While still a predominant factor in the war being waged by the Islamic State, oil is taking a back seat as the full brunt of Middle East-style politics is unleashed on and around the small Syrian border town of Kobani.
The oil extracted from this region in a large part helps the Sunni terror group finance its war.
The battle for control of Kobani has indeed seen some of the heaviest fighting to date as fighters loyal to the Islamic State, or IS, have launched renewed attacks on Kurdish Peshmerga defenders, hitting them with mortars and car bombs, according to wire agencies quoting sources in the besieged town.
The Kurds, who are indigenous to the region where the heavy fighting is unfolding, in a way represent the West’s last line of defense in the region. If the Kurds fail to hold Kobani, they have nowhere to fall back. The next line of conflict between IS and the U.S.-led coalition will be fought inside Turkey, a NATO country.
Already, Turkish border towns and villages have suffered badly from the ongoing violence. One report said 44 mortars had been fired at Kurdish positions over the weekend, with some of the shells falling inside Turkey.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that four more mortars were fired on Oct. 19.
The town has become strategic as both sides now see it as a point of significant psychological importance and a symbol for their cause.
For the fighters of the Islamic State, winning Kobani would mean it had successfully stood up to a far superior military onslaught -- the aerial bombardment being waged by the United States and its European and Arab allies.
For the Western-led alliance, the fall of Kobani would give the enemy a public relations victory. It would create favorable conditions for IS to recruit more volunteers and be a terrible blow for the Kurds and other groups engaged in fighting the radical Islamists.
Since U.S. President Barack Obama launched the campaign aimed at defeating IS, bombing raids against the terrorists have been carried out with renewed vigor. But will it be enough? Or will the United States be forced to eventually put reluctant boots on the ground? The fate of the beleaguered town will say a lot about the level of the Obama administration’s resolve for dealing with the threat posed by the Islamists.
Amidst the confusion of war, there is further opaqueness over the role of Turkey, a NATO member country who seems to be playing both sides of the fence. Turkey has its armed forces – the most powerful military in the Middle East -- deployed along its border with Syria, yet Turkish authorities have been reluctant to intervene.
The moderate Islamist party known as the Justice and Development Party rules Turkey, but Ankara also must comply with certain directives issued from NATO HQ in Brussels.
But Turkey, who has long had its own share of problems with the Kurds is reluctant to offer too much help to the Kurdish fighters in Kobani, lest it encourages its own Kurds to demand an independent Kurdish state.
At the same time, the country’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has a personal vendetta against Syrian President Bashar Assad, and has been trying to connect any cooperation by Turkey in the fight against IS to stepping up efforts to oust Assad. Given the geography of the region, Turkey’s participation on the fight against IS remains vital to the success of the campaign.
By Claude Salhani of Oilprice.com
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