The Alamo of the Kurds: Kobane Near Falling to ISIL

By Juan Cole

Ismat Sheikh, commander of the Kurdish forces at the border town of Kobane (Ain al-Arab) that is besieged by ISIL tanks and artillery, says that he expects massacres of its inhabitants if it falls to the Sunni Arab extremists.

He warned that ISIL fighters are less than a mile from his front line.

Despite US air strikes, ISIL has drawn up some 25 tanks and a number of artillery pieces to pound Kobane repeatedly.

There was also heavy close-quarter fighting in the east and the south of the town between Kurdish guerrillas and ISIL units on Friday.

Last week over 60,000 Kurds were forced to flee to Turkey as ISIL advanced into the Kurdish region of Syria.

Most Syrians speak Arabic, but the Kurdish minority speaks a language akin to Persian.

The Kurds at Kobane have called upon armed Kurds everywhere to come defend the town, warning of a massacre.

Although Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu pledged not to allow Kobane to fall, he later backtracked, saying that Turkey has few options for intervening directly in Syria.

related video:

Reuters: “Kurdish fighters, battling Islamic State, warn of possible massacre in Kobani”

23 Responses

  1. James Moran

    I keep seeing Kobane compared to Stalingrad. Unfortunately I think your comparison will prove more apt in the end. #Kobane

  2. If ISIS can roll 25 tanks into a town, what is the point of American airstrikes? What are the airstrikes focusing on? Weddings and schoolhouses?

    • apparently their biggest attacks were on refineries and on a bakery. Which is odd because tank columns in relatively open country are one of the few sorts of target against which airpower is both effective, and almost certain not to cause the death of innocents. If the US is choosing to blow up bakeries full of civilians instead, and to leave the tanks full of people threatening to massacre civilians alone, that kind of tells you something. Seems to me.

      • It ‘seems to me’ that the airstrikes are more political than military. Looks good to say we are ‘degrading and destroying’ after the next beheading staggers through the media. I can not but believe that the U.S., Britain and the rest couldn’t put a serious hurt on these people if they really wanted to. With the mishmash of interests in the area, I don’t think anyone has a handle on the
        conflated motives at play. Maybe when Bagdad is shelled, and the airport is closed, the players will sort themselves out.

        • yes, but it also shows the utter hypocrisy of any claims of humanitarian consideration. Some US spokesmen had the nerve to say they hadn’t targeted ISIL tanks besieging Kobane as they were firing on civilians, because they couldn’t be sure they wouldn’t have hit a few civilians in the process. This despite the fact the tanks were on top of an otherwise empty hill with a huge ISIL banner next to them. Yet the same coalition is willing to launch its first attack on a BAKERY – a target that absolutely guarantees to cause massive civilian death and mutilation.

          Even if the targets are meant as a political gesture, why on earth would they start with an intentional attack on a civilian target, and essential refuse to attack military targets that are attacking civilians?

  3. If only (A-10) the US had some (A-10) airpower resource (A-10) that was specifically designed (A-10) to attack ground targets like enemy armor and artillery (A-10).


    • I’m guessing you read the Harpers article on B-1 replacing A-10s for all the wrong reasons. Or right reasons i guess, depending on whether (A) you stand to profit monetarily or professionally by B-1 use, (B) you give a goddamn about people outside your small circle of family & friends losing their lives due to the decision, and (C) whether you view the Middle East as your own personal RTS sandbox (no pun intended) game.

    • Poor old (A-10). So sad. But now there’s F-22s which have taken their tutu-wrapped bow, c’mon, fella, got to give the other product lines a chance to get some press. Like the V-22, which is it armored and armed yet, flits around getting just enough “combat” airtime to keep the product alive, while like so many other military procurements that arrive after difficult gestations and various renascences. Like the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, or how about the (finally Up-Armored) Hummer, the XM-25 Game Changer grenadobullet launcher, on and on and expensive, same-old-sh_t on, like the B-2, a loving “Brainchild” out of Cubic Money and the failed YB-49 of Jack Northrup whose corporate doppelganger finally triumphed over planes with traditional empennages. To be supplanted by missiles and drones and Autonomous Combat Devices, on the way to “Terminator World”…

      There are partisans for every weapon system that ever came down the gold-plated pike (in the case of the A-10, the aluminum-wrapped, depleted uranium pike, since that 30 mm ammo is indispensable to the “A-10 punch,” and what a nice mess DU also makes of the post-conflict landscape, hey? Lookie here, for some unpropagated training film stuff on the subject: link to

      Yah, the A-10 is more survivable, and can shoot up tanks and stuff; so could the AH-1 Cobra and SuperCobra and DoubleExquisiteCobra and lots of others: link to Tanks are replaceable, at a lot less cost than you’d think, and there are lots of tankbuilders happy to refill the inventories of all the killing forces. Even our charming “government” has a way of spreading”our” wealth and weapons around the world, look at this interesting bit of legislation: “10 U.S.C. 2581 – Excess UH-1 Huey and AH-1 Cobra helicopters: requirements for transfer to foreign countries,” link to

      This whole phase of human devolution is just MADNESS: “Policies” based on imperial and commercial greed and grandiosity set in motion long chains of behavior that just DEMAND that guys (mostly) who get off on weaponry and warfare get to go play with the wealth and lives of large or small populations, set up stuff like ISISILIQ now, or UNITA, or our “very special forces,” and the whole World’s Largest, Most Inefficient and Corrupt Military and its suppliers, the fraud of “democracy spreading,” all of that and other stuff.

      And is “the answer” just (A-10)? Or Trident MIRVed missiles, one sub’s worth of which might kill the whole living planet, a weapon system built in clear retrospect and the then present knowledge of “our Rulers” that the Big Bad Bear was nowhere near as dangerous at the moment, though the Soviets had their crazy Tellers and Curtis Lemays, link to, and were able to leverage their own idiocy on Our MAD/First Strike Supposed Superiority? Or is “the answer” to be found in a resolution of that grand debate, carried out at full-auto shoots and in many a bar fight, over which is better, the M-16/M-4 or the AK-47, or Glock or Beretta, and which caliber and bullet and powder load?

      Here’s why the Generals, who get to make the “Tough Procurement Choices,” say the A-10 is being “retired:”

      Air Force leaders defend move to retire popular ‘Warthog’ plane

      (Reuters, March 14, 2014) – The Pentagon’s decision to retire the entire U.S. fleet of popular A-10 “Warthog” aircraft is painful but necessary as the military is forced to save money now to develop tomorrow’s weapons, Air Force leaders said on Friday.

      General Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, told a panel in the House of Representatives that eliminating the 283 tank-killer jets would save [all of] $3.7 billion over the next five years plus another $500 million in planned aircraft upgrades. [Not even pocket change, or even pocket lint, in a pocket that’s filled with Trillion$…]

      The money saved would in turn be used to bolster current Air Force readiness, which has slipped in recent years because of budget cuts, and to focus on priorities for the future, such as the radar-evading F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a new aerial refueling tanker and a new long-range bomber. link to (Emphasis and parentheticals added)

      I don’t accept that humans are trapped into this idiot cycle, but if one buys into the supposed logic of it all, read the above passages again and tell me what I am missing: Is that any way to run an Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Black Ops, “Homeland Security”? F-U-B-A-R. And (A-10) is a little Band-Aid ™ Dot ™, on a giant bleeding carcass of Ordinary People…

  4. BruceJ, the JSF35 Lightning is supposed to do the job of the A10 (sigh) the irony being at the moment it can’t fly within 20 miles of —

    • Re the ’35, not to worry, another trillion will put all right. If only the real notion behind all this geometrically more costly crap was anything to do with combat. Which for your hot jet jockeys is mostly listening for warbles, fighting cockpit overload, staying in the envelope and standing way off and fingering their pickles and then “egressingthe area.” While hoping not to get a rocket up the tailpipe or a random round through the compressor.

    • It was the decision of the State Department to suspend aid to the Free Syrian Army after Islamist extremists raided an arms depot under FSA control.

      This strategy weakened the legitimacy of the FSA at a time when Syrian-Americans and others in the U.S. were raising millions in funding for the FSA and the FSA was gaining ground against the Assad regime.

      As a result:

      (1)Many FSA fighters defected to other entities, such as the al-Nusra Front, ISIS, and the Islamic Front;

      (2)private donations to the FSA began drying up and the Syrian Support Group – a State Department-backed group raising funding for the FSA – closed its doors last month.

      (3)the FSA began losing ground against both ISIS and the Syrian government forces.

      The State Department recognized their folly and began re-arming the FSA again.

      • Well, if it that easy–if they are that indifferent–to defect to IS” or the Islamic Front, then it was right not to arm them.

      • Does anything about this “policy critique” bother anyone else? The State Department arming factions? The STATE DEPARTMENT? Bad enough that the other Uncontrollable Thing, the “CIA,” is on the case, along with all the factions in the Military Thing that prosper by getting a part of the action, like SOCOM and its corruptions… And the blithe assertion that a “bought” faction is the “right” one, and that they would stay bought, in Byzantium? And the presumption that all that’s needed is weapons injection into the right muscles, and the grand mal epilepsy over there will resolve? Oh, and “democratization” by overthrowing elected governments and stuff?

        Early Machine/Colonial/Imperial Age physicians used to “treat” patients by “letting blood” and applying blistering agents to their skin. Depended on the robustness of the patient, whether they survived the “treatment,” and either way the physicians collected their pound of flesh. Weapons-in, from the unaccountable, vast, and growing dump of munitions and “equipment,” has been a failing behavior (from the ordinary person’s viewpoint, of course, ask a Yazidi or now-miserable denizen of Fallujah that “we liberated, or a host of other places) since the git-go.

        Is that all our rulers can manage? Us ordinary people paying the costs of our own violent abuse and murder? Because “realpolitik,” and“Empire,” and “hegemony,” and “upward wealth transfer?” Because “masterful policies, doctrines, strategies, tactics, black activities?” Because “profits,” that don’t have any accounting rules for all the externalities?

        • I perhaps should have been more precise and artful in my above post.

          The State Department did not perform the actual “re-arming” of the FSA but was instrumental in conveying the right recommendations to those in the White House so the CIA could begin anew brokering arms purchases and initiating later deliveries to Turkish and Arab countries for eventual re-delivery via cargo planes to Turkey and subsequent distribution to the FSA.

          The Free Syrian Army had expressly adopted a declaration of commitment to democratic principles and the now-defunct Syrian Support Group (SSG) had been named as the “implementing agency” for non-lethal U.S. aid to the FSA. The SSG board of directors consisted of members of the Syrian expatriate community in the U.S. and its staff was composed of both Syrian exiles and those with a background in U.S. national security.

          The FSA owes its allegiance to the Syrian National Coalition whom the America and most of the free world recognizes as the Syrian government-in-exile.

        • Sorry, MK, even with the more detailed re-telling, it still seems plain jack foolish. There are so many fail points in that chain of necessities, so many echoes of failed “policies” out of a long string of Beltway Bubbleheads backing losers… The selected, not elected, government-in-exile, circuitous CIA weapons logistics, force-fitting an Imperial frame on it all via lobbying and wishful thinking? Ain’t we done that enough times yet?

  5. “For us, ISIL and the (Kurdish) PKK are the same.” Erdogan on Sunday.

    I wonder if ISIS’s release of the Turkish hostages has anything to do with their army just watching events unfold?

    Why does Turkey have few options? If they wanted to save Kobane from falling, all they have to do is roll across the border.

  6. I guess it is silly to ask where the famed “Peshmerga” are in all this. I seem to recall that the Syrian Kurdish PYD came to their aid against ISIL in Iraq and also saved the Ezidis. OK, Barzani doesn’t like Salih Muslim and his group because he can’t control them, but allowing a massacre?

Comments are closed.