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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Why Is Kobani So Important To The Islamic State?

Links: Lots Of Targets For U.S. Air Force
           Islamic State Air Force?
           Ramadi Under Seige

The spokesmen for the Allied effort to defeat the Islamic State in the Levant (IS) has informed us that the IS is pouring men and resources into the effort to take Kobani.  Has anyone asked why?  What is so important to the IS, that they would sacrifice so many resources for its possession?  True, Kobani is strategically located, in the far north of Syria, on the Turkish border.  Would occupying Kobani improve the IS supply network?  Is it possible that Kobani has become a must-win situation for the IS from a public relations perspective?  You know what they say: no one likes a loser.  Maybe the IS believes it must win in order to keep up morale amongst the faithful.  It's a very interesting question that I assume the Pentagon has been pondering as well.  As for the situation on the ground, it's still David versus Goliath, with a small number of Peshmerga hanging on against the IS onslaught. Still nothing from the Turks.  I am pleased with the havoc visited upon the IS by our heroes in the air.  I hope we will keep it up, and even make things hotter for the bad guys, if possible.  We have an unfair advantage: a handful of air forces against....nothing.  But I'll take it, because a similar unfair balance exists on the ground, but in reverse.  And the sad truth is that for the Kurds defending Kobani, there is no other hope for relief unless we can magically stand-up a Kurdish army over the weekend and deliver them by airlift. This is because our surrogate army won't be finished cooking for another three or four months (did you set the timer?).  The naked truth is that when it comes to a ground battle in this conflict, the United States will not deploy forces and that means the Kurds are left to their own devices on the streets of Kobani.  The message from the United States and her allies to the Kurds in Kobani?  We will bomb the shit out of the bad guys, and try to keep you supplied, but when it comes to bleeding, you guys are on your own.

Speaking of air forces, the second link has me a bit excited that the IS may try and add some offensive air capability.  The link mentioned three Migs (a combination of 21s and 23s, I believe). These birds are probably not much younger than Snoopy's Sopwith Camel doghouse, but I have it on reliable authority that the IS is in possession of more than three workable Migs.  A search on Google Maps  for "Taqba Dam, Syria", will take you to Al-Taqbah, Syria (don't try diving in with a direct search for "Al-Taqbah, Syria" . . . it got me nowhere).  Just south of the lovely desert oasis of Al-Taqbah is a (former) Syrian Air Force Base.  Flip your view from map to satillite photo, zoom in, and observe the eight to ten Migs sitting on the tarmac.
Again, my trusty source tells me that those planes were present when the IS captured the Al-Taqbah Air Base.  The IS has also captured a few other airbases, so it's no wonder that the Syrian Conflict rumor mill has former Iraqi Air Force pilots training IS operatives to fly Migs.  The minute the IS came into possession of jets, they started searching for pilots and trainers.  But I don't think we have anything to worry about here directly.  What, exactly, will the IS do with ten or fifteen old Migs?  I can't imagine that they would attempt combat with a U.S. F16 (or Qatari for that matter) or a French Eurofighter.  What concerns me more is that they have the opportunity to create more than a handful of jet pilots.  And it doesn't take much to fly a jumbo jet after you've had even limited flight training (the killers on September 11 had little to no real flight experience with a jumbo jet).  My real concern is that the Syrian Air Force has provided the IS with the best kind of teaching tools for wannabe pilots . . . real jets.

The last link I've provided gives us our daily update on the situation in Anbar Province, in western Iraq.  After reading the article, one might be tempted to adopt a more optimistic perspective about the effort to save Baghdad.  According to the Iraqi spokesman, efforts are underway to eliminate any pockets of IS infiltrators in the city of Ramadi.  The article quotes the Shia's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani as calling all the tribes in the area to rally behind the Iraqi Army to defeat "the Daesh (IS)".  Well, I have a newsflash for everyone involved: Al-Sistani is preaching to Sunni Shaykhs and Sunni Tribal Leaders.  Al-Sistani is a Shia, and the Shia tend to be found a bit further south than the Ramadi-Fallujah line.  Does anyone really expect the Sunni Shaykhs to rise up against a Sunni movement (IS), at the behest of a Shia spiritual leader?  During Operation Enduring Freedom, when the Sunni-supported insurgency became a serious threat, the United States Army and the CIA went to the Shaykhs, met them face to face, and provided them with a much more positive vision for the future than what Al-Qaeda in Iraq was able to do.  Sunni leaders knew that Al-Qaeda had become too violent, and that it had become more of an enemy-to than a representative of the Sunni community.    The few Sunni tribes who have currently moved against IS have done so out of self-preservation; no "save-Baghdad and Iraq" about it. Somehow or another, the government in Baghdad (or the Allies) must find a way to deliver this same message now, and not from a Shia cleric who in the past has advocated the slaughter of Sunnis.

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