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Kurds need heavy weaponry to defend Kobani from ISIS, say Kurdish officials - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A lone Kurdish flag flutters in the wind next to YPG Kurdish fighters standing on the hill after they took over from ISIS militants near Kobani, Syria. (EPA/Sedat Suna)

A lone Kurdish flag flutters in the wind next to YPG Kurdish fighters standing on the hill after they took over from ISIS militants near Kobani, Syria. (EPA/Sedat Suna)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Kurds fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Syrian town of Kobani need heavy weaponry more than reinforcements, senior members of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Responding to the decision by Erbil to deploy its forces in Kobani, senior PYD official Shirzad Yazidi said: “We are not in need of ground forces or fighters; we have tens of thousands of fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) who are disciplined and effective.”

“We need heavy weapons and military equipment, such as anti-armor missiles because ISIS is in possession of sophisticated and heavy weapons seized from Iraqi and Syrian armies,” Yazidi told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“We call on the Iraqi Kurdistan region to focus their support on weapons and equipment,” Yazidi, who is a member of the PYD’s foreign relations committee, added.

A senior Iraqi Peshmerga official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said that a group of at least 250 Peshmerga fighters will head to Kobani to reinforce YPG positions. He added that the Iraqi Kurdish fighters will be equipped with limited heavy weaponry, including rocket launchers, 57 mm artillery and machine guns.

The reinforcement of Kurdish positions in and around the city of Kobani comes as head of the PYD, Saleh Muslim, warned that the battle for the border town could turn into a prolonged war of “attrition” if the Kurds are not provided with heavy weaponry.

The US airdropped small arms to the Kurds in Kobani last week with Washington subsequently saying that the border city is no longer on the brink after front-lines between ISIS and Kurdish forces have not moved for more than a week. “I think the Kurdish defenders . . .are going to be able to hold,” an official at US Central Command said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

However Kurds are now calling for additional arms to break the deadlock. “If we were to receive qualitative [heavier] weapons, we would be able to hit the tanks and armored vehicles that they [ISIS] use—we may be able to bring a qualitative change in the battle,” Muslim told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Muslim said the group has received information that ISIS is planning a chemical weapons attack on the town, adding that the PYD would be better able to prevent this if it possesses heavy weaponry capable of targeting high-priority targets.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday said an agreement had been reached to allow the Kurdish Peshmerga forces from Iraqi Kurdistan through Turkey to help defend the border town from ISIS.

Turkey has been slow to respond to the crisis in Kobani despite the town’s proximity to the border. Ankara is reluctant to make any moves that could strengthen the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decades long insurgency against the state.

Yazidi slammed Ankara for its “confused stance” towards Kurds in Syria, accusing the Turkish government of going to great lengths to fight the Kurdish population.

“Turks have to get rid of their chronic phobia of Kurds; they are prepared to join hands with ISIS for the sake of disrupting the democratic experience in Syrian Kurdistan. We do not pose a risk to them.”

When asked whether the PKK was fighting alongside the PYD in Kobani, Muslim said: “There are members of all parties [fighting] . . .A Kurd, wherever he is, feels that it is a duty to fight with us by virtue of the kinship between Kurds that transgresses borders.”

On Friday, President Erdoğan announced that the PYD had agreed to allow 1,300 Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters into Kobani to assist in the fight against ISIS.

“The YPG today includes non-Kurds. There are Syriac Christians fighting with us, and Arab brothers fighting with us to defend cities,” said Muslim.

As for ambitions for the future of Syria, Muslim said: “We want a non-centralized pluralistic and democratic Syria. What we have established in our areas over the past years is part of the future Syria, and this can be emulated in all other areas.”

Additional reporting by Dalshad Abdullah from Erbil.