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Vol. 78/No. 37      October 20, 2014

Low on arms, Kurds battle
Islamic State in Syria
(front page)
For the last three weeks, reactionary Islamic State units totaling some 10,000 combatants, with superior arms, including tanks and anti-aircraft weapons, have forced their way to the outskirts of the Kurdish city of Kobani in northern Syria. The city sits on the Turkish border, where the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has deployed troops and tanks.

Washington has turned a deaf ear to Kurdish requests for anti-tank weapons to defend Kobani and is not coordinating operations with the reported 3,000 Kurdish fighters there. U.S. warplanes, however, have started bombing raids in the area.

Washington and Ankara brand the Kurds fighting in Kobani as “terrorist,” because of ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) of Turkey, a group so labeled by the U.S. and Turkish government. PKK forces have been fighting for autonomy and Kurdish rights in Turkey and in 2013 signed a cease-fire with Ankara.

The Kurds — an oppressed nationality in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria — carved out an autonomous region in northern Iraq following the 2003 U.S. invasion there. The capitalist rulers of these countries, as well those of Washington and its imperialist allies, have sought to prevent the Kurdish people from gaining such ground in Syria, where Kurds wrested de facto control over their lands in the course of the civil war and struggle against the Bashar al-Assad dictatorship.

“Today one may be seen as less dangerous than the other,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic told the press, referring to Kurdish forces and Islamic State. “But at the end of the day, both are terrorists.”

A statement issued by the Committees for the Protection of the Kurdish People (YPG) in Syria vowed “never-ending” resistance to the Islamic State’s attacks. “Our call to all the young men and women of Kurdistan … is to come to be part of this resistance,” reported Reuters Oct. 3.

“Today it has been 23 days that we have fought Islamic State on our own,” Asya Abdullah, co-chairwoman of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party, told the press Oct. 7. “And we are fighting their tanks with light weapons.”

Ankara has blocked Kurds from passing through its borders to aid their compatriots in Kobani.

Kurds have taken to the streets in Turkey to demand Erdogan allow Kurds to pass through its borders. Turkish authorities have opened fire on protesters, killing at least 12, and imposed curfews in Kurdish areas.

Despite Ankara’s attempt to prevent it, “a huge number of fighters have joined from Turkey to protect Kobani,” Ismet Sheikh Hasan, a leader of the Kurdish fighters in Kobani, told the Wall Street Journal. “But they are mostly civilians and inexperienced, and we are training them now.”

“My son is over there. He crossed through a minefield to get there,” Remzi Savas, 53, told Reuters from across the border in Turkey. “He is just 14. There are many children fighting for the YPG. We can’t hold them back. They think they’ll lose everything if Kobani falls.”

At the same time, about 180,000 Kurds have recently fled Syria for Turkey as fighting intensified around Kobani, adding to some 850,000 Syrian refugees in Turkish refugee camps.

Washington-led air war

Washington has launched an air war in both Iraq and Syria, coupled with increasing use of military advisers and special operations forces in Iraq. As of Oct. 3, there had been 250 airstrikes in Iraq and 80 in Syria, according to the U.S. Central Command.

Kurdish militias have waged the most effective resistance to Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, unlike Syria, they have received some limited arms and training from Washington.

In Iraq, Kurdish fighters have pushed back Islamic State forces from the town of Rabia, near the Syrian border, and Zummar, near the Mosul Dam.

Meanwhile, Iraq’s Anbar province, a crucial buffer zone between Islamic State-conquered territory in northern Iraq and the capital Baghdad, is being threatened by Islamic State forces.

Iraq’s armed forces are dispirited and often ineffective. “We are continuously losing,” Falih Al Essawi, deputy head of the Anbar provincial council, told the Journal Oct. 7.

Washington sent Apache helicopters to Fallujah in Anbar Oct. 5.

With the recent dispatch of 500 troops to Iraq, there are now some 1,600 U.S. troops in the war zone there. In neighboring Kuwait, Washington maintains a force of 10,500 soldiers. At the end of September the Pentagon activated a new quick-reaction force of 2,300 U.S. Marines for the Middle East.

“You are seeing the beginning of a sustained campaign,” Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville, Joint Chief of Staff’s director of operations, told reporters at a Pentagon news conference Sept. 23. “I would think of it in terms of years.

Among those joining Washington in airstrikes in Iraq are the imperialist powers of the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Denmark, Australia and Canada.

Inching closer to joining the coalition, the Turkish parliament voted Oct. 2 to authorize military action in Syria and Iraq, which could allow Washington to use its air base at Incirlik in southern Turkey for launching airstrikes.  
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