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Have the Syrian Kurds turned Kobani into ‘Stalingrad’ in the War against ISIS?

Sunday, October 19, 2014,  three USAF C-130’s flew over the Syrian  Kurdish YPG- held Western area of embattled Kobani.  Air  crews dropped 27 bundles of much needed arms, ammunition and medical supplies. Only one bundle went awry and was promptly destroyed by an accompanying coalition air fighter escort.  An NPR report noted the importance of this successful air drop and rising level of air strikes punishing besieging ISIS Jihadists:

In a statement, U.S. Central Command said the airdrops, executed by three C-130 cargo planes, were intended to help Kurdish fighters defend the city against the group calling itself the Islamic State.

“This assistance is another example of U.S. resolve to deny ISIL key terrain and safe haven as well as our commitment to assist those forces who oppose ISIL,” CENTCOM said in the statement, using a widely-used acronym for the Islamic State.

Polat Can, a spokesman for Kurdish forces in Kobani, acknowledged the delivery on his Twitter feed and added that he would soon be posting some “good news.”

In the past two weeks, U.S. forces have conducted 135 airstrikes against ISIL in and around the city of Kobani. The CENTCOM statement says the strikes have killed hundreds of fighters for the Islamic State and badly degraded the group’s military resources.

In a Pentagon briefing CENTCOMM commander Gen. Lloyd J. Austin stated that despite stepped-up strategies and efforts by allied forces, “Kobani could still fall.”

Others have called the defense of Kobani by YPG forces as “very impressive”. Impressive because of the grit, determination and valorous sacrifices of Kurdish fighters with some mixed units led by women commanders.  The YPG fighters’  motivation is to stave off the ISIS rampage from conquering this outlying Syrian bastion of their  ancestral Kurdish homeland crossing the borders of neighboring Turkey, Iraq and Iran.  Kobani has not been completely overtaken  by ISIS in the more than two months siege now in the brutal urban warfare phase. It has become a symbol of armed resistance  not unlike the Russian defense and ultimate victory over the  German Sixth Army at Stalingrad in early 1943.  The Kurdish resistance in Kobani  could be the turning point in the War against ISIS if properly supported by the Coalition.  This despite the obduracy of Turkish President Recep Erdogan, whose tanks silently stand on the border at Suruc overlooking the Kobani battle ground.

Erdogan is fearful that providing weapons and support to the YPG forces in Kobani would inflame the outrage of PKK allies in adjacent  Southeastern Turkey whose towns have been placed under virtual military control with  dozens of protesters killed. That set off street battles between Kurdish émigrés and ISIS supporters in Hamburg, Germany.  There have been protests at the White House by American Kurds and their supporters  requesting  President Obama  to support  those YPG fighters in Syria and Peshmerga in Iraq.  Support  also came from the  Kurdish Jewish community in Israel. The Times of Israel reported attendees at the annual  Saharanah festival denouncing ISIS and Turkey, “Concern for Brethren  in Syria marks Kurdish Jews Celebration”.    Yehuda ben Yosef, chairman of the National Organization of Kurdish Jews said:

This year, we focused an important part of the celebrations to call on the Israeli government and  the US, to denounce  two-faced Turkey, which doesn’t allow aid to reach the Kurdish army fighting there.  Genocide is being carried out on its borders, which are NATO borders. This is unbelievable. It’s as if the Holocaust is starting to return, and the world stands there silently.

 The US Administration was forced by public opinion outraged by the barbaric ISIS beheadings of Americans and British that fed into concern over support for  the Kurdish defense of Kobani.  Those developments forced President Obama to form a coalition of air contingents from several Sunni countries in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf that morphed into Operation Inherent Resolve. If that resolve is inherent in the battle against ISIS it is in the Syrian Kurdish YPG and Iraqi Peshmerga forces putting their lives on the line. Those Kurdish fighters communicated a message we haven’t heard since the dark days of WWII in May 1940 when Sir Winston Churchill was appointed as wartime Prime Minister, “give us tools and we’ll get the job done”.

Faith Mc Donnell of the Washington, DC-based Institute for Religion and Democracy drew attention on their blog yesterday, about the successful international social media effort led by the National Security Communications Task Force (NSCTF) of the Lisa Benson Show, “Twitter Success and Courageous Warriors”.   That was the fourth and most successful twitter rally that the NSCTF has conducted since June, 2014. The first was directed at a #DefendHamas campaign aimed at supporting Israel’s Operation Protective Edge during the 50 day rocket and terror tunnel war with Hamas in Gaza.   McDonnell wrote:

On Thursday, October 16, activists of the National Security Communication Task Force sponsored a Twitter Rally to lobby Congress for action to stop ISIS and protect the Kurds, Christians, Yazidis, and others victimized by the brutal Islamic “State.”

Messages such as #SupportTheKurds, #SaveKobani, #DefeatISIS, #ArmTheKurds, etc. were tweeted in an effort to push for more U.S. action to stop the brutal Islamists. And even as those tweets were flying, the war against ISIS was being fought on the ground by Syrian rebels and both male and female Kurdish soldiers, as well as by unusual new reinforcements, biker gang members — from the Netherlands and Germany.

Thank you to all who joined the Twitter Rally. There were many participants tweeting seriously for the first time. Passionate about impacting U.S. Iraq/Syria/ISIS policy, their goal was to push the U.S. government into arming the only official fighting force truly standing against the caliphate-builders right now: the Kurds.

The Twitter Rally was very successful. #SupportTheKurds reached 800 tweets per hour. This particular message also trended in the National Security category.

McDonnell  further writes about Dutch and German bikers who left to join those courageous Kurdish defenders of Kobani with their governments’ promise that they will not be prosecuted  upon  their  return. That is unlike the thousands of ISIS wannabes who have left the West and joined up via Turkey’s jihadist highway  only to return from Syria and Iraq as dangerous homegrown terrorists. She also notes the courage of Kurdish YPG women fighters.

The last weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal on October 18-19, 2014 drew attention in a report to those YPG women fighters, who constitute one-third of the Kurdish forces defending Kobani, “Kurdish Women Battle Islamic State on Front Lines.”  One 19 year old woman fighter, “Dilar” who joined up in an all female Martyr Warsin brigade, named in honor of a fallen teacher, said, “When I walk with my gun, the men who haven’t volunteered keep their eyes down around me. My bravery shames them.”

The valor of Kurdish women fighters in Kobani was reflected in the burial of four women near the Turkish Syrian border who fell fighting ISIS.   The courage that ‘Dilar’ and the fallen men and women of the YPG in Kobani have  displayed brought encouragement to other groups inside Syria fighting ISIS.  McDonnell cites Walid Phares noting the support of Christian allies of Syrian Kurds fighting in Kobani.  He stated, “The city was pronounced falling by Washington and Ankara but not by the fighters on the ground. ISIS is being pushed back by the people.”

Watch this Wall Street Journal video on Kurdish women fighters undergoing Peshmerga training in Iraq:

While President Obama is refraining from US boots on the ground in the battle for Kobani, he needs to continually replenish those Kurdish forces  in Kobani and Peshmerga in Iraq with the “tools to finish the job”.  He should urge CENTCOMM and Coalition commanders Gens. Austin and Allen to schedule more air drops with heavier weapons and ammunition coupled with robust close air support missions to complement communications and intelligence from Kurds on the ground. Consider the casualties that the Kobani YPG fighters inflict on ISIS reported daily by the Syrian Human Observatory as retribution for ISIS beheadings of Americans James Foley and Steven Sotloff and Britons, David Haines and Alan Henning.  Perhaps, just perhaps, like Stalingrad, Kobani could demonstrate to the uncooperative Turks, President Obama and the coalition in Inherent Resolve that fighting Kurds have the resolve  to “defeat and degrade” ISIS.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Syrian Kurdish Women YPG fighters