18 November 2018
Turkish tanks pass through Kobani after Kurds drove Islamic State from the town in northern Syria. Photo: Reuters
Turkish tanks pass through Kobani after Kurds drove Islamic State from the town in northern Syria. Photo: Reuters

Defeating IS may give Kurds chance to build their own country

Last month, Islamic State retreated from the strategically important Syrian town of Kobani, which had been occupied for almost six months.

For the first time, IS admitted it was defeated.

The Islamic militants claimed they were forced to leave Kobani because of the airstrikes led by the United States.

But in fact, the airstrikes had been going on for months without much success.

So, the attacks by Kurdish troops were the true reason behind the militants’ pullout from Kobani.

In September, the Kurdish troops, under the cover of the US-led airstrikes, took back Zumar and Sinjar, including oilfields and dams, and successfully cut down the supply of money and power to IS.

The victory in Kobani carries an important meaning–It proves that IS is not invincible, as long as the right strategy is used.

Why are the Kurds keen to go after IS?

With no fixed base, taking land from IS would give the Kurds a chance to found their own country.

Even if the Kurdish troops are defeated in battle, they have very little to lose.

At the moment, their communities are scattered in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. They are suppressed by those four countries to varying degrees.

For example, Turkey opened its border to IS and allowed it to go to Syria to kill the Kurds there.

By risking their lives to beat IS, the Kurds won applause and are likely to gain a higher status in the region.

US senator Ted Cruz told CNN that after IS burned a Jordanian pilot to death, it would be better for the US not to send its troops out against it.

However, he said he hoped President Barack Obama could provide the Kurds with weapons.

In other words, the US does not want to risk the lives of its own troops, and the Kurds are its proxies there.

After the victory in Kobani, the Kurds gained some international recognition.

For example, Rami Abdulrahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, openly credited them with their contribution.

Can the Kurds take this opportunity to establish their own country?

There are four requirements that need to be fulfilled for that to happen: land, people, an effective government and international recognition.

The Kurds have already taken control of Kobani. If they continue to take land from IS, they could eventually draw their own borders, move in their people and set up their own government.

Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria may want their land back in the future. But the West will not step into regional conflicts unless its interests are compromised.

In fact, if the Kurds can establish a pro-US country and help the US to target threats like IS and Iran, the US may be happy to see that, despite objections from its ally Turkey.

Compared with having to build the pro-US governments in Afghanistan and Iraq, the potential Kurdish country would enhance US influence in the region “free of charge”.

So even if the US may not publicly support the Kurds, it may back the pro-US factions among them.

At the beginning, the Kurds may model their new home after South Ossetia, backed by Russia, and Kosovo, backed by the US, and establish a relatively independent political territory.

– Contact us at [email protected]


Associate professor and director of Global Studies Programme, Faculty of Social Science, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Lead Writer (Global) at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe