Syrian Kurd leader sees war of ‘attrition’ in Kobane

Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Kobane near the Mursitpinar border crossing, on the Turkish-Syrian border, as seen from the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province October 24, 2014.

Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Kobane near the Mursitpinar border crossing, on the Turkish-Syrian border, as seen from the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province October 24, 2014.

The battle for the Syrian town of Kobane will turn into a war of attrition unless Kurds defending it from an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) onslaught get arms that can repel tanks and armored vehicles, a Syrian Kurdish leader told a pan-Arab newspaper.

ISIS insurgents encircled the town near the Turkish border more than a month ago and are using weapons including tanks and armored vehicles seized in Iraq to attack Kurds equipped mainly with light arms.

The United States, which has been leading air strikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, airdropped weapons to the Kurds in Kobane on Sunday that U.S. officials described as “small arms.”

“(It’s) attrition for both sides unless something in the situation changes,” Saleh Moslem, head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in remarks published on Friday.

He said the Kurds had recently received information that ISIS wanted to fire chemical weapons into Kobane using mortars. He said the militant group had surrounded the town, whose Arabic name is Ain al-Arab, with around 40 tanks.

Turkish denial

“If we were to receive qualitative (stronger) weapons, we would be able to hit the tanks and armored vehicles that they use – we may be able to bring a qualitative change in the battle,” he said.

Asked about the recent arms air drop and the U.S.-led strikes, he said: “They are not enough to change the balance of power, but if they continue then they can bring about a change. Air raids so far are limited.”

He accused Ankara of supporting the ultra-radical ISIS, saying it had turned a blind eye when 120 ISIS fighters crossed the border from Turkey earlier this week.

Ankara denies aiding militants but has been loath to enable any help for Syrian Kurds who have links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a three-decade separatist insurgency in Turkey.

But Turkey has come under U.S. pressure to do more and on Thursday President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said an agreement had been reached on sending 200 peshmerga from Iraq through Turkey to help defend Kobane.

A senior official in Iraq’s Kurdistan region said they would be equipped with heavier weapons than those being used by Syrian Kurds already there.

Asked about the prospect of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces joining the battle for Kobane, Moslem said none had arrived yet and talks were continuing on a technical level.

On Friday, Erdogan said the Kurdish PYD had agreed to the passage of 1,300 Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters to Kobane to reinforce Kurdish forces there.

 
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