The clashes that began on 2 July to the west of Kobanê have spread to the south and east of the region.
YPG sources to whom we have spoken say that ISIS has been unable to progress, but that it is engaged in preparations for a more comprehensive assault.
ISIS is firing mortars into civilian settlements which it has been unable to access on account of YPG resistance.
Most of the area of 40 km between Kobanê and Jarablus to the west is under YPG control. However, Zor Mixar, where the clashes began and a few surrounding villages have been evacuated by the YPG to ensure the inhabitants are not hit by mortars. In this area the YPG fighters are dug in opposite ISIS groups and are in a constant state of conflict.
When ISIS tried to establish a foothold in the neighbouring Kurdish and Arab villages alongside the Euphrates south of Kobanê, the YPG mounted an operation. Footage of dozens of ISIS corpses were published on social media.
As we have emphasised before, ISIS has planned to carry out a sandwich operation in Kobanê, transporting weapons from Iraq through Raqqa to the east and west of Kobanê. So it has transpired with ISIS attacking the villages of Kendal, Evdıke and Gıre Sor to the east of Kobanê. Clashes have become concentrated along the border. These attacks were born of tactical necessity, as ISIS really wants to be based in the Tel Abyad region and wants to concentrate its attacks there. The reason for this is that it aims to make it impossible for the Kobanê and Cizirê (Jezire) cantons to unite. If they could capture Kobanê, then from this region they calculate they could attack the Cizirê region more effectively from here through Serêkaniyê (Ras al-Ayn) and Hesekê (al-Hasaka). ISIS aimed to distract the YPG by attacking Kobanê from the west and the south while also wanting to attack on 3 fronts. ISIS considers itself militarily stronger than the YPG, but it must have realised by now that Kobanê is not Mosul.
It is necessary to recall that the ISIS attack on Kobanê is a strategic one. This strategy is not just on the ISIS agenda but also on the agenda of the several forces behind it. On the map of the so-called Islamic state declared by ISIS, Kobanê is called ‘Ayn Al İslam’ that is, ‘Eye of Islam’. In other words, they see Rojava, and particularly the Kobanê region, as a part of the territory to be included within the borders of their state. In the statements they have issued they call the Kurds living there ‘infidels’ and declared ‘fatwas’ calling for them to be slaughtered.
Forces such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia that wish to hasten the spread of Sunni Islam and Arab chauvinism in the region share this strategy and support ISIS. Turkey, too, has preferred to support organisations like ISIS rather than back a Kurdish authority based on the Öcalan line. By doing this it hopes the Kurds will have to make concessions. With this policy the AKP has embarked on a dangerous adventure.
The KDP-led government in South Kurdistan has had to follow the same policy towards Rojava as a result of its strategic cooperation with the AKP. The KDP thinks that by weakening the canton administrations in Rojava, they will come running to them, and subsequently the KDP’s influence there will increase. The KDP has seen the ISIS attacks as a blessing. The KDP’s foreign affairs spokesperson told Al Jazeera that they would not fight against ISIS as that would only benefit Al Maliki.
There have been no clashes between the Syrian regime and ISIS. The Syrian Foreign Minister Faysal Mikdad admitted to the Guardian that war with ISIS was not a priority for the regime. Syrian officials have declared that the growing power of ISIS is a strong card for the West to cooperate with the Syrian regime. For all these reasons the regime did not intervene as ISIS transported its weapons from Iraq towards Rojava, as it sees attacks on the Kurds as in its interests in the long term.
As we have emphasised above, the ISIS attacks aim to throttle the Rojava revolution and occupy the region. The question ‘Why Kobanê?’ is frequently asked. However, they have also attacked the Cizire region, where they were defeated in Serekaniye and Til Koçer, on the borders of the Cizire canton. Now they are attacking Kobanê as it is the smallest canton and is blockaded on three sides. If Kobanê falls, it will be easier to attack the Cizire region. The Afrin canton is further west, where the ‘Islamic Front’ forces are. ISIS cannot get there, but if Kobanê falls it will want to make it its ‘backyard’.
Will Kobanê fall?
At a funeral for a YPG fighter in Kobanê his mother said: “no, Kobanê will not fall.’ But she added that the attacks on Kobanê were an assault on all of humanity and that for this reason everyone must take their place in this struggle. Reports come from the front on an hourly basis. ISIS wants to approach the town, fire mortars and force the inhabitants to flee. Some of its mortars have a range of 25 km. At the moment the closest ISIS position is 35 km from Kobanê town. On the night of 12 July they attacked the village of Cibna in an attempt to shorten the distance, but 12 YPG fighters sacrificed themselves in repulsing the attack.
The Kobanê resistance continues to be as important for the freedom struggle of the Kurds as Zap in 2008 or the Serêkaniyê resistance in July 2013.