The fact Turkey was an early enabler of the Islamic State has been made starkly clear from its behaviour towards the Kurdish defenders of Kobani.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said his country would not agree to any US arms transfers to Syrian Kurdish fighters.
So the US has started air dropping supplies to them. This means that the supply situation within Kobani must have reached a truly critical state.
Moreover for extra added political significance, the supplies being dropped are in fact ones provided by the Kurdish Regional Government in Erbil, in Iraq (i.e. US supplies that were promised to the Peshmerga but which the KRG agreed to instead see sent to the Syrian Kurds). This will give the wily Masoud Barzani in Erbil a nice political boost, cementing his position as the godfather of Kurdish nationalism.
I really did not think the current leadership in Washington had it in them, but by the actions of the USAF within sight of the Turkish border, Tayyip Erdogan cannot be in the slightest doubt he has just been invited to go rotate. Clearly there as been a significant rethink in US regional political strategy.
There is an account in the Observer in which a Yazidi woman relates how she was sold into slavery by ISIS. The article adds:
ISIS said in an online article that it was reviving an ancient custom of enslaving enemies and forcing the women to become wives of victorious fighters.
“One should remember that enslaving the families of the [non-believers] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the sharia, that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Qur’an and the narrations of the prophet,” the article said, adding that mothers were not separated from their young children.”
In one sense the “ancient custom” of raping and enslaving women did not need to be revived. It had never died out. The aspect of ancient custom that had died out and has been revived by the Islamic State is of carrying out the rape and enslavement openly. That is a major change. Ever since World War II the tide of egalitarianism has been advancing; equality before the law in one place, equality at the verge of the mass grave in another, but everywhere the ideal of equality has been exalted.
Everywhere included the Islamic world. For the last half century whenever Muslims wrote about the inegalitarian aspects of Sharia they were usually at pains to describe the different treatment of women and men as being a deeper sort of equality, or as being an expression of special regard for women. Until recently even Al-Qaeda propaganda often had a slightly politically correct air.
No longer. Tides turn. Will this change add to the appeal of ISIS among Muslims, or decrease it? Will it add to the appeal of Islam among potential converts or decrease it? My impression is that, just as rape is sometimes more viscerally loathed than murder, the open practice of rape and slavery by Isis has repelled and embarrassed many Muslims more than the open practice of hostage-taking and murder by ISIS and its estranged parent Al Qaeda.
I know that to speak of the response “of Muslims” covers a vast spectrum of individuals ranging from very evil to very good. I believe, not without reason, that there is a majority who are repelled by both, albeit not the “overwhelming majority” that Western politicians pretend there is.
Hugh Muir is clearly a nice man, and the notion people might look askance as known salafists returning from Syria after fighting on behalf of the Islamic State bothers him. Although the Royal Air Force is currently bombing said Islamic State, worrying about these people is nothing more than fear-mongering.
Welcome to the United Kingdom of Perpetual Panic, where the crackpot ideas of silly backbenchers fuel our nightmares and sustain our enemies
I am strongly of the view that Hugh Muir should fly to the Middle East and make this very reasonable point to Islamic State members who hail from Britain himself, in person, in Raqqa. After all, we have nothing to fear from these people and this will prove it. How to get
a head ahead in journalism in one easy step: I look forward to seeing the video of the encounter and no doubt he will look very fetching wearing red.
The BBC is reporting something that made the hair on the back on my neck stand up.
Islamic State ‘being driven out of Syria’s Kobane’
If this proves to be correct, then the Syrian Kurds of the YPG and their FSA allies have pulled off a breathtaking feat of arms worthy of being likened to Thermopylae, but with hopefully an altogether better ending. I am hesitant to start breaking out the champagne just yet, but I really really hope this proves to be the case.
There is now a large industry of obfuscation designed to protect Muslims from having to grapple with these truths. Humanities and social science departments are filled with scholars and pseudo-scholars deemed to be experts in terrorism, religion, Islamic jurisprudence, anthropology, political science and other diverse fields, who claim that where Muslim intolerance and violence are concerned, nothing is ever what it seems.
– Sam Harris
She doesn’t deserve to be saddled with it. Having shown real courage she does not deserve to be inducted into a club many of whose existing members are so grotesque that the blogger Jim Miller has for years called the Peace prize the “Nobel Reprimand”.
I also worry that seventeen is too young to be made into an icon. Maybe I worry too much. So far her response seemed to display a fortunate combination of groundedness and a pitch-perfect judgement for what to say to the press. I genuinely hope that her response includes quite a lot of calculation, because a person who can work the crowd is more likely than an ingénue to be fitted by temperament to thrive rather than wilt in a life spent on the world stage.
Starting on 1st August, 1944, the Polish Home Army resistance rose against Nazi Germany in Warsaw, mounting what was by far the largest single military effort by a European resistance movement in World War 2. The advancing Soviet Red Army halted and waited for the German Army to completely crush Polish resistance and did not lift a finger to help, even though it had air force assets less than five minutes flight time away from where the Poles fought and died, light infantry weapons and a few captured heavy weapons against tanks and artillery. The Soviets quite literally watched and did nothing, refusing requests by the Western Allies to use Soviet airbases to provide assistance to the Poles. More than two hundred long distance supply drops were conducted by the RAF in spite of Soviet opposition, but were completely inadequate for the needs of the defenders.
However as the Polish Home Army was loyal to the Polish government-in-exile in London, the Soviets saw it as an obstacle to their intentions to turn Poland into a communist puppet state, and were delighted to have their former ally but now bitter enemy Nazi Germany eliminate this politically inconvenient group.
Starting on 16th September, 2014, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) began defending the town of Kobani from the Salafist forces of the Islamic State, light infantry weapons and a few captured heavy weapons, against an enemy who have heavy weapons and copious munitions that they acquired in Iraq, when the Sunni elements of the Iraqi Army either changed sides or simply abandoned their depots and ran away. Also early on in the Syrian Civil War, what was to become the Islamic State gained material support as part of the resistance movement against the Syrian Government, from Turkey under its politically Islamist leader Tayyip Erdogan.
The largely Kurdish defenders of Kobani in Syria are associated with Turkish Kurdish nationalists of the Marxist PKK, and thus the Turkish army are quite literally watching from across the border from within small arms range, as Kobani’s defenders are being crushed in bitter street fighting by the numerically superior and better armed Islamic State.
The Islamist government of Turkey is really not that concerned by the Islamic State, and so they are quite happy to see them crush the politically inconvenient and politically secular Kurdish nationalists in Kobani. Turkey has refused requests for NATO aircraft to use Turkish airbases, and the mostly American strikes have failed to prevent the Islamic State from forcing their way into the town at the time this article is being written.
The parallels are striking.
When I read this story…
A former French intelligence officer who defected to al Qaida was among the targets of the first wave of U.S. air strikes in Syria last month, according to people familiar with the defector’s movements and identity. Two European intelligence officials described the former French officer as the highest ranking defector ever to go over to the terrorist group and called his defection one of the most dangerous developments in the West’s long confrontation with al Qaida.
…I started to wonder who gets to play what role in the inevitable Hollywood ‘based on real events’ feature length movie (which will of course change everything and make it a CIA defector, because everyone knows France is a place deep fried potatoes come from, not secret agents).
… and I think it goes without saying that in international affairs, there are no ‘good guys’, there are just ‘bad guys’ and ‘less-bad-guys’. So I was asked today why is Turkey, with its army literally lined up along the border, just sitting there and (also quite literally) watching the Syrian town of Kobani be squeezed to death by the Islamic State? That was when the axiom of there being no ‘good guys’ came to mind.
I think it is worth looking at what is motivating the Turkish government. I see it thus:
Firstly, Turkey was an early enabler of what came to be the Islamic State by virtue of it assisting pretty much anyone who (1) was willing to shoot at the Ba’athist Assad regime (2) was not Kurdish. And whilst President Tayyip Erdogan is not a salafist, he is not just Islamic, he is an Islamist, and has been significantly muted in his remarks about the Islamic State. Conclude from that what you will.
Secondly, the Kurdish YPG in Rojava (Northern Syria, the largely Kurdish bit) has close links with the Marxist PKK (the Kurdish group who has fought against Turkey intermittently for decades and who have proved simply impossible for the Turks to completely crush). This means that from the perspective of a politically Islamic Turkish President like Tayyip Erdogan, who by all accounts has a personality and inclinations probably best described as ‘Putinesque’, he probably sees this as simply one mildly simpatico but unduly exuberant Islamic group who may well be a problem in the future, wiping out a largely secular and hostile-to-the-Turks Kurdish group who are a problem right now. Plus once Kobani falls, the Islamic State can then concentrate on getting rid of Assad, which is really what Tayyip Erdogan’s government in Turkey wants.
So expecting Turkey to sweep in and save Kobani is unrealistic. I expect this is the calculation: if the YPG triumphs and creates a Kurdish controlled Rojava (the Kurdish north of Syria bordering on Turkey), it will encourage Kurdish nationalism in Turkey. Even worse, as Southern Kurdistan (Kurdish Northern Iraq, capital of Erbil) now has an excellent chance of becoming an independent nation (it is already largely autonomous), it is possible Rojava might unify with South Kurdistan, which would really stoke the fires of Kurdish nationalism. And as Turkey does not want a major resurgence of Kurdish insurgency in Turkey (there is currently an agreement with the Kurds there), they are happy to see the Islamic State crush the Syrian Kurdish YPG.
That said, when I ran this past my Kurdish chums who live near Kirkuk, they mostly agreed but noted that as the YPG are Marxist and the PKK are Marxist, they are natural allies (addendum: upon them reading this article, my Kurdish friends said I should have written “hand in glove” as they would be more accurate than mere ‘allies’)… however South Kurdistan is a multi-party democracy (the ruling coalition is the politically secular centrist KDP and leftist PUK, and the main opposition is the aggressively secular centre-right Gorran Movement). However the Kurdish Syrian YPG imposed its control over Rojava against other Syrian Kurdish political groups at gunpoint. I asked my friends “Why do many see the YPG as terrorists?” to which they replied “Because they kind of are”. The general view they shared was that whilst the YPG are admired for their spirited defence of Rojava against the Islamists, and for their cross border rescue of the Yezidi Kurds in Iraq near Mt. Sinjar, in the event the region was ever unified with South Kurdistan, they would probably be a ‘problem’. The way it was described to me was, and I quote: “a Marxist party winning overall power in an election in Erbil is about as likely as a politically Mormon party winning”… a notion which did make me laugh I must confess. But Marxists tend to not just shrug and say “oh well” when that happens.
And thus whilst there is horror in South Kurdistan at the notion of Kobani falling to the Islamic State, there are some in Erbil who actually prefer to play footsie with Turkey and although they wish the people of Kobani well, they will not be heartbroken to see the YPG taken down a peg. And if anyone doubts that the Kurds in Erbil have a deal with the Turkish government, ask yourself this: much to the anguish of the rump Iraqi government in Baghdad, Erbil has been selling its oil independently. Take a look at the map and then figure out who is enabling that to happen.
So if the Turks do rescue Kobani at the last moment, it will only be because they have milked the political advantage sufficiently to have extracted some very sweet deals behind the scenes. My guess is that they will just let the YPG be crushed. But we will know soon enough it seems.
So how was that for some labyrinthine speculation?
A friend of mine who is a writer asked me to put up this short dialogue concerning what is probably one of the most, if not the most, important issues of our time in terms of the flourishing and survival of a free civilisation. Given the nature of the topic the writer has asked not to be named. I don’t normally do this, but the quality of the writing is so good, and the issue so important, that I decided to put this up. I hope readers find it interesting. The article is entitled: The answer to Jihadism is intellectual: a conversation.
The knock on the door was so soft as to be barely audible.
Carl Dinuto – a fortyish, greying, lean-faced professor of philosophy – looked up, wondering if he had heard right.
“Come in!” he called out anyway.
The door opened slowly and a slim young woman entered hesitantly.
“Sorry to interrupt, Doctor, but can you give me a couple of minutes?”
“Perhaps. What about?”
“Um, er, well, I was auditing your lecture on contemporary ethics this morning and was really puzzled by your comments on Islam. You see, I know some Moslem people, one of my best friends at school was Muslim, and she and her family are not at all like the way you said.”
Dinuto glanced at his watch, then pointed to a chair.
“Okay. Since you’re here, you can have a few minutes.”
“Er, thank you.”
Dinuto waited while the girl sat down, watching her as she did so. She was very pretty, with shoulder-length blond hair in a ponytail and bright, greeny-brown eyes, eager and shining with a sort of innocent intelligence.
“First,” said Dinuto; “what’s your name?”
“Holly. It’s Isabel Holland actually. But everybody’s called me Holly since grade school.”
“Why not Izzie or Bella?”
“It’s one of those family things. My Grandma was British, you see, a War bride, and Dad grew up using some of her British expressions. Well, one Fall, I was wearing a dark green tracksuit and was very red-faced from running around outside in the cold. Dad said I looked like a sprig of holly. Then my older brother, who kinda fancies himself as a wit, said, ‘Not the sprog of Holland?’ We all laughed, but Holly stuck.”
“Yeah, it’s British slang for a child, from progeny, I guess.”
Dinuto laughed briefly.
“Nice story,” he said. “And what are you studying, sprog of Holland?”
Holly laughed in her turn.
“When did you start?”
“Your faculty advisor?”
“I know him well. So, what’s your problem, Miss Holland?”
“You said Islam is a fascist political movement bent on world domination. Well, I felt that was untrue, and insulting.”
“I did not say that. I was quoting someone else who had. And I did not say ‘fascist’. I used the word ‘fascistic’ which has a different meaning. The first thing you have to learn at university, young lady, is that if you quote someone, whether in written or verbal form, you must do so accurately.”
“Say, I’m sorry…” Holly began but Dinuto raised a hand for silence.
“To be more precise, Miss Holland, what in fact happened was that a student asked me a question about the views of the Dutch politician Gert Wilders, who has recently been found not guilty of inciting religious hatred in the Netherlands. The student quoted what Wilders had said then asked what I thought of it. I said I knew little about Islam but Wilders’ description seemed accurate enough to me. What is insulting about that?”
“Well, sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but isn’t endorsing Wilders’views same as saying ’em yourself? And you did quote him, you know, kinda approvingly. You see, my friends would say that Islam is a religion, devoted to spreading and obeying the revealed word of God. Isn’t it kinda slanderous to make out like it’s a political movement?”
→ Continue reading: “The answer to jihadism is intellectual – a conversation”
Talk about ingenuity! That thing does not looks very RPG-resistant, so it very wisely has a top mounted camera so it can fire from behind cover!
But guys, it is an improvised armoured ambulance, not a ‘tank’.
Former head of the Marine Corps James Conway says Obama’s idea of relying on local forces with US air power has “not a snowball’s chance in hell“.
However Hemin Hawram, a leading member of the Kurdish Democratic Party, disagrees:
We just need armaments and training; we don’t need boots on the ground from any country to fight this war for us. We want these countries to support our Peshmerga – arm, train, and make them capable. Even for future confrontations against terrorists, there will be no need to support us militarily. In the coming 4-5 years, we hope the Peshmerga will be better equipped and trained, and that certain sanctions will be removed. Why should they not have tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers, for example? I hope that they will be a part of an international military unit to fight terrorists in other countries and be part of peacekeeping missions.
Surely that must be a better solution.
And the reason I am inclined to believe him, rather than General Conway, is that the US and its allies were unable to create a viable unitary Iraq that could prevent what happened from happening, because Iraq is simply untenable as a nation. This has been clear for a great many years to anyone who does not have an institutional vested interest. A significant part of the US trained and equipped Iraqi Army simply turned its weapons over to the Islamic State, because they saw no reason to fight for an Iraq that was of zero value to them. The Peshmerga on the other hand has everything to fight for, and unlike foreign troops with western sensibilities and significant cultural ineptitude regarding the realities of the Middle East, the Kurds are far more likely to ‘sort things out on the ground’ if given the tools.
Southern Kurdistan intends to become an independent nation and moreover enabling that to happen by arming them (which will be the consequence) very effectively counters the threat posed by the Islamic State. It is hard to see the downside from the western point of view of enabling a pro-western de facto nation to become an effectively armed de jure nation, one very willing to do the dirty work and sort out Northern Iraq… and frankly probably Northern Syria (Rojava) too, rather than having to deal directly with the more politically problematic Syrian Kurdish PYG.