US arms Kobani defenders —heightening contradictions

The US has started to air-drop weapons and medical supplies to Kurdish militia defending the north Syrian town of Kobani against ISIS forces—the first such drops to resistance fighters in Syria. In a statement Oct. 19, US Central Command said C-130 cargo planes made multiple drops of arms and supplies provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq. (AP) And in an astonishing development that reveals the degree of pressure on Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan agreed to allow Kurdish fighters to cross into Syria. (AP, BBC News) A critical distinction, however, is that Ankara is only allowing Iraqi Peshmerga troops to pass through Turkish territory to reach Kobani from the north. The accounts say nothing about allowing PKK fighters to pass. And Erdogan is even now continuing to oppose US arming of the People's Protection Units (YPG), the PKK-aligned militia that is defending Kobani. (Chinatopix)

This turn of affairs has sparked some interesting reactions. The Syrian opposition activist Leila Shrooms (whose work we have run on this website) accuses the anarchists now mobilizing in solidarity with the PKK/YPG of "selective solidarity," because of their failure to meaningfully solidarize with the Syrian revolution before the anarchist-influenced PKK-aligned forces suddenly came to the world's attention. "Selective solidarity" is a real phenomenon which we have noted; the international left should indeed be called out on its hypocrisies regarding Syria. For instance, American anarchist icon David Graeber's recent piece in The Guardian, "Why is the World Ignoring the Revolutionary Kurds in Syria?," only refers to the Syrian revolution as a "tragedy." For this he is called out by blogger Nott George Sabra, who asks "Why is David Graeber Ignoring Revolutionary Syrians in Syria?" But this is also a problematic construction, as the Kurds of the YPG are also Syrians.

There are lots of ironies to the sudden reaction against the Kurds. The Washington Post just now (Oct. 20) headlines "Syria tribal revolt against Islamic State ignored, fueling resentment." Yet the revolt by the Shaitat Arab tribe in Deir el-Zour governorate happened back in August, as we noted at the time, and was put down by the usual ultra-brutal ISIS methods. WaPo only sees fit to highlight it now that there is an Arab-versus-Kurdish divide-and-rule card to play.

The perrennial conspiracy theories  in Turkish nationalist circles that the Kurds are the pawns of a Zionist plot against the Muslim world are inevitably re-emerging. Israel's arch-reactionary Arutz Sheva noted with glee that Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir actually used that exact phrase—"Zionist plot"!—to describe Kurdish national aspirations, although he was actually referring to the "dissolution of Iraq." Even if the Iraqi Kurdish leadership have been (for instance) selling oil to Israel (as is claimed), using this as propaganda against the PKK and its allied forces is the most vile bunk. Check this July 20 statement from the PKK and its allied Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in response to the Gaza bombardment: "We condemn killing civilians, bombing houses in Gaza and shedding the blood of women and children and ask world community to break its silence towards the crimes. We state our support to oppressed people in Palestine and ask Israeli people not to stay silent." Ironically, the statement called on the Turkish government to suspend military cooperation with Israel!

A further irony is that the Turkish press is itself capable of calling out Erdogan's cynical conniving with ISIS against the YPG, while the (Arab) Syrian opposition, in its recent embrace of Erdogan as an ally against Assad, apparently finds this taboo. An editorial in Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News protests Erdogan's unspoken alliance with ISIS against the Kurds as "Sympathy for the Devil."

Some of this intellectual malady is infecting the Western press as well. Daily Beast on Oct. 16 ran the disgraceful headline "PKK Kurdish Terrorists Are Fighting IS Terrorists With US Help"—perfectly echoing the cynical Erdogan line equating ISIS and the PKK, because they are both "terrorists." (Sic!). Daily Beast is also plugging claims from ISIS that some of the air-dropped weapons ended up in their hands. Could be, but ISIS is a totally dubious source, and has every reason to want the air-drops to stop. Days earlier, Daily Beast claimed (on sketchy sources) that US humanitarian aid intended for internally displaced Syrians is being diverted to ISIS fighters when convoys pass through ISIS-controlled territory. (Exactly whose convoys is not made clear.)

US-led air-strikes against ISIS targets in Syria on Feb. 17 killed 10 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights—seven at a gas station in Der-Ezzor governorate, and three, including a child, at ISIS-controlled oil-fields in al-Hasakah. This will also provide propaganda fodder for those who would betray the defenders of Kobani—despite the fact that none of the civilian casualties were in strikes on ISIS positions at Kobani. US Central Command said there was no evidence to corroborate the claims. (Jurist)

We have never shirked from facing the contradictions of the Syrian revolution—not the least of which now is that US imperialism is arming anarchists to fight jihadists. We can only anticipate that Washington will sell out the YPG in deference to NATO ally Turkey as soon as ISIS has been beaten back at Kobani. There's a long history of such betrayals that anarchists know all too well. Exactly like Trotsky used the Makhnovists to help defeat the Whites, then crushed them. Exactly as the Spanish Republic used the Catalan anarchists. Exactly as Carranza used Villa and Zapata. Et cetera.

And while World War 4 Report has supported the Syrian revolution from the beginning, anarchists do not have to apologize for being most enthused about the struggle of those who most closely represent our values. 

The Constitution of the Rojava Cantons that the PKK-aligned forces have drawn up for their territory in northern Syria is an inspiring document. It proclaims regional "autonomy," not separatism; it "respects ethnic diversity" with "equality before the law," and proclaims "Kurdish, Arabic and Syriac" (Aramaic) as equal official languages of autonomous Rojava. It formally embraces the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It asserts that "Women have the inviolable right to participate in political, social, economic and cultural life," and that "Men and women are equal in the eyes of the law." It "guarantees the effective realization of equality of women and mandates public institutions to work towards the elimination of gender discrimination." It affirms the rights "to work, social security, health, adequate housing." In affirming "freedom of worship," it states: "No one shall be subjected to persecution on the grounds of their religious beliefs." In affirming freedom of speech and dissent, it goes further than the US Bill of Rights, stating: "Everyone has the right of peaceful assembly, including the right to peaceful protest, demonstration and strike."

All this is a welcome antidote to the twin plagues of political Islam and sectarian war infecting the entire Greater Middle East.

ROAR Mag, one of the left media voices in the West most aggressive in its support for the Rojava Kurds, makes note of the current contradictions, and concludes:

For us, as Westerners who stand in solidarity with our Kurdish comrades, it is key to keep the pressure on our own states, to keep the eyes of the world focused on Kobanê and the wider Kurdish struggle. More than that, we need to openly support the calls of the YPG for arm supplies and argue for the PKK to be taken off that monstrous 'terrorist list'. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, the Kurds in the end can only count on themselves. The more freedom to move they have, the better armed they are, the better able they will be to protect the social revolution in Rojava and further combat ISIS.

Just because the US is (for the moment, and for its own ends) supporting the Rojava Kurds is no reason for us—meaning progressives in the West—to waver in our support for them.

  1. Casualty count in US air-strikes on Syria

    US-led air strikes agains ISIS militants in Syria have killed 553 people since September, UK-based activists say. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 464 IS fighters, 57 other militants and 32 civilians have died. (BBC News, Oct. 23)