Events in Kobane make a mockery of ‘never again’

The illusion that we can stand apart from events in Kobane is fuelled by little Englander insularity and hard-left anti-imperialism.

The illusion that we can stand apart from events in Kobane is fuelled by little Englander insularity and hard-left anti-imperialism

Kurdish Kobane may go down in history as the courageous town that resisted the Waffen iSiS to the bitter end but whose people were let down by the international community.

We should celebrate heroic defenders such as Dilar Gencxemis, the mother of two who blew herself up along with jihadist invaders, or the young peshmerga who is said to have saved the last bullet for herself rather than face rape and beheading.

These fighters may not have killed the ideology of the Waffen iSiS but they certainly made it less lethal by killing its foot soldiers. But their likely defeat in this strategic battle mocks the often heralded notion of ‘never again’ after some genocide or mass slaughter.

The US and others carried out airstrikes which slowed down but may not have stopped the enemy. Are airstrikes futile? The case for airstrikes in Syria and in Iraq was not that they would by themselves halt, reverse and defeat Daish – the Arabic abbreviation for the so-called Islamic State.

Airstrikes are only useful in limited circumstances against fixed positions and when enemy forces are on open terrain which they try to avoid. They must be combined with reliable intelligence on the ground. This has been the case in Iraq where airstrikes helped beat back Daish but not in Kobane, at least, perhaps, until very recently.

The Kurds and the Iraqis are not asking for ground forces, but need advisers to beef up their armies for self-defence within Iraq. The Iraqi Army is, however, demoralised and disorganised after its humiliating rout by Daish in June, and will take time to reconstruct together with Baghdad reaching out politically beyond its Shia fastness to disaffected Sunnis who acquiesce or collaborate with Daish and who could better eliminate them in western Iraq.

The bolder peshmerga of Iraqi Kurdistan faltered in some places in a few fraught days in August but can be more quickly licked into shape with supplies of heavy calibre weapons, and the professionalisation and unification of their command structures, plus ending the disgraceful economic blockade by Baghdad of the Kurdistan Region. Both armies can, however, only be expected to defend their homelands.

Syria is now the main cockpit of the conflict. We need to get serious about Syria if the aim of degrading and ultimately destroying Daish is to mean anything. Failure to intervene against Assad sowed the seeds of the aggressive and imperialist Daish. Western ground troops may also become a necessary part of the mix in Syria. It should not be ruled out.

Support for those fighting Daish is crucial. The defenders of Kobane include the Free Syrian Army, whose representatives I met in Istanbul earlier this year, and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the peshmerga of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which is linked to the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The FSA has been shredded by the combined forces of the Assad regime and what is now Daish.

Turkey’s position is central and may be in the process of revision. The PYD/YPG are anathema to Turkey which fears that they become a thorn in their side. The continuing fear in Ankara is that these Kurds will challenge the Turkish state rather than seek autonomy and rights in more decentralised states, as they have long said they wish.

Kurds in Turkey, and elsewhere, have reacted with great anger to the inaction so far of Turkish military forces just over the border from Kobane and that the recent Turkish parliamentary decision to combat Daish makes no distinction between jihadists and the PKK. The glacially slow peace process between the Turkish state and the PKK could break down if there is no movement by next week. This can be avoided through diplomacy.

However, this is of little comfort to those who sacrificed their lives in Kobane or who face years of exile in refugee camps in Turkey, alongside hundreds of thousands of people marooned in Iraqi Kurdistan, Lebanon and Jordan, whose second biggest city is now that of refugees.

The sheer scale of this humanitarian crisis and the complexity of the politics in the context of the Shia-Sunni schism are difficult to fathom but the Middle East is being recast. The illusion that the UK can stand apart from this is fuelled by a little Englander insularity and hard-left anti-imperialism. These combine to scupper solidarity and ignore the centrality of the Middle East to our lives and economies.

The people of Kobane deserved, and still deserve, better and their town must be a priority for liberation so that those who fled can safely return. The overall role of the Kurds in the Middle East is becoming ever more crucial.

Gary Kent writes a weekly column for the Kurdish Rudaw newspaper

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25 Responses to “Events in Kobane make a mockery of ‘never again’”

  1. Stan moorcroft

    If Kobane does fall this is the image that will stain Turkey for a generation.

  2. CGR

    The Turks are part of the problem, not the solution. Why are they allowed to remain in NATO?

  3. TN

    “The illusion that the UK can stand apart from this is fuelled by a little Englander insularity and hard-left anti-imperialism.”

    Yeah because these two groups aren’t slagged off enough on here…

    You know, why don’t you ask why Turkey hasn’t also joined in since this terrible event has happened on their own doorstep?

  4. Leon Wolfeson

    Well, NATO isn’t really the relevant alliance here, and we don’t need a gap in the South when dealing with Russia.

  5. JP Janson De Couet

    Don’t think the UK in particular should get involved militarily. Others, like the Turks, yes.

  6. Chrisso

    “The illusion that the UK can stand apart from this is fuelled by a little Englander insularity and hard-left anti-imperialism. These combine to scupper solidarity and ignore the centrality of the Middle East to our lives and economies.”
    This is a rather tired refrain. Please explain why Britain should be waving a stick by sending in armaments, advisers and armies to Syria – rather than Turkey and the Arab states doing so. Presumably a similar argument could be made for Britain getting involved in Gaza… ?

    And the term ‘hard left’ is pretty meaningless. How is it defined? Even ‘left’ is used as a pejorative nowadays.

  7. swat

    Turkeys don’t vote for Xmas, so arming the Peshmergher and coming to their assistance is the last thing that Tiurkey would want to do, because those arms would in 3 years time be turned on Turkey itself as bits of Turkey Syria and Iraq are carved out to make the new Islamic State of Kurdistan, which just so happend to have most of the oil in that region.

  8. Englishoak

    Quit with the Little Englander shite. Sick to bloody death of it.

  9. robertcp

    The situation in Syria and Iraq is terrible but it is not clear that we will make it better by intervening.

  10. robertcp

    Why should the Turks get involved in someone else’s civil war?

  11. gary kent

    Solidarity and self-interested intervention, with others, may be tired old refrains but no less necessary in my view. We could ignore it and find that Europe has a new neighbour in a barbaric caliphate that can be a base for attacks on our interests and people and against peace in the Middle East, which means people like ourselves. As for the Kurds, who deserve support now, they are largely secular, tolerant and pluralistic.

  12. Stan moorcroft

    Yeah best avoid getting involved with shit like this, I mean Rwanda, Srebrenica, nobody elses business. If Johnny foreigner wants to go about butchering one another I say leave them to it.

  13. Chrisso

    You did not respond to the issues I raised about your article. Nothing wrong with supporting the Kurds and supplying aid, not armaments. If Europe wants to do something militarily that’s another issue and the UK would need to be consulted. The Middle East is 3000 miles away. It is not ‘Central to our lives and economies’ – let’s be clear about that.

  14. Cole

    You sound like Chamberlain on Czechoslovakia: ‘a faraway country of which we know little’. Let’s just stick our heads in the sand and hope this nastiness won’t come anywhere near us,

  15. Cole

    Because the President of Turkey is a nasty Islamicist?

  16. robertcp

    So far as I know Turkey is not stopping refugees from Kobane entering Turkey.

  17. Trofim

    When you see typically trite lefty “Little Englander” tropes casually thrown around like this, it is a good forewarning that an article is not worth reading. And lefties still wonder why they are ever less popular.

  18. Trofim

    In my fantasies I see Israeli commandos helping the Kurds. Wouldn’t that put the cat among the lefty and Muslim pigeons.

  19. Trofim

    But the nastiness is here already. Take a walk round Sparkhill and Small Heath in Brum, and smell the Islamic coffee

  20. Chrisso

    Czechoslovakia. The Middle East. One is in Europe and closely connected to Britain. The other isn’t. You may as well say we should intervene in China… wait a minute: have they any oil supplies we might need?

  21. Paul J

    “Failure to intervene against Assad sowed the seeds of the aggressive and imperialist Daish.”
    Aaaand….more complete and utter sh*te from LFF. In fact, our covert and non-covert aid to the jihadi rebels in Syria provided the perfect conditions in which ISIS could thrive, and our MSMs’s endless lying propaganda on their parts fueled militants’ islamist greviances.

    If former supporters of bombing Syria haven’t realised how stupid they look by now, they’re not worth listening to.

  22. Paul J

    They’re preventing Kurdish fighters from other parts of Syria from crossing into Kobane, and they’ve been aiding ISIS for years.

  23. robertcp

    Thanks for the information.

  24. Saladin

    if kobani falls, there will be no turkey anymore…

  25. ChristyCTaylor

    Some time hit the leftfootforward Find Here

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