Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Airstrikes Push Back ISIL in Kobane

U.S.-led airstrikes on Wednesday pushed Islamic State insurgents back to the edge of Kobane, which had appeared set to seize after a three-week assault, Kurdish officials in Kobane told Reuters.

“They are now outside the entrances of the city of Kobane. The shelling and bombardment was very effective and as a result of it, IS have been pushed from many positions,” said Idris Nassan, deputy director of Kobane district. (Reuters, 8 October)

The Turkish military deployed to the border across Kobane has yet to intervene to save the city.

Meanwhile, Iran criticized the “passivity of the international community” to save Kobane.

Iran’s position on Kobane is interesting and full of contradictions. It slams the West for being passive in confronting ISIL to save Kobane, yet its elite Quds Force has had major presence in Syria for nearly three years and under its command, thousands of fighters belonging to Lebanese Hezbollah and other Shia militias are fighting the Syrian opposition to save Assad. The Quds Force funds and commands these forces. The question remains, if the Iranians were sincerer in their call to save Kobane, why don’t they send some of those fighters under Quds Force command to eastern parts of the country to engage ISIL and help save Kobane?

Photo credit: Kobane as seen from Turkish side of the border; 7 October 2014 (Getty Images)


Anonymous said...

Your question is odd Mr. Uskowi, specially when considering Iran and its Quds force are already renowned at being active and deeply involved elsewhere on other Kurdish fronts, going as far as prompting Barzani to officially acknowledge and praise Tehran's crucial support that predated many other parties coming to the hasty help of his forces. This blog among others, posted numerous such reports if I remember correctly. And you were, and still are, among those fiercely criticizing Iran for every dimension of its involvement within the troubled region's hot zones, disregarding the fact that they engaged Al-Qaeda elements long before coalition airstrikes, (along with other anti-Assad forces of course, to every actor its core interests, the same way Western power back those same forces while bombing more extreme elements only now that they backfired on their agendas, after years of civil war), would it be in Syria itself or the Lebanese frontier via Hezbollah. One has to remind Iran is not a global military superpower backed by the world's greatest navy and its dozen of carrier groups, and cannot fill every void wherever others, such as Turkey, initial and, according to some, current backers of extremist elements both in Syrian and Iraq, refuse to do so and just keep their tanks idle overlooking the battlefield.

Is the US and other Gulf coalition members' position not full of contradictions as well ? pledging to help "moderate" FSA elements to oust Assad while in fact having totally contributed to the rise of current ISIL and Nusra by closing their eyes on their main GCC allies' shadowy yet massive cash-flow to them ?

So if I get it right, you seem to be questioning Iran's sincerity in intervening wherever it does not, and then also the first to blame it for intervening wherever it does ? what about other parties involved that cannot be separated from this discussion ? first arming and inflating the threat, then starting to bomb in a very selective manner it when it becomes too complex and self-sustained to be controlled, even by the KSA ? how many boots on the ground have America, France, Jordan, Qatar, Turkey or the KSA sent to fight the ISIL threat effectively so far ?

Iran is to blame for its many calculative acts and behind the scene control of its parties of interest both in Iraq and Syria, but the question is, who doesn't ? who didn't from the very start of Syria's trouble ? why should we blame Iran every time more than other for whatever it does, or does not while obviously forgiving every other players for whatever they do or do not ? so it was right to support Islamist groups such as Nusra and Ahrar Al Sham (which though being almost as extreme as Al-Qaeda ideologically, has yet to appear on any target list of coalition airstrikes, for reminders) and then bombing a carefully selected set of targets makes them the good guys again ? and Iran in all this is the sole whiner/liar/calculator no matter what ?

E.F. said...

Because other opposition/terrorist groups would use this as a great chance to attack the Syrian regime and its allied forces. And thats why the Iranians are in Syria in the very first place. Therefore it would strategically make no sense to send tropps to the Turkish border and weaken the defences.

Nader Uskowi said...

Iran's Quds Force, the Lebanese Hezbollah and numerous Shia militias are fighting to save Assad against the opposition forces in a number of fronts in western and central Syria. They are sure capable to send a thousand or so militia fighters to save Kobane.

At least in Syria, however, ISIL has been a de facto ally of Assad and his backers, as they thought by leaving it alone in the east, even when they started to grab lands there, it would kill same opposition forces they were killing. Now that ISIL is attacking Syrian Kurds who were not considered an enemy of Assad, the situation has become complicated for them. But if they are honest in saying Kobane should be saved, they should counter ISIL in Kobane. They are capable of mustering enough force doing that.

Nader Uskowi said...

We are discussing Iran's strategy in Syria. Iran's Quds Force and its allied Lebanese Hazbollah and numerous Shia militias, all under Quds Force's command, can muster enough force to engage ISIL in Kobane to save the city; which is their goal they say. OK, they have enough forces already deployed to Syria, boots on the ground there already, and all types of military hardware in Syria, to be able to send a fraction of their force to Kobane. Why not?

Anonymous said...

Because they are simply aberrant in their minds and want to see Kurds die here while they help them elsewhere ? Seriously, I'd say because war is no game, every resource matters, and the frontlines inside of Syria and Iraq are shaky enough as they are with the troops and equipment involved overstretching sanction-ridden Iran, you cannot "dispatch a few hundred or a thousand troops" just like that to back your word with deeds considering those realities, there you are relying on "armchair general" type of rhetoric I'm afraid, with all due respect. Do you have access to their inventory and finances ? the implication of yet another such additional deployment ?

Anyway, it certainly makes no sense for Iran filling yet another gap in this war that no other contributor to the civil war is willing to address, namely Turkey and its tanks tanning under the sun literally hundreds of meters from the battlefield, and its 300+ fighter jets sitting on runways that have yet to do a single recce sortie over combating forces, let alone a bombing run against ISIL, while they proved more than capable of doing so several times to pound dozens of Syrian troops, armor, and aircraft daring to wander a bit too close to their side of the border, just like Israel does over the Golan.

Erdogan just cannot stop whining and gesticulating over the fact that "no other country has shown as much sympathy and dedication to the humanitarian catastrophe than Turkey in Kobane", and has yet to join the anti-ISIS coalition, for whatever it's worth. Can't HE back his words with a bit of action while his country's financial and military sacrifice to the whole conflict does not even represent a tiny fraction of Iran's, which by contrast secured passionate praises from Barzani for coming to his aid them while no one else was there yet not a month ago ? should they shoulder yet another war-zone while other, better-positioned parties don't have to move a finger, or do so quite selectively, weighing their action on internal politics rather than actual humanitarian needs ?

There is no such thing as "honesty" in such complicated matters involving so much power-play from half a dozen different factions and nations and their associated, sometimes utterly contradictory agendas - name one country that has been "honest" in its handling of the Syrian civil war so far and we'll talk again about the value of such a word in this discussion. Was it the US ? Europe ? the GCC ? Assad ? Iran ? they are all to blame one way or another in this mess, and there is no point in systematically pointing fingers against ONE particular actor while totally de-contextualizing every of its moves and decision-making.

Is the US and its coalition honest by bombing ISIL forces here and there applying a fraction of their firepower while on the other hand strengthening anti-Assad forces even further while it is now facts that non-Islamist, so-called "moderate" anti-Assad factions excluding Islamism-bent elements now represent less than 5% of territorial Syria today, and that the other 95 % of fronts are now directed against Nusra and/or ISIL ? why strain SAA forces even harder and open additional fronts against it at a time where its troops need all the energy and men that they can get trying to advance on ISIL/Nusra elements in Aleppo, Raqqa, and other strongholds ? Yes, Assad closed his eyes on Al-Qaeda linked fighters for a time, in a calculation that proved as vicious as it was unwise, but it was the very same kind of calculus that the US did by letting its GCC proxies and Turkey catastrophically inflate the ISIL/Nusra threat in the first place. Who's more (dis)honest in this dirty affair ?

Nader Uskowi said...

I have received some other replies as well which basically argue that western and eastern Syria are separated by long distances and not wise for Iranian forces deployed to western and central Syria to get involved in Kobane. I could not publish those comments due to their use of choice language and personal attack on the blogger. But they make a strong argument and let me add a few points here.

I was arguing that if Iran wanted to "save" Kobane, it had forces capable of countering ISIL there. Please note that Iran has a significant presence in Iraqi Kurdistan, which borders Syrian Kurdistan. Iran has had no problems to deploy QF and other commando units in Iraqi Kurdistan, and should be able to do so on the Syrian side of the border. I was not, and am not arguing on military tactics and logistics here. I am saying if Iran had the will, it could counter ISIL in Kobane. It is pouring billions of dollars into its military involvement in Iraq and Syria, it is certainly capable to counter ISIL in Syria too.

My other point is hypocrisy on the part of Iranian leadership. They encourage street demonstrations to save Kobane. The officials blame everyone else for being "passive" regarding Kobane. Yet they don't mention about their strong presence in Syria and Iraq, including Iraqi Kurdistan, next door to Kobane.

Last point: A number of pro-regime commentators on this blog have for long bragged about Iran's new role as a "regional superpower." Well a superpower can get involved in many fronts, no?

Anonymous said...

Reply well received Mr Uskowi,

thanks for sharing your thoughts on the points I made. In response, and for the interest of time, I would stand by my previous argument published above that stipulates that Iran's involvement in Syria and Iraq already overstretches its forces and allocated budget to a point where it cannot divert anymore attention or energy so long as the current, live front-lines are so unstable. Indeed there isn't a day that passes without either the SAA or the de-facto Nusra/ISIS coalition making gains, loosing ground, conquering or reconquering lost ground. And this is with those very billions of dollar worth of military aid coming from Tehran's near-empty coffers and its 55% people living below the line of poverty. Considering this, I cannot see how can anyone with responsibility in Iran's commanding circles, would they be military or political, hastily open a new front potentially turning into a quagmire with ISIS/Nusra reacting by attempting further destabilization effort in Iran's Sunni belt, an ambition they've so far refrained from at 50km from Iranian borders, or garner even more support from Sunni populations in its recruitment campaign already way too dangerously successful by waiving a quite valid case of Shiite aggression perpetrated by its main flagship, among countless other possible examples. Bottom-line is, this is a risky gamble, with unpredictable ramifications. For every decision could arise a hundred unforeseen consequences, you cannot just reason through mathematical or quantitative terms, in my humble opinion, all I'm saying.

PS : I personally argue that a claim stating that Iran is a "superpower" goes along the lines of pure regime propaganda from itself and its minions. A superpower shouldn't suffer from any shortcomings in a particular branch of its armed forces, and in this sense should not need to compensate a weakness (air-force) by a disproportionate investment in another field (Ballistic missiles). Iran is indeed at least 10-15 years away from becoming a full-fledged, battle-ready power in the league of Western European states if we assume they continue their current steady progress in military R&D and industrial capacity. So if your goal was to upset them and underline a contradiction within their stances, I guess it has been attained.

Unknown said...

and why Iran should help Kurds to establish a Kurdih state and then kill Iranian soldiers (PEJAK is close to PKK). If Kurds were going to be under Iran wings and do as they are told it was ok to help them but if they are going to be against Iran there is no point to use the scarce resources to help them

Mark Pyruz said...

"The question remains, if the Iranians were sincerer in their call to save Kobane, why don’t they send some of those fighters under Quds Force command to eastern parts of the country to engage ISIL and help save Kobane?"

It's a question related to geography and logistics. Look where Kobane is geographically located, and where positions are located for current SyAA, NDF, LH and allied forces. Attempting to send these forces in the direction of Kobane would likely undermine their current positions in the fight to support the Syrian Arab Republic.

And while the IRGC-QF are supporting Peshmerga in Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan President Barzani was born in Iran and attended the University of Tehran as a young man), the YPG is allied with FSyA.

I'm a bit surprised you pose this question, Nader, given the above facts. Politically, it's a bit like asking why doesn't the U.S. military intervene in Israeli wars against Gaza to save the residents of Gaza? While militarily, in terms of conventional firepower and logistics, the IRGC-QF pales in comparison to the U.S. military.

Mark Pyruz said...

"ISIL has been a de facto ally of Assad" is like saying "al-Nusra has been a defacto ally of Israel."

Which is to say, both are less than accurate.

This is a very complex war made even more complex by two uncoordinated coalitions fighting against ISIL.

Anonymous said...

What not one is realizing is that the Kurds are fighting Iraq, Syria and Turkey for independence. Why should either of them help? I understand they are fighting ISIL, But what more can the Kurds contribute to security if their aim is to be separate from all the states bordering it's quasi-independent land and possibly Iran? Syria, Iraq and Turkey are looking at this as well. There is absolutely no reason for Iran to get involved in Arab/Kurd fights.

Nader Uskowi said...


I am discussing the battle space in Syria. Israel is not involved in combat operations in Syria, and I am not here to defend Israel. ISIL and Assad are involved in combat operations in Syria, and they do act as de facto allies. Even some pro-Assad commentators are questioning the wisdom of Assad to let ISIL a free hand in the east, in the hope that they kill many members of Assad's opposition, hence the de facto alliance. Now Assad is paying for it. ISIL can practically split Syria into two halves, east and west. And that's not good for Syria, nor for the region.

Nader Uskowi said...


You know as well as anyone that the Quds Force and other commando units of the Iranian military are operating at a significant level in Iraqi Kurdistan, which by the way borders Syrian Kurdistan and Kobane. The Quds Force could as easily operate on the Syrian side of the Kurdistans. It is not a matter of logistics, but lack of will on QF/Iran's part to engage ISIL in Syria.

Please note I don't have a problem with that. My problem is with the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime which accuses everyone of "passivity" over Kobane, yet refuses to engage ISIL in that city, even though it already has boots on the ground in both Iraq and Syria.

On the question of alliance of YPG with anti-Assad, and by implication the reluctance of Iran to fight on behalf of Syrian Kurds: You need to address that to the Iranian government who says the whole world should go to Kobane to fight ISIL, except Iran, which has more forces under its control in Syria than any other foreign countries.

Anonymous said...

Nader UskowiOctober 8, 2014 at 10:25 PM
You seem to be ignoring the attacks on government held areas like the recent isis capture of the tabqa airbase,this is hardly the act of any ally "defacto" or otherwise,because assad did not rush to defend the eastern part of syria preferring instead to husband his remaining forces to maintain control over the most populated part of the country you see this as evidence of them being allies?,why should assad intervene if isis and the fsa are going to kill each other again this does not make assad and isis allies.Marks 3:43 PM analogy is a good one,because al-nusra and the other insurgents weaken the syrian government and its military,which is only to israels advantage,does it then follow that al nusra and israel are defacto allies?,of course it doesnt,in the case of the syrian government and isis it is quite clear that the enemy of my enemy is also my enemy

Anonymous said...

Factually incorrect : Israel can also fully be considered a de-facto ally of ISIL (and anti-Assad forces in general), as many commentators have raised eyebrows to the analogies surrounding repeated IDF strikes deep inside Syria since last year preceeding pushes by Al-Nusra militants against the SAA, hinting at some dubious coordination while their own forces were never targetted by Israeli forces, and this despite public attempts by their prime minister at the UN to equate them with Hamas, one of their many sworn enemies. Same thing on the Golan border not 2 weeks ago, when a Syrian Mig was taken down while conducting recce flight for ulterior bombings of extremist elements at one border point, discouraging SyAF jets from conducting further anti-ISIS or Nusra operation in the area. Separate bombings on Syrian barracks have had a several hundred high toll on Syrian soldiers as well. Israel is actively involved in giving shelter to anti-Assad fighters and has been arming some of them via complicity with the KSA, they barely hide it thelselves, and embarrassing press reports have been plenty for all to see in that regard. Assad has been unwise in his calculation in ignoring Al-Qaeda and consort for a long time, just like its Western and Gulf enemies have been fools (to say the least) in arming anyone willing to destroy the current Syrian governement.

Mark Pyruz said...

And so Anon 9:05, you demonstrate my point, in persons connecting Israel with JAN.

It's my contention that such attempted connections are same or similar to attempted connections made between Syrian Arab Republic and ISIL. These attempted connections or "de facto alliance" are both less than accurate.

As I said, this is a complex situation involving many players and motives, made all the more complex by two competing, uncoordinated coalitions fighting the same opponent.

Anonymous said...

Mark, your analogy is technically flawed, as Israel has made it clear through concrete acts that it does not intend to target any other player on the ground than SAA elements whenever it intervenes. They have every ability to target and attack Nusra and ISIS elements instead or at least on top of it. But at the contrary, reports have described well-timed , coordinated and organized blitz attacks by rebel forces of all obediances every time the IDF has spontaneously struck Syrian army positions. These are facts,certified, acknowledged and documented, notably on the ultra-sensitive Golan where the Tsahal hasn't ever lifted a finger to dislodge Nusra fighters from a border crossing while it took down a Syrian Mig overflying them for recon, it is hard to interpret their intentions in any other way than de-facto actively and selectively colluding with anti-Assad forces, notnto mention the KSA's " Bandar connection". On the other hand, it is hard to describe Assad as a friend or ally of ISIS when the latter technically eats territory of its own from the former. The fact hat Assad closed its eyes on islamists is passive strategy of weakness and poor calculus, itnis a different scheme.

Brig. Gen. Basrawi (IQAF.ret) said...

Mr. Unknown

And therein lies the problem; if a country called Kurdistan, with official borders on a map, had existed (just like any other country in the Middle East), then the country of Kurdistan would not have needed any direct help from the outside. The country of Kurdistan would then have been strong enough to secure its own territory and borders.