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Vol. 78/No. 44      December 8, 2014

Syria: Kurds, allies capture
territory from Islamic State
Kurdish forces in northern Syria are beginning to take offensive actions against Islamic State, further frustrating the reactionaries’ more than two-month campaign to take the city of Kobani and inspiring millions of Kurds and other working people.

Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and allied forces in Kobani captured six buildings from Islamic State in a strategic location near the main municipal offices in the northern part of the city Nov. 18, taking much needed rocket-propelled grenade launchers, arms and machine gun ammunition, reported Reuters.

Three days later YPG forces near Sere Kaniye in Syria, about 125 miles east of Kobani, captured several Islamic State operating bases, seizing weapons and ammunition, reported ARA News.

In the course of the more than three-year civil war in Syria, Kurds in the north and northeast of the country, which they call Rojava (western Kurdistan), took control of their lands and set up an autonomous administration. At the same time the YPG was formed as a voluntary militia to protect the Kurds from any invading force.

“We do not have the kind of weapons or training that a modern army has, but we have principles and beliefs that are guiding us,” YPG spokesman Redur Xelil told Rudaw News. More than one-third of the YPG combatants are women. “We have enough fighters and forces, and we are ready to defend our land, but the problem lies in shortage of sufficient and heavy weaponry.”

Fighting alongside the YPG in Kobani are 150 Peshmerga fighters from the semi-autonomous Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, and a growing number of Syrian opposition units affiliated to the Free Syrian Army — a coalition of armed groups that came together in 2011 following the bloody crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on popular protests against his regime. Many members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) of Turkey eager to join the battle are blocked by border restrictions imposed by Ankara.

Islamic State “is not a big threat anymore,” Ahmed Gerdi, commander of the Peshmerga forces in Kobani, told Rudaw Nov. 20, commenting on the military situation in the city, half of which is under full Kurdish control. At the same time, “making advances isn’t that simple,” Gerdi said. “This is not a village that can be controlled in a single attack. It is a slow street fight. We need to secure every alley that we take.”

The Kurds, a people oppressed for centuries, have been divided among Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran since the borders of that region were established by the imperialist victors of World War I. Since that time, the propertied rulers of the U.S., Europe and the Middle East have sought to undermine the Kurds’ fight for a homeland.

Two months ago Peshmerga forces, the most trained and effective force battling Islamic State in Iraq, asked Washington for heavy weapons, including helicopters, tanks and artillery pieces. The Pentagon has taken no action on this request, “concerned that providing heavier weapons to the Iraqi Kurds would inadvertently encourage them to seek independence from Iraq,” noted the Wall Street Journal. “Without these weapons,” Kurdistan Regional Government chief adviser Fuad Hussein told the paper, “we cannot liberate other areas,” like Mosul and Sinjar.

Meanwhile, Turkish army special forces are being sent to northern Iraq to train Peshmerga soldiers, reported Hurriyet Daily News. The move is aimed at strengthening Ankara’s growing economic ties with Iraqi Kurdistan, where some 1,200 Turkish companies operate. But Ankara, even more than Washington, opposes arms transfers to the YPG because of the group’s ties to the PKK, which is labeled by both governments as a “terrorist” organization.

Washington’s efforts in Iraq have focused on trying to build up and train the largely inept Iraqi military, both to fight Islamic State and to serve as a counterweight to the increasingly autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.

Islamic State fighters launched an attack on government offices in Ramadi Nov. 21 in a bid to take full control of the Anbar provincial capital, which is mostly in their hands.

Unable to wait for promised help from Washington or the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad, some Sunni tribes in Anbar have taken up arms to defend their lands from Islamic State’s advance.

“We have no food, no medicines, no gasoline and no weapons,” said Mal Allah Berzam Hamden, a senior sheikh of the Obeidi tribe from Khan al-Baghdadi, an Anbar town fighting Islamic State, McClatchy news reported Nov. 3.

After the Sunni Albu Nimr tribe agreed to a cease-fire with Islamic State Oct. 22 on condition that no civilians would be harmed, Islamic State’s forces drove hundreds into the desert, slaughtering more than 400 by early November.

Bodies of least 25 members of the Albu Fahd tribe, which has opposed the Islamic State invasion, were found Nov. 22 without any signs of a fight, suggesting they were among many slaughtered in the reactionaries’ campaign to terrorize those who would resist subjugation.
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