THE LEVANT – A Syrian Kurdish leader accused Turkey of supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and warned that the battle in Kobane will turn into “a war of attrition” unless Kurds get arms that can repel tanks and armored vehicles.
“(It’s) attrition for both sides unless something in the situation changes,” Saleh Moslem, head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) — a Syrian Kurdish group that Ankara does not support — told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in remarks published on Friday.
He said the Kurds had recently received information that ISIS wanted to fire chemical weapons into Kobane using mortars, adding that the militant group had surrounded the town with around 40 tanks.
“If we were to receive qualitative (stronger) weapons, we would be able to hit the tanks and armored vehicles that they use – we may be able to bring a qualitative change in the battle,” he said.
Moslem also accused Ankara of supporting ISIS, saying it had turned a blind eye when 120 ISIS militants crossed the border from Turkey earlier this week.
The Kurds in Kobane have been holding out for more than a month, buoyed by a promise of Iraqi Kurd reinforcements and by US- led airstrikes and air drops of weapons.
Asked about the recent arms air drop and the US-led strikes, he said: “They are not enough to change the balance of power, but if they continue then they can bring about a change. Air raids so far are limited.”
The effect of the open-ended air campaign remains the subject of debate, with the White House saying the militants have been damaged by the strikes and critics pointing to ISIS’ advances and battlefield successes despite the raids.
“I think the Kurdish defenders… are going to be able to hold,” an official at US Central Command said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
According to US officials, the US-led airstrikes have helped Kurdish fighters in Kobane hold out against the more heavily armed jihadists.
“With the current airstrikes that are going on in support of the Kurdish fighters who know the town, the line has kind of stabilized,” the official said.
However, another US military official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was too soon to say whether the resupply of weapons would make a difference, warning that ISIS could ultimately capture the town, even after coalition airstrikes and air drops.
The official extolled the Kurdish fighters, saying: “It (Kobane) could fall. But they’re fighting very well right now.”
On the ground, the jihadists made fresh advances in and around Kobane, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that ISIS had also taken control of a string of villages west of Kobane.
Meanwhile, Kurds say their fighters are exhausted and anxious for promised reinforcements from Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.
Asked about the prospect of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces joining the battle for Kobani, Moslem said none had arrived yet and talks were continuing on a technical level.
Iraqi Kurdish lawmakers on Wednesday agreed to send their peshmerga fighters after Turkey said it would allow 200 of them to travel through its territory to Kobane, where ISIS has an estimated 1,000 militants.
“The forces that will be sent are support forces and their number will not exceed 200 fighters,” Halgord Hekmat, spokesman for the ministry responsible for the peshmerga, told AFP.
“We are not able to specify the day but it will definitely be during the next week,” he added.
They will be armed with automatic weapons, mortars and rocket launchers, he said, declining to specify what route they would take.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that although Turkey agreed to allow Kurdish peshmerga fighters to enter Kobane, the Turkish government didn’t approve of delivering foreign arms to “outlawed” groups, in reference to PYD, which is considered the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
“I have already said the aid you deliver to the PYD and the PKK is unacceptable as far as we are concerned,” Erdogan stated.
Moreover, different Kurdish political parties in northern Syria signed Wednesday the “Dohuk agreement” to defend Rojava, a Kurdish-majority area in northeast Syria, against ISIS.
After 10 days of negotiations, the agreement was announced between the Kurdish National Assembly in Syria, or the ENKS, and the Western Kurdistan Democratic Social Movement or Democratic Society Movement, or the TEV-DEM.