An ISIS flag seen on a hill overlooking the town of Kobane as fighters take high ground. Photo: AFP.
NEW YORK - Kurdish-American campaigners are pressuring the US Government to better support embattled Syrian Kurds in Kobane, where Islamic State (IS) fighters are making gains against the holdouts.
Kurdish-Americans across the US have appealed to Senators to boost support for Syrian Kurds who are defending Kobane – a Kurdish town near the Syria-Turkey border – from IS, the sectarian Sunni militia that is also known as ISIS and ISIL.
“Kobane has been surrounded for almost two weeks; the latest reports indicate that the city is under heavy bombardment and parts of the city may have fallen,” says a campaign letter that has circulated among hundreds of Kurdish-Americans.
“If democratic nations fail to provide immediate military support to Kurdish fighters, Kobane will suffer the same tragic fate as Shingal,” it adds, referring to the massacres of Christian minorities in Iraq this summer.
IS forces have besieged Kobane for nearly three weeks, forcing more than 160,000 civilians, mostly Kurds, to flee into Turkey. US-led forces have carried out airstrikes on IS forces around Kobane but have not halted their advance.
Washington’s approach to Kobane is influenced by that of its NATO ally, Turkey, which has authorized the use of military force in Syria and Iraq but is reluctant to help Syrian Kurds, who have links with Turkey’s own restive Kurdish population.
Last week, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel rejected plans for a “buffer zone” in which Turkish troops would defend a protected area some 10 kilometers into Syria that includes Kobane, which is also known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic.
“We continue to talk with the Turkish government about many options. But there are no plans for that option right now,” Hagel told reporters on Friday.
But many Kurdish-Americans demand tougher and faster action from Washington. Dr Amir Sharifi, a linguistics lecturer at California State University, said that abandoning Kobane’s Kurds would be a betrayal of liberal values.
“The world agrees that it should be stopped, but is the world community genuinely taking action to prevent IS from committing another massacre in Kobane?” Sharifi told Rudaw. “Kobane should become a rallying point for the struggle against the Islamist fascism.”
US forces continued striking IS targets across its self-declared caliphate over the weekend, hitting vehicles, tanks, firing positions and mortar teams around Al Mayadin and Ar Raqqah in Syria and around Fallujah and Sinjar (Shingal) in Iraq.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby has said strikes would continue to “relieve some of that pressure” on Kobane.
US President Barack Obama says IS can be routed with airstrikes and by arming Kurds, Iraqis and moderate Syrian opposition fighters as ground forces. Critics say he over-depends on air power, lacks reliable allies and has no solution to Syria’s civil war.
The Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq has an office in Washington but staff were not immediately available comment.