The US Government acknowledged on Sunday that it air dropped small arms, ammunition, and medical supplies to rebels fighting ISIS in Kobani, Syria.
The Turkish President balked when asked if he supported the operation. Adding that “There has been talk of arming the PYD to form a front here against the Islamic State. For us, the PYD is the same as the PKK, it’s a terrorist organisation.”
This is why Erdogan has been reluctant to set up a land route through Turkey to help supply the fighters in Kobani with material as well as reinforcements. It’s worth noting that the corridor opened yesterday by Turkey is for Iraqi Kurdish fighters, the pesh merga, and still prohibits any Turks from crossing the border to fight in Kobani.
There’s no debate about whether the PYD is connected to the PKK. It’s merely the amount of collusion that’s an open question.
Therefore, the United States government is openly providing not only logistical support but also weapons to a group that, at the bare minimum, is affiliated with what the US considers a terrorist organization.
Last night the White House held an on background conference call to brief reporters on the provision of arms to Kurdish fighters in Kobani over the weekend.
According to officials, a total of 27 bundles of small arms, ammunition and medical supplies were air dropped into Kobani. When asked exactly what kinds of arms were dropped, the official noted the weapons themselves were provided by the Kurds, noting that “I just don’t have the breakdown of exactly what types they were,” so effectively they don’t know (or aren’t saying.)
One official noted that this is the continuation of a campaign that began last year to arm rebels.
The call also more bluntly describes the US mission against ISIS than what the press describes it as. The officials describe efforts to bleed out ISIS in a long protracted campaign where “what we’re trying to do with this resupply is support those who are seeking to inflict greater losses” on ISIS. Two officials noted that airstrikes have killed hundreds of fighters and destroyed scores of pieces of equipment. They described our strategy against ISIS as “opportunistic” and said that “if we, again, see ISIL massing forces, massing equipment, and presenting us with an opportunity to set back ISIL capabilities, we’re going to act.”
Much has been written about how Turkey is sitting on the sidelines, both figuratively and literally, in preventing the spread of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Jonathan Krohn, writing for USA Today over the weekend from Suruc, Turkey, accused Turkey of preventing aid and Kurdish fighters from reaching Kobani to repel the siege by ISIS.
What’s more, since the fighting began in Kobani, many Kurds on the Turkish side say they are repeatedly stopped by Turkish police and military and tear-gassed and forced to move back from crossing the border to Kobani to join Kurdish fighters.
“The extremist group that is threatening the existence of the Iraqi state was built and grown for years with the help of elite donors from American supposed allies in the Persian Gulf region.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, who has a dog in this fight, said it more directly at the CFR, where he called the West’s partners against ISIS a “coalition of repenters.” Adding:
“Most participants in that — in that meeting in one form or another provided support to ISIS in the course of its creation and upbringing and expansion, actually at the end of the day, creating a Frankenstein that came to haunt its creators.So this group has been in existence for a long time. It has been supported, it has been provided for in terms of arms, money, finances by a good number of U.S. allies in the region.”
Politicking aside, there is little debate about who funded the nascent organizations that became ISIS. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey made a pragmatic decision to, at a minimum, indirectly fund Sunni militants fighting the Assad regime. It’s classic “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” realism and not really surprising.
The NY Times lead story today is “Turkish Inaction on ISIS Advance Dismays the U.S.” The article reads as a laundry list of complaints and reservations U.S. officials have about Turkeys foot-dragging and, in some cases, refusal to do what we want them to.
This comes two days after Joe Biden apologized for saying “It took a while for Turkey, a Sunni nation, to figure out that ISIL was a direct immediate threat to their well being,” during a speech at Harvard.
The NY Times ran a story on Sunday noting that Vice President Joe Biden had apologized to Turkey’s President Erdogan for implying that “Turkey or other allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied of facilitated the growth of ISIL or other violent extremists in Syria.”
But little has been reported about what Biden actually said.