February 11, 2015

Kobane in the Swirl of Geopolitical Interests

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Corneliu PIVARIU

President&CEO of INGEPO Consulting.

Maj Gen — (ret.)

Member of International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), London (2006), Friends of Europe Think Tank — Brussels, alumni of Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education and  member of The Academy of Political Science — New York.

At the end of 2006 He founded His own consulting company, named INGEPO Consulting. Beside the specific activity of consultancy, INGEPO are issuing, starting with March 2007, the bimonthly Bulletin „Geostrategic Pulse” (on Romanian and English language), accessed lately in about 100 countries and over 40 cities in Romania, with several media partners worldwide.

He wrote books on current geopolitical issues, Intelligence and Terrorism. It is author of many articles concerning intelligence and geopolitical subjects. He had several apparitions on national TV stations and Radio on subjects of national and international concern, and participating in international workshops and conferences.

Languages: English, French


First issued in March 2007, “Geostrategic Pulse” offers analyses in various domains of international and national security, objective and unbiased information on the latest international and regional geopolitical events, also considering their perspectives.

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Kobane in the Swirl of Geopolitical Interests

The small city Kobane (Ayn Al-Arab), which in 2015 celebrates 100 years of existence (favored by the construction of the railroad Konya-Baghdad that started in 1911), has recently been the scene of violent confrontations between various armed groups in the context of the civil war in Syria. In July 2012, the city (with a population of approximately 45,000 inhabitants) underwent the Kurdish control of the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Both the YPG (created in 2004 by the Kurdish Supreme Committee, though they turned active once the civil war in Syria stared) and the Kurdish politicians anticipated the autonomy of Kobane region, considered to belong to Rojava (the Syrian Kurdistan or the Western Kurdistan), a region of the great Kurdistan.

The region of Kobane went under the attack of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or Daesh) factions in 2014; in September they had already occupied 100 villages in the region and in October 2014 their number went up to 350. The fighting caused the excessive exodus of the civilian population in Turkey, but the number of people is difficult to estimate, ranging from 100,000 to 300,000 people (mostly Kurdish), who were not allowed to enter Turkey with vehicles or animals of any kind. At the beginning of November 2014, the Daesh forces controlled parts of Kobane city and attacked it from various directions.

The YPG tried to oppose Daesh’s military operations, but it did not have the necessary strength, so that it established a partnership with elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

They were subsequently supported by well-armed Peshmerga units belonging to the Kurdistan (Iraq) Regional Government and, after long negotiations with the Ankara authorities (and probably some political support from Washington), they received permission to pass through the Turkish territory and help the forces under siege in Kobane.

The international coalition against Daesh and the operation “Inherent Resolve” (under this name only since October 2014) greatly influenced the developments in the fight for Kobane. The first American and coalition (including Arab states) air strikes in Kobane region took place on 27 September, followed by the deployment of Peshmerga units (more than 1,500 fighters), which decided the future development of the conflict and the defeat of Daesh after approximately four and a half months of conflict. Although there have been some isolated fights in the outskirts of the city and in the neighboring villages in the days that followed, 26 January 2015 is considered to be the day when Daesh was eliminated from Kobane.

The fight for Kobane has made Daesh to send a significant number of troops, estimations range from 4,000 to 9,000 people (including some of the best foreign fighters). Its losses are estimated at 1,200 -1,700 fighters, while the YPG forces and Peshmerga have lost approximately 650 people. The air-strikes of the coalition have been decisive for the elimination of Daesh from Kobane, as well as the parachuting of armament and ammunition for the Kurdish fighters (especially when Turkey was very reserved in allowing troops to pass through its territory in order to provide support to Kobane) and the determination of the YPG and Peshmerga to free the city and Kobane region.

Another favorable element was the geographical position of the city, with the northern part towards Turkey, which impeded Daesh from completely surrounding the city. Despite the Kurdish discontentment and protest regarding Ankara’s restrictions for the inflow of fighters, ammunition and armament on its territory, ultimately they all reached Kobane. Also, more than 1,000 wounded fighters from Kobane have been treated in hospitals from Turkey and the Turkish border was considered the final refuge solution for the fighters.

To a certain extent, Turkey and its foreign policy have been negatively affected after the fight for Kobane.

In the general context of the Turkish opposition against the Kurdish independence, there have been accusations that Ankara had supported Daesh including by providing it with armament and by training against the Kurdish in Syria. Nevertheless, Kobane underlined Turkey’s strategic importance and the imperative need that it participated in settling the situation in the Middle East.

Also, Kobane is an important episode in the fight of the Syrian Kurds for higher autonomy and independence, whereas for the Iraqi Kurds it stands as extra-motivation to extend the size of their autonomous region. According to certain evaluations, the loss of Kobane represents the beginning of Daesh’s fall, which in our opinion, is still a long way ahead.

See the original publication: Geostrategic Pulse, № 184, Thursday 5, February 2015