Defying Turkey, US airdrops arms to Kobane Kurds

By Juan Cole

In a step that over-ruled America’s Turkish NATO ally, US jets dropped food, first aid and weaponry into the besieged Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane on Monday morning. Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdogan, in remarks made on Sunday, rejected the idea of arming the Syrian Kurdish fighters, equating them with terrorists.

Al-Khaleej [The Gulf, UAE] reports that there was fierce house to house fighting in Kobane [`Ayn al-`Arab] in Syria near the Turkish border on Sunday into Monday between local Kurdish militaries and the invading fighters of ISIL.

At the same time, Turkey renewed its refusal to join any anti-ISIL coalition until its demands for a buffer zone next to the Turkish border with Syria were met. Turkey expressed strong disapproval of any plan to transfer American weapons to Kurdish fighters in Syria, since they are allies of the Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK], a group Turkey and the US consider to be terrorists.

US and coalition air strikes on ISIL positions near Kobane on Sunday killed 15, adding to a high death toll for the insurgent group this past week. The bodies of some 70 fighters, likely those of ISIL, have been delivered to the national hospital in Tel Abyad in al-Raqqah during the past four days. The coalition air strikes also took out four armored vehicles that ISIL had captured.

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed that his country would not join the anti-ISIL coalition until four demands had been met. These include the announcement of a no-fly zone, the establishment of a buffer zone, a program to train and arm Syrian revolutionaries, and the launching of an operation against the Baath regime of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. (The point of these demands is that Turkey is afraid that the current coalition air campaign against ISIL will inadvertently strengthen both the Damascus regime and Kurdish separatist guerrillas, and Ankara wants to be assured that these two outcomes will be forestalled. Erdogan also rejected calls to arm the Syrian-Kurdish fighters of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the paramilitary of which is called People’s Protection Units (YPG). Erdogan alleged that the PYD is indistinguishable from the leftist, separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Turkey and the US consider a terrorist organization.

The Obama administration appears to have disagreed dramatically with Erdogan, since it airlifted weaponry to the Kurdish fighters of Kobane on Monday morning.


related video:

Euronews: “Turkey refuses to arm Kurds fighting ISIL in Kobani”

21 Responses

  1. There is more to the story, with the announcement that Erdogan would assist Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga get into Syria, though still stopping PYD/PKK forces. Also Erdogan, in responding angrily to t he US proposals for aiding Kobane, used a curious turn of phrase, chastising the US for “talking about this openly” and then expecting Turkey to agree. After Erdogan’s Sunday conversation with Obama, he repeated his standard position about his target being the Assad regime while the WH said that the to leaders AGREED to work together against ISIL. What are we to make of al this?

  2. When you have three or more sides in a conflict there is usually a temporary understanding as to who is the main enemy and who is to be left alone or become secret allies, however messy or immoral the situation. The US is now helping Assad and the Turks are using ISIS to keep the Kurds down so NATO allies are now effectively opposing each other.

  3. The airdrop is certainly a one finger salute to Turkey. But overall, I’m seeing reconciliation and convergence of interests. The Kurds in Syria, Turkey and Iraq are starting to work together. Iraqi Kurdistan is emerging as the useful middleman between U.S., PKK and Turkey. The Syrian Kurds are finding common ground with Turkey’s FSA proxies. Now we see Turkey allowing Iraqi Peshmerga into Kobane.

    I think the gemütlichkeit all started when Kurdistan in Iraq, the PKK in Turkey and PYG in Syria all cooperated to create a humanitarian corridor to save the Yazidis trapped on Mt. Sinjar.

    There has been a tidal wave of good news the past three days.

  4. It isn’t surprising that Turkey prefers Barzani to the PKK/PYD. Barzani is ultimately a tribal leader. His nationalist aspirations will be limited.

    Dear professor… What is your sense about how willing the Iraqi Kurds are about sharing their oil wealth with their poorer neighbors in Turkey and Syria?

    My guess is Turkey keeps playing the divide and rule game wirt the Kurds that it has always played. Support the Islamist Kurds against the PKK in the 80s and 90s… and now support tribal Barzani against the nationalists again in the 2010s…

    Different players, same game. :)

    • You call Barzani a tribal leader. Can you really blame him for placating Turkey given the pressures the Iraqi Kurds are under? Is Barzzani also wrong for selling oil to Israel? The fact that his nationalist instincts are limited is a good thing. Nationalism – meaning a Kurdish state – will have to wait for democracy to arrive in entire region. That’s just reality, Kurds are not going to be able to fight their way to a state carved out of 4 countries, including 2 regional powers. Barzani’s effective pragmatism is a breath of fresh air.

      Someday Kurds in autonomous regions of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey can decide on independence the same way that people of Quebec and Scotland did. Deliberately, peacefully. And if true democracy and human rights are present, don’t be surprised if they decide the same way the Quebecers and Scots did.

      You are reading the signals wrong. Barzani and the more leftist Kurds are not dividing, they are finding common ground. That cooperation challenges Erdogan more than any PKK insurgency possibly could.

      • Richard… Guess I was reading the signals correctly. Apparently the pashmarge plan is collapsing.

        I’m from Turkey and I know Kurds are as divided as Turks when it comes to major issues.

        How bizarre is this situation? Kurds in Turkey protest and die for Turkish intervention. Turks don’t want to intervene. Kurds in Kobane don’t want the Turks to intervene.

        US pushes Turkey to allow Barzani’s troops help out. Turkey agrees and now Kobane is refusing it.

        Middle East is a hard place to understand isn’t it? :)

  5. Cliff Rhodes

    @BotanKuferdeli I like the way this starts off, “Defying Turkey”, who is now host to Muslim Brotherhood rejects from even Qatar.

  6. One month ago, ISIS released forty two Turkish diplomats and their families held in Mosul since June. Turkey said it wasn’t a military operation, no ransom was paid and there were no concessions, but up until yesterday Erdogan refuse to aid Kobane or allow any Kurds in to help the city. However, after talking with Obama on Sunday, Erdogan did his version of the John Kerry “flip-flop” right after the call.

  7. I’m sure there’s a really good shallow glib explanation for this little bit of information:

    Serena Shim, 1984-2014
    The Death of a Reporter

    …On Friday, October 17, Serena went on air for Press TV. She was rattled in the broadcast. Serena said that Turkish intelligence officials had accused her of spying. She had reported that Islamic State fighters had been smuggled over the border in trucks with logos from the World Food Organization. No one had seen this before or made such allegations. It came to the heart of the suspicion of various forms of assistance being provided to the Islamic State through Turkey. Barzan Iso, a Syrian Kurdish journalist, had already reported that Qatari charities have been using the Jarabulus crossing to get aid to the Islamic State….

    From the Turkish towns of Mardin, Kilis and Urfa, the foreign jihadis made an easy transit into Syria. Until recently, Turkish authorities did not try to hide this “rat line.” Oğuzeli Airport in Gaziantep (Turkey) had come to resemble the old airport in Peshawar (Pakistan), as the bearded wonders disembarked with a glint in their eyes to join what they saw as a holy war. Pakistani intelligence had the same steel in their walk as Turkish intelligence – the parallels seemed to me more and more appropriate when a Kurdish commander told me that the Islamic State is to Turkey as the Taliban is to Pakistan. link to

    … Memo to self: Don’t let it bother you. Nothing is ever what it seems, and thermodynamics teaches that disorder is inevitable…

    • Familiar with Karen Silkwood? She played the same kind of VERY dangerous game Serena Shim was playing in Turkey. Meryl Streep played Silkwood in the movie. When Roger Ebert asked Streep if she had reached any conclusions about Silkwood’s fatal car accident, Streep said…

      “I SURE HAVE.”

        • “Not exactly the same game, but the same result”–exactly. Silkwood was brave almost beyond belief. Serena Shim had only been in Turkey for ten days and other reporters declined to make the same accusations about ISIS fighters in Turkey using WTO trucks. It had to be well known.I think Shim should have been much more cautious.

  8. And what could possibly go wrong?

    “IS fighters seize weapons cache meant for Kurds” [actually part of the really competent air resupply mission]

    On Tuesday, IS loyalists on social media posted sarcastic thank you notes to the United States, including one image that said “Team USA.”

    But the lost weapons drop was more an embarrassment than a great strategic loss. The Islamic State militants already possess millions of dollars-worth of U.S. weaponry that they captured from fleeing Iraqi soldiers when the group seized swaths of Iraq in a sudden sweep in June.”

    link to

    Keep repeating: “It’s just the fog of war. it’s just the fog of war…”

    • The pentagon reported that one of the palettes fell into ISIS control. The video showing the box of grenades may have been taken before air strikes bombed the landing area.

    • Do you think the United States deliberately lost millions of dollars worth of U.S. weapons in northern Iraq to ISIS?

      • Leaping to the defense of “Defense…” Maybe not deliberately, just maybe stupidly, futilely, incompetently, venally, idiotically… And is the number not more like Billions, rather than Millions?

        • Several hundred million at least. I’ll go with “stupidly and incompetently.” Because of all those heavy weapons and their different sources of revenue, ISIS has become a much bigger problem in Syria, Iraq and now in northern Lebanon.

          No one really knows what will happen, but it looks like the U.S. will keep bombing the shiite out of ISIS for the next year or so. But if we continue to lose several hundred millions worth of weapons, our bombing campaign might be known as “Operation Revolving Door.”

          We can just keep bombing those BAD GUYS from now on.

  9. Why is it FAUXNews reports on ISIS “operations” more quickly than any other corporate-controlled media spigot?

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