WEST KURDISTAN (SYRIA) – Kobane at stake after Peshmerga withdrawal

May 7, 2015 – In Depth – ARA News – Kobane, Syria – Although the joint forces (YPG, FSA, and Peshmerga) were able to expel the Islamic State group (IS/ISIS) from the war-torn city of Kobane in northern Syria, the IS danger to Kobane hasn’t been entirely eliminated. The group still holds Raqqa and Jarablus, from which it sends military reinforcements to the countryside of Kobane, hoping to regain the strategic city on the Turkish border.

According to observers, the departure of the Peshmerga forces, sent by the Iraqi Kurdistan government, may increase the potential danger by radicals to the area. For months the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have played a remarkable role in backing their Syrian peers with heavy artillery during anti-IS operations. Kurdish activists believe that Turkey has put pressure on Iraqi Kurdistan to pull its forces from Kobane after IS withdrew from the city. Turkey also urged allied rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to participate in anti-IS operations in the Kurdish areas of northern Syria, in an attempt to guarantee dependence of the Syrian Kurdish forces on other factions and to change the prevalent Western opinion that Turkey provides support to IS and other radical groups.

Security Vacuum Subsequent to Peshmerga Departure

Speaking to ARA News in Kobane, Farouk Haji Mustafa, Kurdish political activist and journalist, said that the Peshmerga return to Hewler (Erbil), the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, left a notable vacuum in Kobane, not only on ground, but also to the morale of the joint Kurdish forces pointing out that the jihadists are likely to take advantage of Peshmerga’s absence from Kobane. “Over the past few months, the anti-IS war in Kobane helped increase the military expertise of the Syrian Kurdish forces along with that of the FSA-linked rebels of the Burkan al-Furat. However, the situation became fragile and subject to threats by IS after the Peshmerga left,” he said.

“Turkey Plays Dirty Game”

Mustafa Abdi, director of ARTA FM and one of the observers of Kobane’s battles, told ARA News that Turkey has played a major role in Kobane since the start of the IS offensive on the city.

“The Peshmerga forces were sent to Kobane after pressures by the U.S. on Turkey to allow them through its border. After months of the operations, Turkey pushed the Peshmerga back to Erbil because the agreement ــaccording to Turkish authoritiesــ was limited to only the liberation of the city. Turkey cut off supply-lines of the Peshmerga after the announcement of Kobane’s liberation,” he added. Abdi added that Kobane is still at stake as long as Daesh (Islamic State) surrounds the city from three sides and possesses heavy weapons, while Turkey blocks the fourth passage, preventing the arrival of any support or the passage of arms to the joint forces, “which may lead to the recurrence of the same scenario in the area.”

“It appears that Turkey is playing a dirty role in the region,” he argued.

“Training military factions in Turkey is an attempt to control Tel Abyad (Gire Spi) and Jarabulus on the border with Turkey. This is linked directly to military developments on the ground in Syria,” Abdi said. “The regime-led redeployment of its military forces in Idlib, Deir ez-Zor, Hasakah and Aleppo is an attempt by the Syrian regime to hand over a second and third province to IS, such as Deir ez-Zor and Hasakah,” Abdi told ARA News. “The pro-regime forces prepare for a long-term war in the central part of the country as well as in the opposition-held areas near the coastal region –where Alawites constitute majority.”

“The situation on the ground is very complicated: the Turkish authorities are coordinating with several military factions in Syria’s north, including the Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) rebels of the FSA and Daesh (IS) itself.” “The situation may dramatically deteriorate if a strategic solution is not provided by the influential parties in the region,” he argued. Abdi pointed out that the Kurdish-led battle of Tel Abyad will be decisive not only for liberating the region or securing an official border crossing, but also to complete the map of Rojava (Kurdish areas in northern Syria) and linke the Kobane and al-Jazeera Cantons–provinces declared by the PYD-linked Auto-Administrationto reach the border of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Speaking to ARA News, Pierre Rustam, a writer and human rights activist from Afrin, believes that the situation in the region depends on the pre-planned scenarios for the Syrian crisis and its potential solutions. “Kobane will not be an independent state,” he argued. Rustam did not rule out Turkey’s interference in Kobane’s future through some allied FSA military factions, saying: “This is probably one of the scenarios at hand, especially if the Iranian role is eliminated in Syria similar to that of the developments in Yemen.”

Despite Threats, Life Returns to Kobane

Nawroz Pijo, an activist in the Youth Organization “SOZ”, believes that the Peshmerga forces have have left after making sure that Kobane’s security situation had become stable and safe.

“After its liberation humanitarian organizations and civil society organizations started some activities in the city which will help bring life back to Kobane after months of war,” she said. “The threats of IS terrorists won’t hold us back from starting a new life in Kobane. We call on displaced residents to return home and help rebuild the city,” Pijo told ARA News . On Thursday the Peshmerga forces of Iraq Kurdistan pulled their last group of fighters and weapons from the city of Kobane in northern Syria, and headed back to Erbil through Turkey.