Fighting along with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Kobani are 155 Peshmerga soldiers with artillery from the semi-autonomous Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. They traveled through Turkish territory at the end of October with much needed heavy weaponry to counter the bigger and better armed Islamic State forces.
Until then, Ankara had blocked any fighters or weapons from getting into Kobani. But pressure mounted on the Turkish government as week after week millions in Turkey and around the world watched courageous men and women in Kobani holding off Islamic State forces in spite of a fatalistic expectation of the city’s imminent fall by the big-business media and government officials of Ankara and Washington. The Turkish government has relented to allow some Peshmerga from Iraq through, but still prevents Kurds from Turkey from joining the battle.
Under the same pressures, Washington, did a one-time airdrop of light ammunition and medicine over Kobani. The U.S. rulers’ relationship with the Kurds is marked by a dilemma. On one hand they want to see the defeat of Islamic State, and the Kurds in Iraq and Syria have proved to be the most formidable force in the war against the reactionaries. But Washington also fears the “destabilizing” impact of the rising Kurdish fight for national rights and sovereignty. Over decades, Washington has sought to use Kurdish fighters at critical points in fights against shared enemies, followed by “betrayals” that reveal their consistent goal of undermining the Kurdish struggle.
“There is a revolution taking place in Kobani” said YPG fighter Deniz in a Nov. 8 interview by Kurdish news agency Firatnews. “The struggle here is for the oppressed.”
“In the last four days they [Islamic State] suffered heavy blows,” added YPG fighter Sinan. “If necessary a thousand of us will fall, but we will not abandon Kobani. Our comradeship is very strong. No one can break it. Our morale is high, despite all the brutality and hardship.”
There are 1,000 women fighters on the front lines helping to lead the battle, YPG commander Dijwar Xebat told Firatnews. About 2,000 YPG fighters and 1,500 Kurdish civilians are in the city, as well as Peshmerga forces and opposition units affiliated to the Free Syrian Army, who recently joined the battle for Kobani, according to BasNews, a news agency in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Free Syrian Army is a coalition of armed groups that came together in 2011 following a bloody crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on popular protests against his regime.
On Nov. 9 the YPG captured Islamic State’s headquarters in Kobani. As the reactionaries retreated they blew up their command center, the Haci Reshar Mosque, reported kurdishquestion.com.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, since the fighting began in mid-September through Nov. 9, more than 1,000 have been killed in Kobani, including 609 Islamic State combatants and 363 from the YPG. The YPG reports the numbers of Islamic State forces killed as far higher.
Peshmerga is sending additional reinforcements to Kobani. Nine military vehicles loaded with weapons and other equipment left Erbil traveling through Turkish territory Nov. 3, Peshmerga Gen. Azzedin Temmo told reporters in Kobani.
U.S. sends 1,500 more troops to Iraq
President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 additional troops to Iraq Nov. 7, adding to the 1,400 already stationed there as “advisers” and “trainers” for the Iraqi army. “What it signals is a new phase,” Obama said Nov. 9 on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
The move comes as Islamic State continues to consolidate its control over most of the predominantly Sunni Arab areas in western Iraq, about one-third of the country. The U.S. troops’ presence will be expanded beyond its headquarters in Baghdad and Erbil to two additional command sites, including in Anbar province, where some of the heaviest fighting has taken place, and four or five new sites, reported the Financial Times.
Over the course of the three-month-long war, Washington has been conducting airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria, risking civilian lives. “Commanders fear such casualties could alienate Sunni tribesmen, whose support is critical to ousting the militants as well as Sunni Arab countries,” said the New York Times Nov. 10. The air campaign has averaged five strikes per day, far less than those carried out in previous U.S. wars in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq.
In another development, President Obama in mid-October wrote a secret letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that described a “shared interest in fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria,” reported the Wall Street Journal.
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