed the Peshmerga into the Syrian town of Kobane through a corridor.
Peshmerga allowed into Kobane through Turkish corridor
We heard right, Turkey allowed the Peshmerga to pass into Kobane through its borders. However, while writing these sentences, the Peshmerga were still reluctant to cross over. Let’s remember the recent history of the Peshmerga reaction to Kobane.
Barzani has been reluctant to fully join forces with the YPG since the northern Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is closer in ideology to the rest of the Arab-dominated areas and the YPG’s stance has been quite controversial even among the Kurds. Therefore, the Peshmerga were not keen to join the fight in Kobane on the side of the YPG, partly because of the PYD/PKK’s ideological differences with the KRG and also because there are a very small number of Kurdish civilians left in Kobane.
Recently, the KRG announced that they sent arms to Kobane but they would not be able to send Peshmerga fighters since the geographical situation is not suitable (still wondering how it is possible to deliver arms but not fighters).
After a very strong push from the United States, the KRG agreed to send 200 Peshmerga fighters to Kobane through a corridor in Turkey. Two hundred reluctant Peshmerga fighters would have almost zero effect to save Kobane from a very determined ISIS.
This action will only lead to less populated lines of Peshmerga protecting the KRG region and would make it more vulnerable to ISIS occupation by giving the militant group another reason to target them.
Just recently we learned that the KRG was in no mood to send Peshmerga fighters to battle ISIS in an already lost village – Kobane – and therefore was getting ready to send PKK members in northern Iraq through the corridor.
Turkey declared that it has no intention to let PKK fighters dwell freely on its highways to Kobane and asked for the identities of all those who will pass to Kobane. It looks like we are going to wait a long time for the Peshmerga to decide whom to send to Kobane, if ever.
On the other hand, despite pressure, Turkish planes will not be bombing ISIS targets and Turkish soldiers will not be shooting at ISIS members as long as Turkey is not targeted directly. Turkey now shares a 400-km long de facto border with ISIS which it wants to keep stable.
U.S. delivers arms to YPG
Twenty seven containers of arms and medical supplies were dropped into Kobane for the YPG, two of which directly landed in the laps of ISIS. What happened to the rest of them? The majority of the containers were blown up with the existing ammunition when ISIS attacked the YPG arsenal. This very unsuccessful attempt to help the YPG helped strengthen the hand of ISIS more than the United States imagined.
In an environment of ardent uprising against the Baathist Assad regime, the YPG’s relations with the regime have not been welcomed by the opposition forces in Syria.
In 2011, the Syrian regime released 600 PYD prisoners while imprisoning and killing thousands from the opposition. The PYD created a de facto regime of Kurdish cantons in northern Syria without consulting the rest of the opposition, Syrian National Council or the Kurdish inhabitants. The first 30,000 refugees from Syria to Turkey came from Jazira canton after the YPG took control of the area. Now that the human rights abuses of the YPG have hit the fan, the majority of the Syrian Kurds are openly stating discontent. Now that fight in Syria has spilled over into Iraq and the moderate opposition is being crushed between Assad and ISIS.
Since the very foundations of these opposition groups lie in removing the Assad regime, they will not be supportive of a USA that delivers arms to a contractor of the regime. This will eventually force the moderate opposition to join ISIS and with the large Sunni Arab population in Syria ISIS will gain ground without fighting in many places.
The world is constantly forgetting that the main driving force behind ISIS’ growth lies in grievances and all that Western powers are doing is enhancing the narrative of ISIS at the moment. Consequently, the fragile alliance the Kurds built between the KRG and the YPG will break and ISIS will control a much larger territory.
“The world is constantly forgetting that the main driving force behind ISIS’ growth lies in grievances and all that Western powers are doing is enhancing the narrative of ISIS at the moment.”
Despite strong Western pressure, Turkey has no intention to get involved in an ambiguous war in Iraq or in Syria. Just as the 2003 Iraq War was a mistake and Turkey was right not to join, it is also a mistake now. Just like France, typically an interventionist state, held from taking part in the war against ISIS because the United States does not look reliable with its current Syria policy, Turkey is having a hard time trusting the U.S. intentions. By providing PYD, an offshoot of PKK (despite the State Department’s effort to hide from American public opinion), weapons, the United States has violated the partnership and alliance.
On the other hand, Turkey sees the current Middle Eastern crisis as something more complicated than mafia wars and does not accept reducing the solution to whether or not to support the YPG/PKK in their efforts to destroy ISIS. The United States does not seem to have learned from the past that the policy of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is always counterproductive and expecting peaceful solutions from gadgets produced to terrorize people, i.e. weapons, is not a civil argument. While the United States arms another communist guerilla insurgency to fight a radical guerilla insurgency, which will only lead to more bloodshed, Turkey will wisely hold its position to maintain its internal stability. The refugees of this violent episode will need a welcoming, hospitable, stable state with a strong economy in the region, which can only be provided by Turkey.