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article imageOp-Ed: Mosul Dam operation could be a precedent for Kobani

By Paul Iddon     Oct 9, 2014 in Politics
Air power alone obviously will not defeat Islamic State (IS) in Syria, but when coordinated with local ground forces it can surely set back that group's gains.
That is essentially what was done around Mosul Dam. When Islamic State were set to capture that important installation in Northern Iraq they were attacked by both United States air power and Kurdish ground Peshmerga forces. Both these allied forces coordinated their different forces against IS and prevented that group from capturing the dam. U.S. air power was able to concentrate on targeting vehicles IS were using while the Peshmerga combated their other forces in firefights.
Air power alone would likely not have stopped IS from capturing that dam at the time. But would have instead simply disrupted it. The combination of ground forces and air power was what stopped them. In neighbouring Syria the U.S. and its coalition of the Gulf Arab state air forces of the Persian Gulf are presently failing to prevent IS from besieging the Syrian border-town of Kobani. And predictably so, they only have air power fighting against that group which, according to the Pentagon's top brass, will not be enough in and of itself to defeat it.
From the beginning of the United States operations against IS over the summer I argued air power alone certainly will not stop this force. What was different in Iraq was that the United States had a battle-hardened Kurdish ally, the Peshmerga, on the ground who were defending their homeland and had their backs to the wall so to speak. Coordinating closely with them they were able to secure most of the Iraqi Kurdish region and conduct operations against IS.
In Syria the Syrian Kurds also have their backs to the wall. They also have a local battle-hardened force, the YPG, who are spilling their blood in the fight against IS. The difference around Kobani however is that it is clear that the United States isn't coordinating its strikes around that area with the local forces on the ground. This is for a number of reasons, but first and foremost it is because Syria's Kurds are not an ally primarily because the umbrella government which runs Syria's now autonomous Kurdish region, the Kurdish Supreme Committee, has within its ranks the Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) which is an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a terrorist organization. The other primary coalition of parties under the Kurdish Supreme Committee umbrella is the Kurdish National Council, a friend of Massoud Barzani who in turn is of course an ally of the United States.
So they aren't perfect. But they also aren't stupid. Given the state of Syria at the moment the Kurds there need to be unified if they have any chance of surviving. Ad hoc coordination with Syria's Kurds for the purpose of defending and securing that Kurdish region is necessary given what is at stake here. The Obama administration is presently discussing the prospect of establishing a buffer zone in Syria. Well the Kurdish province is free from Syrian government control and is currently struggling to prevent itself from being overrun by IS. Surely if successfully defended now it would make for a worthy buffer zone, especially given the fact that it is situated in the northeast of Syria where IS have had the most successes in that country to date.
Furthermore the administration and many policy analysts speak about training thousands of moderate forces to establish a new Syrian army that they could coordinate a campaign against IS with. Surely the Kurds constitute a potentially viable anti-IS force given the fact they also are not aligned with the Assad regime.
Last April a very important development transpired in Palestine. Fatah and Hamas agreed to sink their differences and form a unity government ending their lengthy rift. The Israeli government said that it was proof that their Fatah-Palestinian Authority negotiating partner Mahmoud Abbas wasn't serious about peace talks. The U.S. was taken aback by this and many simply viewed it as an excuse on the part of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to withdraw from John Kerry's peace talks.
Obviously the two situations are hugely different. But there is one very striking commonality. The primary reason the Netanyahu government is continuing to give for not negotiating an agreement with Abbas's Palestinian Authority is because he now has integrated a terrorist organization into it. Similarly the only apparent reason that the United States isn't seriously engaging and coordinating operations with an important force on the ground fighting against IS is because that force has elements within it the U.S. finds distasteful, for good reason, given those elements affiliation with the PKK.
But the question is, is it a good enough reason to cease even attempting temporary ad hoc cooperation to prevent more successful IS territorial gains?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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