Iraqi Kurds, Syrian rebels join fight against Islamic State in Kobane

Two hundred Free Syrian Army fighters entered the besieged Syrian border town Wednesday. Turkey is also allowing Kurdish peshmerga fighters from Iraq to transit through Turkey to Kobane.

Bram Janssen/AP
Supporters of Kurdish peshmerga forces hold Kurdish flags as they wait for the troops to cross the Iraqi border into Turkey en route to Kobane on Tuesday.

Two hundred Free Syrian Army fighters entered Kobane Wednesday morning to bolster the Syrian border city's dwindling defenses against the self-described Islamic State, even as 160 Kurdish fighters from northern Iraq arrived in Turkey en route to join the fight. Both deployments come at a pivotal moment for Kurdish fighters already in the besieged town. 

Col. Abdul Jabar Okaidi, an FSA commander, told CNN that his fighters were armed with mortars and heavy machine guns, and said more men would come if needed.  Meanwhile, as one contingent of the Kurdish peshmerga fighters flew to southeastern Turkey Wednesday morning, another was driving from Iraq with weapons, including artillery, according to The Wall Street Journal. They are expected to meet later on Wednesday in Surac, a Turkish town about 10 miles from Kobane, before crossing into Syria.

Outgunned and outmanned by IS forces, Kurdish fighters in Kobane have been calling on Turkish leaders to allow reinforcements to pass through Turkey for weeks. 

After weeks of international pressure to do more to prevent to fall of Kobane, Turkey agreed last week to allow Kurdish and FSA fighters to enter Kobane through the Mursitpinar border crossing. 

Still, Meysa Abdo, commander of the Kurdish resistance in Kobane, demanded additional support from Turkey in an opinion article published Tuesday in The New York Times. While thankful that Turkish leaders were allowing "a small group of Iraqi pesh merga fighters, and some Free Syrian Army brigades, to cross into Kobani," he condemned them for not letting other Turkish Kurds to cross. 

The Turkish government is pursuing an anti-Kurdish policy against the Syrian Kurds, and their priority is to suppress the Kurdish freedom movement in Northern Syria. They want Kobani to fall.

We have never been hostile to Turkey. We want to see it as a partner, not an enemy, and we believe that it is in the Turkish government's interest to have a border with the democratic administration of a western Kurdistan rather than one with the Islamic State ...

If we had more weapons and could be joined by more of our fighters from elsewhere in Syria, we would be in a position to strike a deadly blow against the Islamic State, one that we believe would ultimately lead to its dissolution across the region as a whole.

Kobane has been under siege for six weeks. While US-led air strikes have helped hold Islamic State forces back, Kurdish fighters say they need heavy weapons to reclaim the town. A local Kurdish commander told the BBC on Tuesday that IS still controlled 40 percent of the city.

BBC reporter Jim Muir said the arrival of the peshmerga and FSA forces "reflects a determination by the US-led anti-IS coalition not to let Kobane fall."  

Turkey has a close relationship with the Iraqi Kurdish KDP, the predominant faction in Iraqi Kurdistan, and with the FSA groups it is allowing to cross.

Their impact may take some time to be felt, but the arrival of the heavier weaponry brought by the Iraqi Kurds may have an effect greater than the numbers of fighters involved, who will play a support role rather than front-line combat.

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