SHAFAQNA – Turkey’s parliament has voted to authorise military action against Islamic State (Isis) militants as the jihadists advanced within a couple of miles of the encircled Kurdish town of Kobani along the Turkish-Syrian border.
The encroachment triggered an exodus of Kobani’s residents into Turkey, and local Kurdish fighters braced for clashes. The BBC, reporting from just across the border, said black Isis flags were visible, while heavy artillery fire and tracer rounds lit the sky around the town.
“Compared with Isis, our weaponry is simple. They have cannons, long-range rockets and tanks,” Idris Nahsen, a Kurdish official in the town, told Agence France-Presse.
Despite the 298-98 vote in Ankara for Turkey to use force against Isis in neighbouring countries, and to allow the transit on Turkish soil of allied forces conducting anti-Isis operations, the country’s defence minister, Ismet Yilmaz, said operations should not be expected immediately.
The Pentagon said the US-led coalition had conducted at least seven air sorties against Isis around Kobani in the five days to Wednesday, but there were no reports of any strikes on Thursday as the jihadists reportedly came within sight of the city. Syrian human rights activists warned that without urgent intervention to protect the Kurds, the city could fall within hours.
“From the east and south, Isis are about a mile from Kobani. Most civilians have left the city, and any minute Isis will be inside Kobani,” said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. “There are many questions as to why they [the US-led coalition] don’t attack Isis now as they are easy targets. They have 20 tanks and humvees. Without their heavy vehicles, the Kurds would be able to defeat them.”
According to Kurdish activists and media, fighting has approached the outskirts of the city. “We call on everyone not to give up on Kobani”, said one fighter from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) interviewed by Turkish TV channel IMC TV. “If Kobani falls, we will sacrifice 10,000 martyrs in the process. The fall of Kobani would spell the fall of Kurdistan. We will never give up on Kurdistan.”
He warned that the YPG forces in Kobani were struggling: “We have been fighting for 15 days. We destroy their tanks, and their heavy weapons. We don’t have many weapons left. We ask Kurds to support us.”
In some Turkish cities people protested against the approval of the motion.
The Turkish vote came hours after the new UN high commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, accused Isis of a range of atrocities, including attacks on civilians, executions of captured soldiers, abductions, rapes and the desecration of religious and cultural sites. “The array of violations and abuses perpetrated by Isil [Isis] and associated armed groups is staggering, and many of their acts may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity,” he said.
The UN report also pointed to abuses by Iraqi security forces and pro-Baghdad militias, including potentially indiscriminate and disproportionate air strikes and shelling. Zeid called on Iraq to sign up to the international criminal court so that it would have the jurisdiction to investigate the “horrendous situation” in the country.
Denmark’s parliament also voted on Thursday to join the coalition against Isis. In a vote of 94 to nine, with many abstentions, the parliament approved four warplanes and three reserve jets to be deployed to northern Iraq. “It was a correct decision, but also a difficult one,” the Danish prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, said.
Ankara had previously rejected military action against Isis in either Syria or Iraq, until a surprise U-turn when the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, pledged his “full support” for the US-led military coalition and their fight against Isis, but tied his promise to certain conditions.
Addressing parliament on Wednesday, Erdoğan said air strikes alone would not defeat Isis but Turkey would not stage ground operations without an internationally enforced security and no-fly zone.
“Air strikes will only delay the threat and danger. This has been the case in Iraq so far,” Erdoğan said. “It is inevitable that temporary solutions will cause Iraq to face such interventions every 10 years. Similarly, ignoring Syria will also delay a proper solution.” He also underlined that one of Turkey’s priorities remained the removal of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, an aim not shared by the US-led military coalition.
Emrullah Işler, an MP for the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), said the action was necessary because Syria had become “a nest for terror and terrorists”. He said: “Elements affiliated with the Syrian regime are threatening the region. The main [culprit] responsible for the Isis threat is the Syrian regime.”
Thursday’s motion will allow for the establishment of a “security zone” on Syrian soil which, Turkey argues, would enable the creation of a haven for the 1.5 million Syrian refugees in the country.
Rights groups criticised the idea of a security zone as misleading. “A security zone only creates the illusion of security for refugees,” Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher for Amnesty International, said. “The border regions are the most embattled zones in the war in Syria and nobody can guarantee the safety for refugees there.”
In the past two weeks, the encroachment of Isis insurgents has forced tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds to seek refuge in Turkey. US air strikes have been only partly able to halt the militants’ advance.
Under two separate existing mandates, Turkish troops are already authorised to be deployed across the borders with Iraq and Syria to defend their country against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), active in northern Iraq, and against Assad’s forces.
Both authorisations, due to expire this month, would be extended in the combined mandate MPs are voting for on Thursday. The main opposition Republican People’s party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy party (HDP) both vowed to vote against the motion.
The CHP criticised the proposed bill as “too vague”, but others argue that the volatile and fast-changing security situation in the Syrian conflict rendered an “adjustable” phrasing necessary. “We are dealing with state actors, non-state actors and a conflict that is not contained within national borders”, said security expert Nihat Ali Özcan.
Kurdish groups on both sides of the Turkish-Syrian border have repeatedly accused Turkey of supporting Isis against Kurdish fighters. They argue that the authorisation of troop deployment and a buffer zone across the border serves only as a pretext to establish a military presence in quasi-autonomous Kurdish regions that have emerged as a result of the war in Syria.
Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed PKK leader, warned that if there was a massacre of Kurds in Kobani the peace process between the PKK and the Turkish government would halt.
Analysts underlined that the extended legislation did not mean Turkey would actively enter the conflict in Syria.
Ahmet Davutoğlu, the prime minister, criticised opposition to the legislation: “The AKP government proposes a motion that enables action against all terrorist groups in Syria. Anyone who says ‘no’ to that is the real Isis supporter.”
source : http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/02/turkey-mps-deployment-iraq-syria-isis