Peshmerga come to aid of Kobani: strings attached?

Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga troops have entered the battle for the ISIS-besieged Kurdish town of Kobani in northern Syria, after having been allowed to pass through Turkish territory to approach the town from the north—the only remaining access. The sound of heavy weaponry the Peshmerga fighters brought with them from Iraq echoed across the Syrian-Turkish border, according to a team from the independent Kurdish news agency Rudaw on the Turkish side. And US-led coalition planes coninued to strike ISIS positions outside Kobani in the most intense bombing in weeks, with local witnesses counting between five and seven air-strikes overnight. Peshmerga forces are now fighting alongside the PKK-aligned People's Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish militia that has been leading the defense of Kobani.

But the Rudaw team also reported that hundreds of civilians fleeing the fighting were seen on the border, allowed entry into Turkey only through a bottle-neck in the border fence—with Turkish forces presumably continuing to detain those suspected of being YPG militants. Rudaw added: "The Turkish military prevented a number of people from delivering food, water, and other supplies to the crowd as they waited to cross. A large number of cars could also be seen, as many refugees entering Turkey with cars were not able to pay the automobile toll, which costs $700 according to several Kobane residents."

In addition to barring aid, Turkish forces are of course barring PKK fighters from crossing the border to join the defense of Kobani. This Turkish duplicity is telling. As we have noted, allowing the Peshmerga troops through is likely President Tayyip Erdogan's strategy to dilute the PKK and YPG with a pro-Western Kurdish force that has made its peace with Turkey. It is a strange contradiction that the US has now made a de facto ally of the anarchist-oriented YPG, a group utterly anathema to NATO ally Turkey. The US has essentially been forced into this position, as the PKK-aligned forces have been the most effective at beating back ISIS. But the PKK/YPG stand an almost inevitable chance of being betrayed—as both anarchists and Kurds, two groups that have historically been subject to serial betrayals. 

ISIS's former partner and now junior competitor, the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, have meanwhile seized Khan al-Subul town and several villages in Syria's Idlib governorate, routing forces of the Syria Revolutionaries Front and Hazm Movement, two "moderate" Islamist factions that have reportedly been armed by the US. Embarassingly, there were reports that some of the SRF/Hazm fighters at Khan al-Subul even defected to Nusra. This shows up yet again the self-defeating US strategy of backing "moderate" Islamists instead of forthrightly secular forces such as the PKK/YPG. (AFP)

And what of the international left and progressive forces in the West? The PKK/YPG have been winning some support, especially from anarchists and fellow travellers in Europe and the US. But the Idiot Left that is rooting for Bashar Assad, with varying degrees of enthusiam, continues to be shamefully hegemonic. And, as we have pointed out, even the anarchists now mobilizing in support of the PKK/YPG have up till now mostly been silent on supporting Syria's secular civil resistance, which continues to show great heroism in opposing both the Assad regime and the jihadists. This "selective solidarity" plays into the Arab-versus-Kurdish divide-and-rule card ironically being played by both Assad and Erdogan to split the Syrian opposition.

Oh, and then there are the conspiranoids, if we may count them among the "left." Veterans Today (a soapbox for vulgar conspiranoia that has nothing to do with veterans' issues) is touting the baseless claims of the ridiculous "analyst" (sic!) William Engdahl that ISIS is a creation of the CIA. 

Such theories are depressingly ubiquitous. Even Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the head of Egypt's Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning, in his requisite slam of ISIS a couple of months back had to add the absurdity that it is the product of a Jewish plot: "These criminals have been able to transmit to the world a tarnished and alarming image of Muslims. These fundamentalist terrorist groups, whatever their names, and their backers are colonial creations that serve Zionism in its plot to destroy the Arab world." (AFP)

Maybe the Grand Sheikh felt it was necessary to engage in such verbiage in order to undermine the distrubing popularity of ISIS. The right-wing Islamophobes at FrontPageMag tout findings of the apparently legitimate polling service Populus that "80% of London Muslims Support ISIS." (The actual wording of the poll was have “warm feelings” towards ISIS.) We don't place a lot of faith in polls, but we have noted that being on the receiving end of US bombs gives ISIS an anti-imperialist cachet that could fuel its growth.

But, no matter how much some of their anarchist supporters may seek to deny this uncomfortable reality, the YPG is clearly grateful for the US air-strikes. As YPG commander Meysa Abdo wrote in her recent New York Times op-ed:

We are thankful to the coalition for its intensified airstrikes against Islamic State positions, which have been instrumental in limiting the ability of our enemies to use tanks and heavy artillery. But we had been fighting without any logistical assistance from the outside world until the limited coalition airdrops of weapons and supplies on Oct. 20. Airdrops of supplies should continue, so that we do not run out of ammunition.

As we have stated, the word "complicated" is frequently invoked by those who seek the comfort of neutrality in the face of aggression, in Syria and elsewhere. But that doesn't mean that the situation is not, in fact, complicated. The challenge for us—progressives in the West—is to acknowledge the contradictions while still finding a way to mount meaningful solidarity…