Kobane is this generation’s Stalingrad

Stalingrad, 1943.

By the summer of 1942, the outcome of the second world war was easy to predict.  The German U-boat operations in the North Atlantic were proving increasingly successful in sinking Allied ships.  In North Africa, Rommel’s forces had taken Tobruk.  And one year into Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht had wrested control of most of the western part of the country.  The forward march of Nazism seemed unstoppable.

For the last several months, news reports about the onward march of the fascists of “Islamic state” have echoed that same sense of inevitability.  Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, fell in June.   Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s home town, fell the next day.  In August, the Yazidi stronghold Sinjar fell.  Every day brought new reports of victories for the Islamists.  ISIS seemed unstoppable.

Until Kobane.

Like Stalingrad, Kobane has become something of a ghost town, battered by shelling and bombing, most of its civilian population having fled.  What remains behind are the determined fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) — many of them women.  And those fighters have now fought the fascists to a standstill.

Before Stalingrad, the victory of Hitler seemed highly likely, if not inevitable.  After Stalingrad, the defeat of the Nazis became certain.  From the time the Wehrmacht’s 6th army finally surrendered in February 1943 until the final collapse of the Third Reich in May 1945, the German army never again won a decisive victory.   From then on, the war consisted of a long and bloody retreat back to Berlin.

It is too early to say if this will be the case with Kobane.

Under enormous international pressure, the Erdogan regime in Turkey has finally agreed to allow Peshmerga fighters from the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq to join their fellow Kurds in defending Kobane.  As I write these words, they are on their way.

At the same time, units of the pro-Western Free Syrian Army (FSA) have arrived in Kobane to join the YPG fighters.

And these forces — the YPG, the FSA and the Peshmerga — are being backed by the immense air power of the United States and its allies.  The US is dropping not only bombs, but supplies that have been stiffening resistance in Kobane.

According to one report, “News reached the world on Monday morning that an airdrop by Coalition forces of 27 bundles of arms, ammunition and medical aid had been delivered successfully to the YPG in Kobane. Finally, the long awaited, much-needed arms had been delivered to the YPG guerrillas, much to the dismay of Turkey. All morning, people in the village received the news with satisfaction, proclaiming ‘Long live Obama.’

In doing so, these airdrops repeat the support given by the US to the Soviets during the Second World War.  At that time, there were no US “boots on the ground” in Russia, but there were plenty of supplies coming through.  In fact, it has been argued that part of the reason why Hitler needed to take Stalingrad was to cut off the flow of US supplies and weapons going up the Volga.

A defeat for the Islamists in Kobane doesn’t necessarily deal the fascists a death blow.  It’s more likely that the struggle will see ups and downs, with some victories for the Kurds and their allies, and some for “Islamic state”.

But for the first time in a long time, the fascists are feeling the sting of a strong and motivated resistance.  In Kobane today, the spirit of Stalingrad lives.


2 Comments on "Kobane is this generation’s Stalingrad"

  1. Abdullah Muhsin | 29/10/2014 at 15:36 |

    I agree Eric, it is Stalingrad of our time.
    In Iraq, as in Kobane in Syria, there is a heroic popular resistance movement of men and women who are battling against Isis fascists. They must be defeated not only militarly but ideologically.

  2. Leonid | 29/10/2014 at 18:05 |

    The prediction about the demise of the ISIS fascists sounds uplifting. However, I have reservations to fully accept the prediction since real “boots on the ground” are needed to win any ground battle. Are Kurdish women and Free Syrian Army a sufficient military force to defeat ISIS even if they managed or manage to thwart the advance of ISIS at Kobane? And how reliable is a Free Syrian Army? Russian president Putin in his October 24/14 speech at the meeting of Valdai International Discussion Club made a noteworthy comment about the fire power of ISIS. That’s what he said: “Tens of thousands of soldiers, officers and former Baath Party activists were turned out into the streets and today have joined the rebels’ ranks. Perhaps this is what explains why the Islamic State group has turned out so effective? In military terms, it is acting very effectively and has some very professional people.” And that’s what he said about forces in Syria fighting against Assad: “President Obama spoke about the Islamic State as one of the threats. … Are you really not aware of who is fighting there? It is mostly mercenaries fighting there. Are you not aware that they get paid to fight? And they go wherever they get paid more. So they get arms and they get paid for fighting. I have heard how much they get paid. Once they’re armed and paid for their services, you can’t just undo all that. Then they hear that they can get more money elsewhere, and so they go there, and then they capture oil fields in Iraq and Syria say, start producing oil, and others buy this oil, transport it and sell it.” “We heard that we need to support the civilized democratic opposition in Syria, and so they got support, got arms. And the next day half the rebels went off and joined the Islamic State.” http://eng.kremlin.ru/news/23137. While we know Putin’s interest in keeping brutal Assad’s regime in power, his comments on the issues in question seem reality-based. From this perspective, can we really see the Battle of Kobane as a reenactment of the Battle of Stalingrad and the subsequent undoing of ISIS in the footsteps of Wehrmacht? America did not provide “boots on the ground” in Stalingrad but the British and Americans (America joined in at the final stage known as Operation Torch) had “boots on the ground” in North Africa. Before Operation Torch (November 1943) the British defeated Rommel’s Africa Corps in North Africa. A formidable force of about 100000 men, Germans and Italians, and about 1000 tanks, these troops might have been moved to Stalingrad, should Rommel have defeated the Allies in North Africa (Russians prefer to ignore the possibility of this factor) since for Hitler, in drawing up his battle plans in early 1942, treated widely-separated North African and Soviet battlefields as parts of the same campaign. His strategy called for coordinating both drives so that they would converge and meet in the fabulously rich oil centers of the Near East. The joint fight of the Soviet and the Allied armies did not make the German plans happen. So, the West did contribute by providing “boots on the ground” in North Africa to the defeat of the Germans at Stalingrad and to the further liberation, via the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, of Europe.
    The bottom line, kudos to the heroism of the Kurds, but, sadly, their heroism is not enough to defeat the fascists of ISIS. In the same manner as the guerrilla Polish Home Army could not win over the Germans in the Warsaw Uprising of August-October 1944, regular troops are needed to accomplish the mission. They do not have necessarily be the NATO. Arab countries have trained military. Interesting enough, why are they avoiding the fight? ISIS is a threat close to their homes. And yet … ? As for Turkey, the most powerful country in the region, Erdogan, it seems, is playing his own game since reports keep coming (see “Der Spiegel” online recent interview with an ISIS recruiter) that ISIS recruiters operate within Turkey with their knowledge of it.

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