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article imageResolving to make Kobani Islamic State's Stalingrad

By Paul Iddon     Oct 20, 2014 in Politics
The Stalingrad analogy is a suitable one for the present situation in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. One hopes that Kobani prove to be the Stalingrad of Islamic State.
It's important journalists avoid using cliches when possible. However in the case of Kobani one simply cannot avoid using the Stalingrad analogy. One did briefly speculate that capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, Erbil, could have possibly constituted a Stalingrad over the summer when Islamic States' (IS) forces seemed poised to strike it. One still doesn't doubt that had Eribl been attacked then the Kurds there would have fought to the death in defense of their city. As the Syrian Kurds of Kobani have been doing for over a month now.
And they have been holding out in the most averse of circumstances. Kobani is of more symbolic importance at this stage than strategic importance. IS see it as a town which symbolizes Kurdish defiance. That is why they are pouring so many forces in there in order to destroy it. So far they have failed, and now the United States is finally dropping them armaments and medical aid so they can hold out longer. Also Iraqi Kurds may soon be on their way to help their Syrian Kurdish brethren defend that town – Turkey has said it will even allow them to cross its territory in order to reach Kobani. One hopes this is an effort that will signal to IS that they will not be allowed to overrun this town and it will prove to be a great cost to them if they continue to try.
The reason I stress the symbolic importance of this is because as was the case during the Battle of Stalingrad the name was of great significance to the invading Third Reich whose ruler saw destroying that city and killing all of those who resisted to be of great symbolic and psychological importance given the fact it was named after the dictator of the country they were attempting to conquer. Kobani for similar reasons has become a symbol of Kurdish defiance to IS and is the reason that group is pouring more resources into in order to try and break that towns spirit and the Syrian Kurds ability to resist and repel its advances. And like Stalingrad the locals there have shown they will fight building-to-building to the death before they let IS overrun their town.
Since IS started launching larger attacks on Syria's Kurdish region, after they amassed more weapons and hardware from their successful campaign in neighbouring Iraq over the summer, the U.S. has been highly reluctant, to say the least, about helping those Kurds given the fact that within the autonomous governing authority in Syria Kurdistan is a party called the Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) which is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK has of course fought the Turkish state for about three decades and is considered by Turkey, the European Union and the United States to be a terrorist organization. However within that Syrian regional government (an umbrella governmental body known as the Kurdish Supreme Committee) exists the Kurdish National Council of which Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government's Massoud Barzani sponsored the creation. Among the ranks of the Syrian Kurdish fighters (known collectively as the 'Peoples Protection Units', YPG) are PYD and KNC members alike. One guesses that Iraqi Peshmerga forces going to Kobani likely have contacts and affiliates fighting in the YPG who are predominantly KNC members given Barzani's hand in helping establish that party.
The Iraqi Kurds are of course a U.S. ally and the U.S. has carried out aerial operations in coordination with them in Iraq over the summer. In one instance they gave air support to Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces who prevented IS from taking over and holding onto the very important Mosul Dam installation. Since the U.S. started launching air strikes on IS forces in Syria it hasn't been coordinating with any ground forces there. It has been targeting IS forces besieging Kobani but has not been doing so in coordination with the YPG forces engaged against IS on the ground like they had done with Peshmerga forces engaged against IS in Iraq. While the U.S. has recently spoken to PYD representatives they have stressed that it was merely talk, not coordination, and the U.S. still maintains that the PYD is a terrorist affiliate.
However Iraqi Kurds going to Kobani may see to the U.S. beginning to coordinate its operations on an ad-hoc basis with YPG forces which those Iraqi Kurdish allies may be fighting alongside purely in order to setback IS's gains in Syria Kurdistan and prevent that region from being overrun. That would certainly give the Kurds fighting IS in Syria a decisive edge over their IS opponents which is what is needed at this time and what is ultimately needed to see to that groups defeat.
The U.S. has finally named its campaign against the IS group Operation Inherent Resolve. One hopes that an operation of that name proves to have the resolve to see to it that Kobani at least proves to be IS's Stalingrad if not its Waterloo.
More about Kobani, stalingrad, Is, Rojava, Syria Kurdistan
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