So it looks like Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, is not as strategic as Kobani. Nor is Aleppo while the Bashar Assad regime kills hundreds of civilians there. It is not only Mosul or Aleppo though that are forsaken in this supposedly smart strategy. About one third of Iraq and Syria are under Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) control and have been given up in the rush to liberate the now legendary town of Kobani - a town whose name until a few weeks ago no one had even heard of but has suddenly become the frontline in the fight against ISIS.
In the meantime, Aleppo in Syria, a city of more than 3 million, is about to fall to the Assad regime. While the world's attention has been focused on Kobani, Mr. Assad is virtually carrying out a massacre with barrel bombs and artillery in Aleppo, Homs and other cities. Will arms be airdropped to Aleppo as well? And if not, why? One cannot help but ask: how is it that Kobani has suddenly gained such "strategic significance" with global attention when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said just two weeks ago that preventing Kobani from falling to ISIS is not a strategic priority for the U.S.? How has Kobani become the center stage in the fight against ISIS while the fact that one third of Iraq and Syria is under ISIS control is not even being discussed?
According to officials, only several dozen civilians have died in Kobani. The reason why there has not been any massacre in Kobani is because Turkey practically evacuated the city when it began taking in its residents in the face of the ISIS advance. In addition, the U.S.-led airstrikes played a major role in stopping ISIS's advances. This is commendable and the airstrikes should continue to hit ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq. But the hype around Kobani raises a number of questions about the strategy employed against ISIS. One of the reasons why ISIS rose to prominence has been the weakening of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Syria. The other well-known factor is the disastrous policies of the previous Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki that prepared the ground for the advance of ISIS into the Sunni-populated areas of Iraq.
The FSA has been rendered ineffective because of the failure of the international community to provide quality aid to it on the one hand and the fierce attacks by the Assad regime and ISIS on the other. The Assad regime supported ISIS to divide and weaken the FSA. In this battle, the Democratic Union Party's (PYD) People's Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish group fighting in Kobani along with other Syrian groups, has never joined the battle against the Assad regime. On the contrary, it developed and still maintains shady relations with the Assad regime and with the PKK. Its primary objective is not to save Kobani but to maintain its control over it. That's why they are against any large number of peshmerga soldiers coming to their aid in Kobani from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) - a move that Turkey is currently facilitating. Those who are providing weapons do not bother to ask the PYD why it rejected the offer of peshmerga forces to fight alongside them. The PYD is also resisting the offer by the FSA to help them defend Kobani for the same reason - control. The U.S.-led coalition is now providing weapons to groups in Kobani, which it never provided to the FSA in its defense of Aleppo, Hama, Homs or other cities. The Germans, French, British and others are rushing to provide weapons, training and advice to Kurds in Iraq and Syria. Political pundits are talking about the perfect time to establish a Kurdish state and taking PKK out of the list of terrorist organizations in Europe. How this is part of a smart strategy against ISIS is a mystery.
Turks and Kurds are natural allies. Ankara has initiated a major peace process with its Kurdish citizens who have been enjoying more political representation, economic development and cultural rights under former prime minister and current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's policies over the last decade. Turkey has excellent relations with Iraqi Kurds. It has no problems with Syrian Kurds. It has been engaging with the PYD and encouraging it to severe its relations with the PKK and Assad regime. The problem lies somewhere else.
ISIS has become the perfect tool to realize anyone's wild dreams about the Middle East. ISIS is now the darling of contemporary Lawrences of Arabia. Western political commentators and reporters have so much expertise and confidence that they are ready to redraw the map of the Middle East just like the Sykes-Picot Agreement did a century ago. While they believe in the hype they themselves created, ISIS maintains control over large areas of Iraq and Syria. No one is asking why Mosul is still under ISIS control and why the new Iraqi government is not doing anything to take Iraq's second largest city back. This strategy is flawed. There is no logical answer to the question of why ISIS is attacked in Kobani but not in Mosul, Raqqa and other key cities in Iraq and Syria. No one wants to talk about how Syria's brutal and protracted war prepared the ground for the rise of ISIS in the first place. Instead of answering these questions, pundits turn to Turkey-bashing because again it is a convenient tool to deflect attention from the perils of a short-sighted strategy.
About the author
Presidential spokesperson for the Republic of Turkey