In a press conference at the Pentagon today, President Obama said the struggle against ISIS will be a "long-term campaign," but that the US is "intensifying" efforts. He boasted: "In the past year we've seen when we have effective partners on the ground." He also stated: "Altogether, ISIL has lost over a quarter of the populated areas it had seized in Iraq." In naming those forces on the ground, he mentioned first and foremost "our Arab partners"—despite the fact that the most significant gains against ISIS have been not at the hands of Arabs but Kurds. Of the specific victories he invoked, only one—Tikrit—was by Arab forces. All the rest—Kirkuk, Sinjar, Mosul Dam, Kobani, Tal Abyad—were by Kurdish forces. Nowhere in his 20-minute comments did Obama so much as utter the word "Kurds," although he did refer to the "Peshmerga," "tribal fighters" and the "moderate opposition" in Syria.
This oversight was doubtless intentional, intended at placating Turkey and "Arab partners"—specifically, the corrupt, reactionary, sectarian and rapidly collapsing Iraqi central government. There's a particular sad irony to this. Invoking a "generational struggle" against ISIS, Obama correctly stated: "Ideologies are not defeated by guns. They're defeated with better ideas." But the Erdogan regime and "Arab partner" states do not have those "better ideas." Forces aligned with the Shi'ite-dominated Baghdad regime have been committing sectarian massacres that will only drive Sunnis into the ranks of ISIS. And "partners" such as Saudi Arabia, with its recent beheading spree, can almost be seen as a sort of "ISIS Lite."
As we've stated, the fact that the Rojava Kurds have been the most effective force against ISIS is related to the fact that they also have the best politics—that they stand for something better than an internecine sectarian bloodbath, or a "moderate" (sic) version of reactionary political Islam.
Meanwhile on the ground… In a reversal for the Rojava Kurds, ISIS apparently regained control of the north Syrian town of Ain Issa, which had been taken by the Kurdish YPG militia days earlier. The YPG and allied Arab FSA forces are now fighting to take the town a second time, and cited a lull in US air-strikes as allowing ISIS to advance. (Rudaw, ARA News) In Iraq, ISIS militants attempted to take several villages in the south of Kirkuk province, and were beaten back by Kurdish Peshmerga. (Rudaw) And in a new video (a grim addition to its growing archive of atrocity pornography) ISIS showcased the execution of 25 Syrian regime soldiers in the amphitheater at the ancient ruins of Palmyra. The executioners appear to be adolescents, or possibly younger. (LWJ)
If Obama is serious about defeating ISIS, he will have to stop his appeasement of the reactionary forces in the region that only fuel its growth. Alas, he is probably constitutionally incapable of this. A secular-democratic upsurge in the region is the only real hope against ISIS. The Rojava Kurds are the foremost exponent of this—and that, once again, is why they are being punished for their success, most recently with this subtle presidential diss.