The Middle East Channel

U.S.-Led Airstrikes Slow the Advance of Islamic State Militants on Kobani

Increased U.S.-led airstrikes have slowed an advance by Islamic State militants on the predominantly Kurdish Syrian town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), near the Turkish border. According to a Kurdish commander, Islamic State fighters have been pushed out of all but two eastern areas of the town. However, the United States warned that the situation in ...

ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images
ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

Increased U.S.-led airstrikes have slowed an advance by Islamic State militants on the predominantly Kurdish Syrian town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), near the Turkish border. According to a Kurdish commander, Islamic State fighters have been pushed out of all but two eastern areas of the town. However, the United States warned that the situation in Kobani "remains tenuous." The United States reported that it held direct talks for the first time with the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) last weekend ahead of the intensified campaign of airstrikes in Kobani. PYD officials have attributed the success of their forces to coordination with the U.S.-led coalition. Since Islamic State militants launched an offensive on the area a month ago, more than 662 people have been killed, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The estimate includes 374 Islamic State militants, 268 Kurdish forces, and 20 civilians.

Headlines  

  • A series of attacks Thursday in mainly Shiite districts of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad killed more than 40 people.
  • Houthi fighters clashed with Ansar al-Sharia militants outside the Bayda province town of Radaa Thursday, meanwhile a convoy of Houthi fighters approached the southern Yemeni city of Taiz.
  • The Carter Center is closing its offices in Egypt and will not monitor upcoming parliamentary elections citing an "increasingly restrictive" political environment.
  • Israeli soldiers are suspected of shooting and killing a Palestinian teenager during clashes with protesters in a West Bank village near Ramallah Thursday.

Arguments and Analysis

Turkey: In the line of fire‘ (Daniel Dombey, Financial Times)

"The dispute has further sullied the country’s international reputation at a time when Mr Erdogan was already under attack for his alleged authoritarianism and drift away from the west. It stems from a cluster of factors – public wariness of war in a neighbouring country, uneasy relations with the region’s Kurds and Mr Erdogan’s own agenda.

While the US has reacted to the crisis by pressing Ankara to allow bombing missions from the US air base in Incirlik, southern Turkey, Mr Erdogan is holding out for America to sign up to a broader effort against the regime of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, which he sees as the root cause of the 200,000 death toll in the country’s civil war. Ankara also complains that its efforts in hosting 1.6m Syrian refugees are insufficiently recognised.

‘In the hierarchy of threats, we see Isis as the biggest problem,’ Eric Edelman, a former US ambassador to Ankara, said this week. ‘They see it as only one of several and it is not the highest on their agenda.’"

Reading Between the Red Lines: An Anatomy of Iran’s Eleventh-Hour Nuclear Negotiating Strategy‘ (Suzanne Maloney, The Brookings Institution)

"These divisions within the elite are genuine; Iran has always been a highly factionalized polity, with intense ideological infighting over foreign policy as well as other affairs of state. And Khamenei openly derided Rouhani’s achievements as the country’s chief nuclear negotiator from 2003-2005. For that reason, analysts have importuned the West from the outset of his administration to ‘help Rouhani’ persuade his hard-liners by offering generous terms for a deal. And Zarif and his colleagues have repeatedly raised the specter of Iran’s politics hardening once again if a deal is not reached.

Increasingly, however, Iranian officials have sought to deploy their internal differences to justify inflexibility on key terms. That tactic makes a virtue of one of Iran’s persistent vulnerabilities; the divisions within its ruling system have enabled an elaborate game of good-cop-bad-cop. That dynamic has increasingly dominated the negotiations since early July, when Khamenei articulated an ambitious bottom line on enrichment – raising the stakes on an issue that has long been the foremost point of contention in the talks. The sermon came only weeks before the initial deadline for a comprehensive deal, as Iranian negotiators were sitting with their American, Russian, Chinese and European counterparts in Vienna."

— Mary Casey

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