A chess game over Kobani

Published 23.10.2014 02:14
Updated 23.10.2014 09:45

Kobani, which has been blockaded by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) for weeks turned into a chessboard. The mutual aim of the actors closely interested in the crisis in Kobani is to prevent ISIS from invading the town. However, methods and interests differ on the matter of how to reach this aim.

The Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is currently fighting against ISIS, has only one target: fighting against ISIS by itself and winning. It wishes to maintain the monopoly of power it established in Kobani. For this, it demands weapons and monetary aid from the actors including Turkey and air support from the anti-ISIS coalition. However, it reacts against Turkish military forces and Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani's peshmerga forces in Kobani.

Ankara's position on Kobani and Barzani are more or less parallel to each other. Both actors aim to prevent ISIS from invading Kobani and think that ISIS must be restrained. However, they believe that another method other than supporting the PYD should be implemented because both Turkey and Barzani are concerned over a possible authority of the PYD in Kobani, which excludes political differences and Ankara categorizes the PYD as a wing of the PKK. In this respect, there is no guarantee that the military and economic aid sent to the PYD would not be turned on Turkey at some point.

The PYD also bears a grudge against Barzani concerning the north of Syria. So, the PYD is a common risk for both actors. We also saw it in previous discussions. The PYD issue was tabled between Ankara and Irbil long before the ISIS danger emerged. As the Bashar Assad regime assigned the Kurdish regions in northern Syria to the control of the PYD, Barzani was commanded to assert dominance over them. Barzani could not take that step due to pressure from Iran. The new conjuncture is leading Ankara and Irbil to rethink the subject.

The main aim of the U.S. is the same as the other actors: to restrain ISIS and end its existence in Iraq and Syria. In terms of the actors collaborating, the U.S. differs from Turkey and the KRG. The U.S. first wanted Turkey to play an active role in Kobani. The open sources do not indicate detailed information about what exactly this active role is. However, some clues about the demands of the U.S. can be obtained from the reactions of sources in Ankara. The sources express their worries over the demands of the U.S. as such: "We cannot intervene in northern Syria and fight against ISIS on our own. This step should be taken with the coalition."

So the U.S. regards Turkey as a land force that would take an active role in the fight against ISIS. Ankara answered this demand of the U.S. with a comprehensive strategy that targets the Assad regime along with ISIS. It demanded safe zones and a no-fly zone in Syria. This strategy was presuming a land operation that would involve the coalition. Saying "no boots on the ground," the U.S. gave the message that it would be contented with only an air operation.

However, some forces are needed to fight against ISIS on the ground. For this, the U.S. contacted the PYD, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey but not by the U.S. After that it provided the PYD with weapons informing Ankara of its intention. This raised concerns in Ankara, which considers the PYD as a wing of the PKK, because there are some doubts in Ankara that the weapons sent to the PYD might be turned on Turkey.

So, the news that Ankara is letting KRG peshmerga forces transit through Turkey to aid in the fight for Kobani heated up Ankara corridors and broke just after these developments. According to the information obtained by the press, peshmerga forces will head to Kobani through Turkey's territories and fight against ISIS. Some of the information on that matter was not given to the press, which suggests that the peshmerga forces that will head to Kobani will consist of Syrian Kurds, who were previously dismissed by the PYD from the region and trained by Barzani in Northern Iraq. The aim is to prevent ISIS from capturing Kobani and to achieve it with Syrian Kurds excluded by the PYD and trained by Barzani.

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