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Bombing ISIS: Not a solution but a problem - and the case of Kurdish city of Kobanê

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The US led airstrikes in Syria and Iraq seem to have little or no real impact on ISIS. Since the beginning of the airstrikes a number of civilians and some ISIS fighters are killed but the overall organizational structure and the fighting capacity of ISIS are intact. We are told by the US administration and the leaders of states who joined the coalition that “they will continue the airstrikes untill ISIS is destroyed”.

The longer these airstrikes continue, without achieving much in terms of confident promises by President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron and other coalition leaders, the more questions will be asked in their home countries. Furthermore, as the conditions for civilians continue to get worse, ISIS will use this as propaganda against the 'evil' forces that destroy Syria and Iraq and kill Muslims.

The coalition countries may yet find themselves in a situation where 'they don't want to start a ground invasion, they can't start it but they have to start it'. 

But only a little more than ten years ago we had also seen that an all out ground invasion won't solve the 'problem' and leave a 'clean' country behind for the imperialist interests to continue without interruption. And, yet again,  such an invasion will not be as 'risk free' as the airstrikes. The US, UK, Australian, Saudi and other coalition leaders cannot afford the body bags of soldiers coming home. But then, imperialism has its own kind of madness and they may bring this war campaign to a new level with increased numbers of civilian and soldier deaths.

The situation in Syria and Iraq is a lot more complicated than ten years ago. There isn’t the 'isolated Saddam vs. the US and its partners' situation. While the Western powers may take some comfort from the calls demanding a bigger and stronger intervention, they also have to face a potential spread of Islamist attacks elsewhere.

There are also strong regional forces that fight ISIS and at the same time reject an imperialist military intervention in the region. These regional forces fighting ISIS are repeatedly saying that the airstrikes aren't stopping ISIS.

As the Irish Times reported, Idris Nassan, the Kurdish Kobane’s (Northern Syria) foreign affairs spokesperson said “Air strikes against Islamic State not working

We have yet to see what next steps the coalition leaders will take but the former CIA director Leon Panetta, in his interview with USA Today says "I think we're looking at kind of a 30-year war," he says, one that will have to extend beyond Islamic State to include emerging threats in Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere”. (1)

Airstrikes and support to ISIS:

On the international scene there is significant evidence of how the airstrikes politically (and militarily) give ISIS the opportunity to recruit and grow its influence in the region and beyond. Let's look at some of the examples of this.

The leaders of the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-e-Taliban - TTP), an umbrella group comprising some 100 jihadi groups in Pakistan, has decided to switch sides and support the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) instead the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (Nusra Front) in Syria. (2). The Taliban in Pakistan is not an ally of and is in competition with ISIS. This declaration of support may not have an immediate impact on the situation in Syria and Iraq but the US and the pro-US rulers of Pakistan and Afghanistan will certainly face renewed problems.

Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan declares support for ISIS. Uzbek fighters from al-Qaeda-linked militant organization have thrown their support behind the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group controlling swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq. A top leader for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an ally of the Taliban that has been mainly based in Pakistan's tribal belt since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, announced its backing for ISIS. (3)

The Islamic Front in Syria has declared ceasefire and stopped its attacks on ISIS. According to news reports this decision came after renewed attacks by Assad forces. The Islamic Front was formed with the support of Qatar and Saudi Arabia and the approval of US to fight Assad and later ISIS. It consists of various radical militant Islamist groups. This is a major problem for the US and its loyal allies such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia. (4)

According to some reports, al-Nusra, who is also being targeted by airstrikes, is starting to support ISIS. For over a year Al Nusra and ISIS were fighting each other in Syria. CNN reports that “the two most powerful Islamist groups in Syria - the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra - have spent much of the last year killing each other. But in an interview with CNN, a senior al-Nusra commander says the two groups now have a common enemy: the "crusaders' coalition." (5)

In Syria, it is reported that the Ahrar ash-Sham (a militant Islamic group) is to declare its support to ISIS.

In September, the al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (North Africa) have issued a joint statement and asked all Islamic groups to stop fighting against each other and to join forces to fights against the common enemy, 'the evil forces of the west'. According to Al Monitor, “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb declared its support for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and implicitly criticized the leadership of the al-Qaeda network and its branches because the latter didn’t openly declare their support for ISIS” (6)

Al-Qaeda in Yemenalso declared support for ISIS. According to a number of western and Yemeni newspapers a statement published by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said, “We announce solidarity with our Muslim brothers in Iraq against the crusade. Their blood and injuries are ours and we will surely support them,” (7)

We have yet to see what all of these will mean politically and militarily but the reactionary 'my enemy’s (US) enemy (ISIS) is my friend' politics of various radical Islamist groups may well prove to be costly for the US and its war allies.

One thing is sure. The bombs dropped on militants and the civilians don't have the ability to prevent such calls for support and solidarity with ISIS.

The fight of the Kurds against ISIS – Kobanê, a city under attack

In the regions where ISIS is strong, it is clear that the airstrikes have not been successful. In the past 20 days, Kobanê, a town in the Kurdish Syria, near the Turkish border has seen some of the heaviest ISIS attacks. According to various reports, on October 6, the Islamic State (ISIS) militants have raised their flag on a building on the eastern outskirts of Kobanê. The town’s Kurdish defenders said they had not reached the city centre. (8)

Kurdish YPG (People’s Defence Corps) fighters are defending the city of Kobanê for the last 3 weeks against ISIS attacks. Over the past number of days thousands of people in Turkey, including some of the Kurdish MPs in the Turkish parliament have rushed to the Syrian border to support the YPG fighters and help the fleeing refugees from Kobanê. YPG and YPJ (Women's Protection Unit – affiliated to YPG and composed of Kurdish women fighters) are preparing for further heavy clashes with ISIS.

Kurds are fighting against ISIS and so far they have stopped it from capturing important Kurdish towns. But as ISIS has reached the outskirts of Kobanê, the city may fall soon. The victory of the Kurdish fighters means more than just a military success. It will give a very important political message and a renewed hope to the people of the region. ISIS will not be defeated by Western airstrikes for the benefit of people in Iraq and Syria. The real defeat of ISIS will come from the wider struggle of the people. The fight of the Kurdish men and women are an example of this struggle.

This is now the time to say NO to imperialist airstrikes and stand in solidarity with the Kurds.

...

At the time of writing these lines, street fighting had started in Kobanê. ISIS had started bombing the city centre. In Turkey, in cities such as Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara hundreds of people are gathering to protest all night and demand support for YPG fighters and the opening the borders between Kobanê and Turkey.

(1)   http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/10/06/leon-panetta-memoir-worthy-fights/16737615/

(2)   http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2014/10/05/6-Oct-14-World-View-ISIS-influence-spreads-in-Asia-as-Pakistan-Taliban-pledges-support

(3)   http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/islamic-movement-uzbekistan-declare-support-isis

(4)   http://www.sabah.com.tr/dunya/2014/10/05/islami-cephe-isid-ile-catismama-karari-aldi

(5)   http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/06/world/meast/isis-al-nusra-syria/

(6)   http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/tr/security/2014/07/aqim-declaration-support-isis-syria-maghreb.html#

(7)   http://nation.foxnews.com/2014/08/19/al-qaeda-yemen-declares-support-isis

(8)   http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/middle-east/islamic-state-raises-flag-in-kobani-near-turkish-border-1.1953406

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