What is happening in the Middle East?

Published 31.01.2015 01:16

The symbolic town of Kobani in Syria has been freed from Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fighters after many months of serious fighting. Some independent sources have confirmed that ISIS fighters have left the town and its outskirts. The news has ignited an explosion of joy and manifestations in most of southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq. The strategic importance of Kobani, which was a small and forgotten town across from the Turkish border, has been widely debated over the last six months. Without the incredible surge by ISIS Kobani would have stayed anonymous.

The assaults waged by ISIS have been largely successful for two reasons. First, the forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have decided to step back and leave the ground undefended and second, the newly re-formed Iraqi army has proved to be non-existent, because of the fanatic Shiite policy implemented by the previous government. The Iraqi army, trained and equipped by the U.S., has proven to be nothing more than a Shiite militia unwilling to fight for non-Shiite populations in the northern Iraq.

The peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq were no match for ISIS, made up of Saddam Hussein's former elite forces and officers. In no time, ISIS forces placed themselves as the major military power in most of Syria and Iraq, controlling the banks of both the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Mosul could not be defended by local peshmerga forces mainly because of the fact that the latter were not equipped nor trained to wage a war of such magnitude. Everyone pulled away in front of the advance of ISIS forces except for a small resisting force in Kobani. The totality of the civilian population living in the region was able to save their lives by escaping to Turkey, which accepted and gave shelter to a couple of 100,000 more refugees from Syria. The resistance in Kobani was losing ground when the U.S. decided to give air coverage to anti-ISIS fighters. Large and frequent airstrikes stopped the ISIS advance, but Kobani was in a desperate situation. At that point, Turkey agreed to allow the transportation of KRG peshmerga forces into Kobani, which leveled the battle.

For most of the Kurds living in Turkey, Syria or Iraq, Kobani became the symbol of "purely" Kurdish resistance against a bloodthirsty oppressor. This is why there was such an outburst of joy when ISIS stepped back. However, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, nothing has been solved either in Syria or in Iraq regarding ISIS. Just after having celebrated victory in Kobani, peshmerga forces were attacked in Kirkuk and KRG Brigadier Gen. Shirko Rauf and five other peshmerga soldiers were killed during clashes. ISIS forces have taken advantage of the thick fog that prevented airstrikes and drone surveillance over the region. This is a blatant way to show how fragile the military situation remains in the region and how difficult it will be to disarm and defeat ISIS.

Since the Kurdish Democratic Union Party's (PYD) armed People's Defense Units (YPG) and KRG peshmerga forces are not really a match for ISIS, a much more comprehensive solution and strategy should be implemented. This is not World War II when the liberation of Stalingrad was celebrated as a turning point. Maybe it is high time to listen to the strategy Turkey has already proposed regarding the organization of the Free Syrian Army.

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