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MURAT YETKİN >Erdoğan to Obama: I told you so

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“We cannot understand the logic of dropping arms to a city as street clashes are going on, but the Americans believe in their ways. We’ll see.” Those were the words of a Turkish military expert when I asked his opinion on airdrops on Oct. 20, the day U.S. C-130 cargo planes had started dropping weapons and other aid parcels in support of Kurdish forces in the Syrian town of Kobane (Ayn al-Arab), which is near the Turkish border and has been under attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) for almost a month.

The next day there were reports about U.S. war planes hitting a certain target in Kobane, which was allegedly one of the parcels dropped in an area under the control of ISIL and not the militia forces of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Then a video was released by ISIL-linked websites showing masked ISIL militants examining a parcel still attached to a big parachute. The video subsequently showed that the contents had been dismantled, allowing a fighter to show hand grenades and other explosives to the camera.

Formerly, a Pentagon statement had said they were examining the video amid the possibility that at least one of the total 27 bundles could be in ISIL hands. Yesterday, the Pentagon confirmed that there were at least two bundles in ISIL's hands, which means the video was genuine.

In reference to his telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama on Oct. 19 (Oct. 18 in Washington) before the aid drop operation in which Obama reportedly said, “I have to call for this [operation], the city could fall in two days,” the Turkish president told reporters the following: “Now we are in the fourth day and Kobane has not [fallen]. Now it is understood that what has been done was wrong. Some of those weapons are now in ISIL hands. To whom are you giving support? There could be more rational, results-oriented ways, not for the sake of appearances [like this].”

Erdoğan revealed some other details about his conversation with Obama. For example, he said he told Obama that it would be wrong to give aid directly to the PYD, which Turkey sees as no different than the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), even if it is still not included on the Turkish blacklist of “terrorist organizations.” He said there were two other options like the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which is fighting against the Bashar al-Assad regime, and the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. “I made that offer” to Obama, Erdoğan added.

It is understood that the Peshmerga agreement was settled in that way, as was confirmed by Salih Muslim, the leader of the PYD, to the Hürriyet Daily News’ Sevil Erkuş in today’s edition. 

“We wanted a corridor to Kobane through Turkey for PYD forces,” Muslim said. “But it worked the other way around,” he added, implying the Peshmerga. The KRG Parliament in Arbil has approved a motion to send 200 Peshmerga with heavy guns to Kobane, in coordination with the Turkish General Staff.

That is a symbolic force. Erdoğan said yesterday that there were only 2,000 resisting in Kobane and almost no civilians left in the city as Turkey has received them all. So, if Obama aimed to demonstrate that the U.S. stands with the Kurds in Syria and Iraq through air operations, it may have reached the target, but if the Pentagon had aimed to get military results then the outcome is only symbolic and not likely to bear any fruit.

In a way, Erdoğan said “I told you so” to Obama with his remarks yesterday. Is that any help to the situation? Not very much – just like the U.S.’s airdrop operation.

October/23/2014

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