News / Middle East

    Turkey Allows Iraqi Kurds to Join Fight for Kobani

    • Smoke and flames rise over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, Oct. 20, 2014.
    • Thick smoke from an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition rises in Kobani, Syria, as seen from a hilltop on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, Oct. 20, 2014.
    • Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani, seen from near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, Oct. 20, 2014.
    • Kurdish fighters walk to their positions in Kobani, Syria, Oct. 19, 2014.
    • People gather on a hilltop on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, to watch the fighting between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group in Kobani, Syria, Oct. 19, 2014.
    • Sailors Aaron Jones, left, from Oceano, Calif., and Raime Baker, from Spanaway, Wash., clear the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, currently deployed supporting strike operations in Iraq and Syria, a campaign formally named "Operation Inherent
    • A man, backdropped by members of the media, sits on a hilltop on the outskirts of Suruc watching the fighting between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group in Kobani, Syria, Oct. 19, 2014.
    • Smoke rises following a strike in Kobani, Syria, during fighting between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group, Oct. 19, 2014.
    • Syrian refugee children, one flashing the V-sign, peer through the window of a school building serving as a refugee center in the Turkish border town of Suruc, Turkey, Oct. 19, 2014.
    Dorian Jones

    In a reversal of policy, Turkey said Monday it allow Iraqi Kurds to use Turkish territory to support the besieged Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani. The announcement comes after U.S. forces air-dropped military supplies into the city currently under assault by Islamic State militants.   

    Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Iraqi Kurdish fighters, known as Peshmerga, can cross Turkey's border with Sryia to join the fight for Kobani.

    "We are helping the Peshmerga cross into Kobani," he said, speaking through an interpretor. "Our discussions are still under way."
     
    With Kobani under fire on three sides by Islamic State forces, the Turkish frontier is the only possible ground entry for resupplying the border city.

    Cavusoglu refused to give any further details on how many fighters and weapons will be given the green light to cross the border. But he said Ankara wants to eliminate threats along the region and is assisting the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS jihadists.

    "We are fully cooperating with the coalition with respect to Kobani," Cavusoglu said.  "We want to eliminate all kind of threats in the region and we see the military and medical aid, outfitted by our Iraqi Kurdish brothers and airdropped by the United States to all groups defending Kobani, from that perspective."

    In Kobani, Syrian Kurds, known as the PYD, are calling for heavy weapons, in particular anti-tank missiles, to counter Islamic State tanks.

    Ankara has been hesitant in allowing Peshmerga into Kobani to help the PYD.  That's because Turkey accuses the PYD of being linked to the PKK, a rebels that both Ankara and the United States describes are terrorists.  The PKK has fought for greater Kurdish rights in Turkey for three decades. On Saturday, Turkish president,Recep Tayyip Erdogan, made clear it believes the two groups have strong ties.
     
    “At the moment, the PYD is equal with the PKK for us. It is also a terrorist organization," Erdogan said.

    Soli Ozel, international relations expert of Istanbul’s Kadir Has University, says Ankara may be looking to the Iraqi Kurdish fighters to mitigate the influence of the PKK in Kobani.

    "They obviously trust the Iraqi Kurds more, because the Iraqi Kurds are more conservative and Iraqi Kurds were the Turkish government's partners in fighting the PKK as well."

    But analysts claim that while divisions remain between the rival Kurdish political factions across the region, the onslaught of the Islamic State has brought them closer together. 

    U.S. airdrops
     
    Ankara’s change of heart follows a U.S. drop of military and medical supplies into Kobani early Monday. 

    The airdrops, the first in the fight for the border town, were "intended to enable continued resistance against ISIL’s attempts to overtake Kobani," the U.S. Central Command statement said. The acronym is another name for the Islamic State group.

    A Turkish foreign ministry official said on Monday that Turkish airspace was not used during the airdrops carried out by the United States.

    Senior officials told reporters that President Barack Obama notified Erdogan during a conversation late Saturday that the military would carry out the airdrops.

    Secretary of State John Kerry said it would have been "irresponsible" and "morally very difficult" for the United States to not support the Kurdish fighters.

    However, Kerry acknowledged Turkish concerns about support for the Kurds, and said the airdrop of supplies provided by the Kurdish authorities in Iraq did not amount to a change of U.S. policy.

    “We understand fully the fundamentals of (Ankara's) opposition and ours to any kind of terrorist group, and particularly, obviously, the challenges they face with respect to the PKK,” Kerry told reporters on Monday.

    But he added: “We cannot take our eye off the prize here. It would be irresponsible of us, as well as morally very difficult, to turn your back on a community fighting ISIL.”

    The officials described the people of Kobani as being at risk of massacre, and said delivering supplies was not only a humanitarian mission but also a way to strike a blow against the militants.

    VOA Correspondent Scott Bobb, who is reporting from  the Turkish side of the Syria-Turkey border near Kobani, said a few explosions could be heard in Kobani Monday morning.

    Syrian refugees who had spoken with family and friends still in Kobani told VOA that the airdrops of weapons and medical supplies give them hope and they see the action as a vote of confidence from the U.S.-led coalition.

    Observers say those supplies, along with intensifying U.S. air strikes increases the likelihood that Kobani will resist Islamic State forces.

    Airstrikes 

    The U.S. military conducted six airstrikes against Islamic State militants near Kobani on Sunday and Monday, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

    U.S. forces, in coordination with Iraqi ground troops, also conducted six airstrikes against the militant group in Iraq near Fallujah and Bayji with help from France and the United Kingdom, the statement said. 

    The U.S. statement said 135 U.S.-led airstrikes near Kobani have helped slow the Islamic State group’s advances in a battle the Pentagon insists has left hundreds of jihadist fighters dead.

    Also Monday, Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb said the country has no plans to provide the United States with direct military assistance in its war against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, even though American aerial bombardment may not be enough to defeat the group.

    But Mehleb left open the possibility of military action if Cairo's Gulf Arab allies are threatened by the al-Qaida offshoot.

    US seeks help in Asia

    In Indonesia, where he attended the inauguration of new President Joko Widodo, Kerry on Monday sought support in Asia for the fight against Islamic State militants, specifically ways to disrupt the recruitment of foreign fighters. 

    He met with officials from Indonesia, Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.

    Scott Bobb contributed to this report from Turkey. 

     

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    by: aDemocrat from: california
    October 22, 2014 12:27 AM
    Like in Ukraine or with the FSA in Syria, Obama talks big but never delivers.

    The Kurds complained that the air drop supplies would do very little to stop ISIS. I suspect it's full of White House approved products. WW2 hand grenades ,old rusty M-16s, water bottles and cooking oil.

    Obama is king of pussyfooting. His generals always has to force him to do the appropriate actions. And he never makes a decision until it's too late.

    He did nothing to help the moderate FSA when they were still strong. He only started sending the FSA weapons when half of them were already dead and ISIS has become the dominant force.

    Ukraine begged for weapons to defend their own territory. Instead Obama gave them tents.

    He would NOT save Kobane in fear of angering Turkey. Thank God that world paid attention to Kobane and it became so popular that it would be hard for the White House to ignore it.

    It seems that this president always need to first check the opinion polls before he can make a decisions.
    In Response

    by: Tom Murphy from: Hartland s'meria
    October 23, 2014 2:08 AM
    lol, love these made stories by the US dismiss any sense of accountability, by arming nutjobs. Incidentally, these supplies have already fallen in ISIS, did someone really think dropping weapons wouldn't be used against them.
    In Response

    by: Tom Murphy from: Heartland America
    October 22, 2014 2:31 PM
    "The Kurds complained that the air drop supplies would do very little to stop ISIS."

    Wrong! The exact opposite is the truth. Kurds have praised the air drops of supplies and have asked for heavier military equipment to counter the advantage of heavy vehicles captured by ISIS from the Iraqi army who often abandoned their posts and ran away from ISIS. The Kurds have not run away and just want better weapons. The Kurds have destroyed armored vehicles by surprise human wave assaults with Molotov cocktails as shown by video on YouTube.

    by: eusebio manuel vestias from: Portugal
    October 21, 2014 6:16 AM
    sould applaud and give to Turkey hope is changing

    by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
    October 20, 2014 11:17 PM
    Yesterday we all criticized Turkey for refusing to allow help go through it's border to PYD (small terrorist group affiliated to PKK US classified terror organisation),. Now with fanfare, Turkey gave PKK permission to cross it's border and help PYD, therefore now it's not fair to continue criticizing Turkey. We should applaud and give credit to Turkey.

    by: talking talking from: us
    October 20, 2014 3:47 PM
    Everybody is expert nowadays on the issues of Middle East, and know exactly what to do how to do. Does everyone really know who you are supporting to fight against ISIS ? and how much blood in the hands of these groups already (such as pkk ypg etc). or you just parroting the mainstream media.
    In Response

    by: Tom Murphy from: Heartland America
    October 22, 2014 2:42 PM
    "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

    The Kurds are a very tolerant people consisting of all religions. They have rescued Christians and people of other religions who were threatened with mass-murder and slavery by ISIS. They fight harder than many of our other "allies" in the middle east. They have taken the worst attacks by ISIS and beaten them to a standstill. If they had tanks, they would probably rout ISIS. ISIS prisoners taken by the Kurds cry like babies. The Kurds don't take many ISIS prisoners.

    by: Allah from: Malaysia
    October 20, 2014 2:16 PM
    Sound like Turkey doesn't have choice

    by: KOBANİ
    October 20, 2014 2:14 PM
    America should be very very careful about turkey tricks, diversion, deception and manipulation maneuvers.

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    October 20, 2014 1:58 PM
    It’s not all about just letting these things have a passage in Turkey, it’s about giving the Kurds, Kobani, real help to defeat ISIS. I do not believe in Turkey working wholeheartedly to support Kobani and prevent its fall, instead I see Turkey looking for ways to sabotage the campaign despite its promise of help and cooperation. After all it failed to make good its earlier promise to ensure that Kobani does not fall into the hands of ISIS, not only failing to send help when urgently needed but by killing Kurdish protesters trying to sensitize Turkey to the plight of Kobani, as well as finding the time too auspicious to bomb Kurdistan. This is why it is impossible to believe that Turkey will not be about to bring up another trick off its sleeves to try to sabotage the campaign, being itself one of the mentors of ISIS with Qatar. It’s unbelievable – confusion galore! What it means is that those airdrops of “humanitarian” wares may not reach Kobani or the Kurds, instead they can be found with ISIS to use same to destroy what remains of Kobani resistance (we have seen it happen in Iraq and it was claimed that ISIS confiscated it from the army – a toy or baby army?). However, here is to say kudos to the US administration for the initiative to drop the supplies which have in a way created another level of confusion for the islamist state fighters, thus leading to the less number of explosions on Monday. But the Kobanis should capitalize on the supplies to launch an offensive against the ISIS, aided by coalition air raids, to retake all of Kobani borders. It will be the best news of the week to hear those beasts of no nation wiped out of the besieged city of Kobani (I’m surprised that neither Tehran nor Riyadh has control over the adherents of a religion they claim so much allegiance).

    by: Lawrence Bush from: Houston, USA
    October 20, 2014 1:38 PM
    Air-dropping civilian and military supplies by our defense is a giant leap forward in the 'War on Terror' efforts to taking the IS militia at Kobani. This specific step could've been before. Still the praise goes to our president, secretary of the state, secretary of defense, JCS chief, Centcom chief Gen. Austin and Turkish president Erdogan & co at Ankara........ President Erdogan should understand the IS terror factor is an international crisis now; and, for that, we do constitute the international coalition. So, whate'er the Kurdish problem remains inside the Turkish territory, that's an internal, domestic problem for Turkey, not an international one.........And, the much needed logistic corridor through Turkyey is also the positive state to sustain reiforcements not for Kobani only but this very flange would be useful for many strategic missions ahead against the IS as well as the Syrian civil war......... And, out of the two evils in Syria; viz, the Assad regime and the IS terror - one is going to be taken now. What's to be the destiny of the Assad regime ahead????? That remains in await......... At the cross-roads of resolving intricate international problems, number of certainties and uncertainties to come up, alright, but the international unity amongst the nation states and coherent strategies are the factors should come up in unhindered manner. ............. And, the IS factor now plagues two states Iraq and Syria; and, the international coalition is still half-cock in approach to move in full steam to take on the IS terror...... And, the ISIS/ISIL statehood does not come up in priniciples of the nation states; so, the UN where 195 odd states do stand. The ill-perceived statehood by Baghdadi is going to be vanished; and, for the inhuman atrocities upon mankind that the IS has taken so far stonkeringly, definitely to suffer while the international coalition gears up as a resultant force.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    October 20, 2014 10:55 AM
    [It's an undeniable fact], that the US and coalition forces could have airdropped the military weapons and supplies to the Kurds from day one, [but for propaganda purposes], the US and their coalition forces delayed doing it [for the publicity and hype], like the US did on the hill in Iraq, getting a lot of positive publicity for doing nothing in their fight to "degrade and defeat" the (ISIL) beheader army?

    In the war to "degrade and defeat" the (ISIL) beheader army, [the Wise Man would like to know], how this delay in supplying the airdropped weapons and supplies to the Kurds benefited all the innocents killed, waiting for the US to do what they should have done from day one?..... [blame the Turks?]..

    by: KOBANİ
    October 20, 2014 7:20 AM
    Despite the opposition of craven Turkey, for your weapons help to Kobani, thank you USA
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