The Middle East Channel

Kurdish Forces Work to Defend the Syrian Border Town of Kobani

Kurdish Forces Work to Defend the Syrian Border Town of Kobani

Kurdish forces are continuing to hold back an Islamic State assault on the Syrian town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), near the Turkish border. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, over 45 fighters on both sides were killed in clashes near the town on Sunday, including a female Kurdish suicide bomber. Kurdish forces have vowed to defend Kobani, while they claimed that U.S.-led airstrikes are not sufficient to defeat Islamic State militants trying to overtake the town. U.S. officials say there are signs that air strikes in Syria and Iraq are disrupting Islamic State efforts and communication, however the group seems to have withstood the attacks and has given up little territory. Meanwhile, an organization gathering and analyzing weapons used by Islamic State fighters has found that they have been using ammunition from the United States and other countries that have been supporting efforts to counter the group.


  • Iran has released Yeganeh Salehi, journalist for The National, who was held for over two months without charge, though her husband, Iranian-American Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, remains in prison.
  • Sweden announced it will recognize the Palestinian state, the first European state to do so as a member of the European Union.
  • Hezbollah fighters are working to halt an offensive by Nusra Front militants in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa region.
  • The parents of Abdul-Rahman Kassig, a U.S. aid worker held by Islamic State militants who appeared in a video last week, released parts of a letter from their son.
  • U.S. Vice-President Biden has apologized to Turkey and the UAE after comments suggesting that funding to Syrian opposition fighters supported extremists.

Arguments and Analysis

Shadow Aid to Syrian Refugees‘ (Elizabeth Dickinson, MERIP)

"’Ala’ is the beneficiary of a shadow aid system, one that operates outside the auspices of any government or official relief agency registered with the Jordanian authorities. Across the Middle East, the United Nations is coordinating the largest operation in its history to help nearly 3 million Syrian refugees at a cost of $4.2 billion in 2014 alone. Dozens of international and local aid organizations — from Oxfam to Save the Children to Caritas Jordan — are running projects as a part of that effort. But on the side, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of start-up charities and regional donors have built parallel networks of aid.

Because of their unofficial nature, there is no data to quantify these efforts, but they are large enough to reshape the humanitarian landscape. Newly established charities, regional donors and local NGOs have flushed tens of millions of dollars into this strained society. While aiding many, they have left others unhelped, exacerbating the disparity between have and have-nots. Seemingly lavish projects have fueled resentment toward Syrians among hosting Jordanian communities. Aid is ad hoc and often administered by just one or two power brokers who jostle with the ones who were already there. Uncoordinated projects can overlap and even compete with the work of official charities, complicating the relief efforts of everyone. And yet the success of these informal aid groups reveals just how insufficient the UN-coordinated assistance has been. For many refugees, this shadow system is the only safety net — and it has been lifesaving."

Kuwait targets opposition by revoking citizenship‘ (Mona Kareem, Al Monitor)

"In the past four months, Kuwaiti authorities have revoked the citizenship of 32 people based on various allegations. Despite attempts to justify these actions in legal terms, the move is widely seen as a campaign targeting political dissent. Kuwaiti law grants authorities the right to strip a person of citizenship for threatening national security, undermining national unity, being a dual citizen or acquiring a criminal record within 15 years of naturalization.

In June, officials announced the names of five people whose citizenship was revoked based on Article 5 of the citizenship law: ‘If evidence is available from competent authorities showing that he has promoted principles that will undermine the social or economic system of the country or belongs to a foreign political party. In this case, the court may also revoke the citizenship of those who obtained it from him by dependency.’ The list included Abdullah al-Bargash, a former member of parliament, and three of his siblings. Bargash is an Islamist politician active in the opposition."

— Mary Casey