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Deadlock persists over Iraqi Kurds' Kobani support

October 26, 2014

Iraqi Kurds have indicated they will not engage direct combat in Kobani to support their Syrian counterparts. Meanwhile, the US has struck more "Islamic State" targets in the embattled Syrian town.

Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Kobani near the Mursitpinar border crossing, on the Turkish-Syrian border, as seen from the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province October 22, 2014 (Photo: REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)
Image: Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

Safeen Dizayee, a spokesman for Iraq's regional government in Kurdistan, told the Reuters news agency on Sunday that the Iraqi Kurdish forces would provide logistical and artillery support to fellow Kurds in the Syrian town of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab.

"Primarily, it will be a back-up support with artillery and other weapons," he told Reuters, adding "It will not be combat troops as such, at this point anyway."

Syrian Kurdish forces, backed by US-led airstrikes, have been resisting the advance of the Sunni militant organization "Islamic State" (IS) on Kobani for weeks.

According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 800 people have been killed in the Kobani ground battle since IS began its offensive on the Syrian-Kurdish enclave on September 16.

In an unexpected move last week, Turkey announced it would allow peshmerga fighters from Iraq's northern Kurdistan region to cross into its territory to fight for Kobani. The matter, however, has been put on hold as Turkey looks increasingly unsure about its IS strategy.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the local media on Sunday that the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is leading the defense against IS in Kobani, did not want help from the Iraqi peshmerga fighters. Erdogan said the PYD feared losing its influence in northern Syria if Iraqi Kurds moved into the town.

"They don't want the peshmerga to come to Kobani and dominate it," the Turkish president told the reporters.

Ankara accuses the PYD of being the Syrian arm of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade-long insurgency for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey. The Turkish authorities also believe that PYD is supporting the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the ongoing civil war, which began in early 2011 following the Arab Spring protests.

"The PYD is a terror group just the same as PKK," said Erdogan.

In contrast to its hostility towards the PYD and PKK, the Turkish government has moved closer to the regional authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan, who control the peshmerga.

Attack thwarted

The Kurdish forces thwarted a new IS attack on Kobani on Sunday morning, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. According to the monitoring group, the pre-dawn assault marked the fourth day of continued attacks by IS jihadists to cut off the city's border with Turkey before a possible deployment of Iraqi Kurdish forces.

Meanwhile, the US air force conducted five airstrikes against IS near Kobani on Sunday. Separately, the coalition forces struck IS targets in Iraq 12 times.

"In Syria, five airstrikes near Kobani destroyed seven ISIL vehicles and an ISIL building," the US military's Central Command said in a statement on Sunday, referring to another acronym for Islamic State.

More than 800 people, including 481 IS militants, 313 Kurds and 21 civilians have been killed in the 40-day Kobane battle, said the Observatory. The jihadist assault has forced almost the entire population of the enclave to flee the area, with some 200,000 refugees streaming over the Turkish-Syrian border.

shs/se (Reuters, AFP)