For two years the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and other Kurdish groups have defended the Syrian border town of Kobani against onslaughts by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and its allies.

Is it not ironic then that three weeks after US imperialism (and all its assorted “coalition of willing partners” in this new “war on terror”) begins the bombing campaign against ISIS forces near Kobani, this Kurdish town is pushed to the brink of falling into the hands of the jihadi barbarians?!

With just 3,000 civilians remaining of its 200,000 population, Kobani is threatened by the forces of ISIS from the west, south and east. Most of the villages around Kobani, with a total population of around 200,000, have already fallen. Since October 6 two ISIS black flags have been visible on the eastern outskirts of Kobani and ISIS has already entered the town in the east and the Kurdish forces have been fighting it street-to-street, trying to stop its push towards the town centre.

Turkey sets its terms

Since the YPG, which has been in control of Kobani since July 2012, is known to be an affiliate of the PKK in Turkey, the Turkish government is using this as an excuse to press its own demands on America.

Earlier today, Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Syrian Kurdish refugees in the city of Gaziantep. Although he was clear about the danger to Kobani, Erdogan was – unsurprisingly! – more concerned about setting out Ankara’s conditions for taking military action against ISIS: a no-fly zone in Syria, safe havens for refugees inside Syria and training for the illusive “moderate opposition” forces fighting against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. All of these have the clear aim of weakening the Assad regime, the main aim of Turkey right from the beginning of the Syrian civil war.

So even though Erdogan said that “Kobani is about to fall,” he still insisted on equating the PKK with ISIS, asserting that “Turkey stands against terrorism in all its forms,” and “Turkey is as much against PKK terrorism as it is against ISIS!”

That is why the Turkish tanks lined up at the border, with ISIS clearly in their sights, are silent. The only action the Turkish security and military forces are taking is to prevent Kurds from their side of the border from crossing into Syria to help in the defence of Kobani and other Kurdish enclaves. Clashes have also taken place in other parts of Turkey with at least nine people being killed by the police during protests.

A Kurdish strategy?

The Kurdish leadership in Syria is obviously fully aware of the bloody record of the Turkish government’s treatment of its own Kurdish population. They should also make sure that they do not foster any illusions about the role of US imperialism in the region. They should not look at the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq as a model. The KRG is an entity that fully fits in with imperialism’s plans for Iraq. The only way that the Kurdish population in Syria can guarantee its long-term safety and security is by allying its forces with those of the Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and Iraq, as well as with the workers’ movement in these countries. That is the only sure way of being safe and free from threats.

Nearly a hundred years after British and French imperialism divided up the Kurdish masses according to their own interests, Kobani is a symbol of the continuing betrayal of the Kurds by various imperialist countries. The strategy of the Kurdish nationalist leaders must not in any way rely on any imperialist or regional power (like Turkey, Israel or the Iranian regime).

Justifying further imperialist intervention

The beheading of two US journalists and two British aid workers have overturned public opinion in both countries. Just over a year ago, in August 2013, Britain’s parliament turned down Prime Minister David Cameron’s proposal to bomb Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Almost two-thirds of Americans were also against intervention in Syria’s civil war even after chemical weapons were used by the Assad regime.

The steady stream of horror stories and videos since the fall of Mosul, however, have greatly helped imperialism’s propaganda efforts aimed at military intervention in Iraq and Syria. Now around 71 per cent of Americans support air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and 65 per cent would back bombing the jihadists in Syria. In Britain 57 per cent of the public are in favour of air strikes against ISIS.

The endless number of experts and former military personnel who have been interviewed on TV, or have been quoted in various newspapers, all assert – correctly, as it happens – that an aerial war and superiority in the air are in no way sufficient for defeating ISIS. The plight of Kobani has clearly shown this.

That is, however, merely a technical fact about the reality war. In the absence of any serious challenge to the policies of imperialists from ‘their own’ labour movements in the US, Britain or France, or any coalition of workers and all exploited and oppressed masses in the region (regardless of ethnicity and religion); this fact is bound to be used to strengthen the case for further involvement and eventually sending in troops by the imperialists and competing regional powers.

Already the militarist and pro-war propaganda has overturned a major part of the anti-war sentiments dating to the 2003 Iraq invasion and its aftermath. This is because anti-war sentiments can be a fickle phenomenon if not linked directly to the need for an independent workers’ front against war, poverty and all other consequences of the capitalist system and for socialism as the only alternative social order for saving all of humanity.

Morad Shirin
7 October 2014