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Rudaw

Interview

Kurdish presidency: Peshmerga to fight in Kobane “within days”

By Alexander Whitcomb 22/10/2014
Kurdistan President's chief of staff, Fuad Hussein:
Kurdistan President's chief of staff, Fuad Hussein: "“There must be a good relationship between Kurds everywhere, especially because we are facing the same enemy."

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—Peshmerga will be operating heavy weapons against Islamic State militants in the besieged city of Kobane following weeks of secret negotiations involving Turkey, the Kurds in Iraq and Syria, and the United States, a senior Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) official told Rudaw.

Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to the KRG’s President Massoud Barzani, said in an interview: “A small group of Peshmerga will be in Kobane within a few days.”

He said: “They are bringing Peshmerga weapons specifically requested by the Democratic Union Party (PYD),” the political wing of the Kurds locked in battle with the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Syrian town bordering Turkey.

“The Peshmerga are not going to join the PYD,” Hussein said. They “will not give heavy weapons to somebody else, they will remain in their hands and bring them back. They are there just to support, to cover the fighters in Kobane.”

  They are Peshmerga weapons specifically requested by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), 

The Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) fighters have held out against ISIS for more than a month, despite the superiority of the militants’ weapons. ISIS boast cutting edge American and European equipment—including tanks and armored Humvees stolen from Iraqi and Syrian armies—while the Kurds scrape by with little more than Kalashnikovs. 

The Peshmerga unit will bring in heavy weapons to reduce this mismatch despite their own shortage of advanced armor-piercing gear on the Iraqi front. 

“In our discussion with the Kurds from Syria about which kind of force they need, PYD told us they don’t need manpower, they need firepower,” Hussein said. “So as a result, we reached an agreement with Turkey and the United States to send a small unit from Kurdish Peshmerga here with some heavy weapons so that they can cover the [Syrian Kurdish] fight.”

Aside from US and allied air strikes, this will be the second case of foreign support after Americans airlifted weapons to the beleaguered forces on Monday.  The Turkish military has watched the conflict rage on with tanks stationed along its border. 

According to Hussein, the KRG Presidency proposed the idea of a corridor for Peshmerga to move from Iraqi Kurdistan through Turkey to Kobane two weeks ago during a series of negotiations between the Americans, the Turks, and the Kurds.  

These meetings, most of which were conducted in Ankara and Dohuk, began soon after ISIS first laid siege to Kobane and intensified as the Americans began airstrikes in the area. 

But all parties finally agreed on the strategy only days ago. 

Before publicly acknowledging the plan on Monday, Turkish leaders repeatedly rejected the possibility of assisting the PYD because of its association with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which waged a bloody guerilla campaign against the government for three decades. 

The Turkish government bombed PKK positions in southeast Turkey only last week, and the fledgling peace process was widely considered to have fallen apart due to Turkish inaction in Kobane. 

  This corridor is important for Turkey, for our relationship with Turkey, for the internal politics of Turkey,  

“Officially Turkey is talking about it in a different way. But Turkey wants to help—because Kobane became an international symbol of the fight against ISIS. So Turkey decided to help the population there through us,” Hussein said.

“This corridor is important for Turkey, for our relationship with Turkey, for the internal politics of Turkey,” he continued. “It is also important for Turkish international relations,” which have suffered since journalists arrived at the border to film Turkish tanks standing idly by as ISIS bombarded the city. 

The Kurdistan region is offering support despite historic differences with the PYD and its own shortage of heavy weapons, desperately needed on several fronts along its 1050km border with ISIS. 

“When you are a society of principle and when you believe in solidarity, you will cut your bread in two. Even when it’s not enough for you, you will give it to your brother,” Hussein said.

“There must be a good relationship between Kurds everywhere,” he continued, “especially because we are facing the same enemy, which moves from Mosul to Kobane to Kirkuk to Jalawla.  And we are facing the same future, so we must stay together.”

Beyond its importance to pan-Kurdish sentiment, Kobane is of strategic interest to the KRG. 

“The fall of Kobane would mean victory for ISIS, but also a threat to Qamishli and Hasakah—both Kurdish majority areas—and bring ISIS directly onto the border with Kurdistan. It would also lead to the flight of half a million or a million Kurds from these areas into Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan.”

  If they have tribes supporting them, then it makes our task even more difficult. 

“The second target would be Afrin,” another Kurdish enclave west of Kobane, “and perhaps they would reach the sea. The population of Afrin would face a massacre.”

The loan of heavy weapons and fighters to Syrian Kurds comes as their Iraqi counterparts are asking Baghdad for tanks and American government for Apache helicopters.

“The KRG has talked about that and requested it, but until now we didn’t receive any. We can coordinate about who operates them, it’s not a problem. But one thing is obvious: we need tanks, helicopters, artillery, some kind of anti-tank rockets, otherwise it will be difficult,” Hussein said.

ISIS has suffered unusually high casualties on several of these fronts and frequently employs suicide tactics.

“I don’t know exactly what’s behind it, but one thing I know is that despite defeats on the front, but still they come back, but in the form of terrorist acts—not controlling the area” Hussein said. “That leads to casualties, of course casualties on both sides because it’s difficult to control it.”

Hussein says that a key question is whether the Peshmerga can enlist the support of Sunni Arab tribes, which analysts see as the key to the victory against ISIS.

“If they stay as a terrorist group, then they can act here and there. Terrorist will always try to hit you somewhere. That’s true anywhere in the world. But if they have tribes supporting them, then it makes our task even more difficult.”

But to inspire resistance, Peshmerga need more weapons, coalition airstrikes, and cooperation with the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).

“I know there are airstrikes but on the ground the Kurds are the only forces. You have some support from the Iraqi army here and there—south of Kurdistan there are some Shia militias south of Tuz Khurmatu—but the pressure from outside must be heavier, with help from heavy weapons, more and wider, deeper airstrikes,” Hussein said.

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J. Daigle | 22/10/2014
It all seems to be taking too long. Why haven't the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds gotten together long before now to fight the ISholes as a unified force? Come on Kurds, tighten up!! And B) Why can't the Iraqi Kurds just caravan the weapons thru Iraq to Syria? Why even go through Turkey? If you have to, let the allies bomb the road ahead of you and fight when you have to but don't run from the ISholes!!
kurt bashar | 22/10/2014
The Kurd's of the Berjer with protecting & accommodating all the refuges of the Iraq (Christians, Torkman or Arabs) who escaped from the Arab Muslim ISIL savager earned respect of the civilized world. Kurdish defenders of the kobane with their bravery wrote new chapter in the Kurdish as well as history of the world & they showed to the world that the Kurd's are good fighters & worthy friends. This is historical times for the Kurd's, they Peshmerge shouldn't only help the Kobane but they should fight and annex the Rojava for the greater Kurdistan, the place where tainted with the Kurdish blood. From now on all the Kurdish leaders should become one & put their differences & bitterness away for the Love of Kurdistan & try to create the Kurdistan. Because winners are the ones who write the history not the loser, as a Kurdish nation we suffer enough, let unite & be winners with help of the Hade & for those dead brave woman & man who defended the Kobane. WE OWE THEM & ALL THE DEAD KURDISH BRAVE MANS & WOMAN'S
Daesh = Arab Cult Cancer | 22/10/2014
If it's going to take "days" it better be worth the delay... not just 10s of fighters but 100s, with tanks, APCs, mortars, and maybe even mobile artillery.
Saka | 22/10/2014
Asking Baghdad for tanks? Probably better asking the German government for some Leopard tanks.
Dr Mohammad Kayani | 22/10/2014
Please remind Dr Fuad Husain that let the Peshmerga to defend the KRG's current territories and not to interfere with the Rojava kurds' affairs. Please do not plague them with what we suffer from for the last half of a century, namely,internal fighting. KDP should not be allowed to impose its hegemony on Rojava with the Turkey's help. It is a plot that would spoil the Kurdish advances in Rojava and destroy Western Country's strategies to fight the ISIS and pave way for a moderate secular government in Damascus. The Iraqi Kurdistan's habitual internal fighting and seeking for spoils of the war would be exported to Rojava. And Turkey's goal of having an Islamic state led by Islamic Front next door and keeping the Kurds divided and preventing them to gain any of their wrights would dominate the other agendas, and fighting the main enemy, ISIS, would be forgotten. Therefore, I strongly advice My friend Bret McGork to be vigilant and not to allow Iraqi Kurds and their ally Turkey to spoil what the U.S. and Syrian Kurds have patched until now.
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