Have Kurds Moved US Leadership to Action on ISIS?

Amid heavy clashes in the besieged town of Kobani, Syria just across the Turkish border, there are encouraging words.  Specifically two words that together have been hiding for years, United States and Leadership.

Former US ambassador in Turkey from 2008 to 2010, James F. Jeffrey, was also the US ambassador in Iraq from 2010 to 2012.

He is quoted saying the Kurds are inspiring the US to finally lead. Because of this leadership, Islamic State Jihadists, despite 40-plus days of assault, have been unsuccessful in taking the Kurdish town of Kobani.

Jeffrey is quoted on Germany’s international broadcasting website, DW.de.

John Kerry was saying that Kobani was not a strategic objective of the United States. Essentially, we now finally found a place where people were willing to stand up and fight against IS. And so we decided to support them. And once the United States really decides it wants to do something people tend to go along. And that's what's called leadership. We showed leadership in Kobani. It is a rare thing these days coming out of Washington, but that is the strategic lesson out of this: If you show leadership, people follow you.

With enough ammunition and some good relief troops from the Peshmerga and coordination with US air power - you can write this - they can send 20,000 IS fighters and it would make our day. We would kill them all. This is exactly what you dream of in a quasi counterinsurgency with a quasi guerilla army.

Good things are happening because of this unusual burst of leadership by the US.  50 fighters from the Free Syrian Army reportedly crossed from Turkey into Kobani Wednesday.  Another 200 Iraqi Kurdish fighters, Peshmerga, reportedly are en route to join the fight against Islamic State in Kobani. They will join fellow Kurds in Syria who are fighting along side Kurds from Turkey.  The Peshmerga are being allowed to transit Turkey to join the fight after considerable negotiations between the US, Turkey, and Kurds from various countries. Turkey had been preventing Kurds from crossing its borders to assist the Kurds fighting in Kobani claiming the Kurds of the Turkish PKK (among the primary fighters of ISIS in Kobani) are terrorists equal to ISIS.  American leadership, despite officially labeling the PKK as terrorists, has obviously had a change of heart and is apparently forcing a change on Turkey’s borders concerning transit.

Increased airstrikes by the US on ISIS as well as airdrops of arms, medicines and supplies have apparently helped the Kurdish fighters, many of whom are women. Unfortunately, two of the airdrops missed target and ended up in ISIS hands, something Turkish President Erdogan is using to lambast the US, saying it is arming the wrong people.  Within that accusation is his contention that the wrong people include the Kurds – the only group with enough resolve to fight ISIS and inspire leadership from a country, which had embraced the pathetic leading from behind.

Meanwhile the online Kurdish newspaper Rudaw.net reports that a former Sargent in the Georgian Army, a Chechen commander is headed to Kobani.

Abu Omar al-Shishani, a known Chechen fighter, has been ordered to leave Shingal area in Iraq, where ISIS forces are currently laying siege to thousands of Yezidi civilians protected by Yezidi brigades and Kurds from Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.

Al-Shishani was appointed commander of ISIS’s northern operations last year and is widely considered one of their most powerful military leaders. 

Al-Shishani, whose father was Orthodox Christian and mother Muslim, was the leader of the Emigrants Brigade.  He is considered a master of weaponry and maps.  Isis is reportedly made up of fighters from over 100 countries.

Saturday, November 1, 2014 Kurds are planning a Global Rally against ISIS – for Kobanê and Yazidis– for Humanity in cities throughout the world.

Fran Fawcett Peterson is a retired award-winning journalist.