Took a little over a year for Turkey to absorb the first 100K refugees from Syria. Now it’s absorbed 100K more in about 48 hours.
— Michael Weiss (@michaeldweiss) September 21, 2014
The Guardian explains how this state of affairs came to be:
The border region of Kobani, home to half a million people, has held out for months against an onslaught by Islamists seeking to consolidate their hold over swaths of northern Syria. But in recent days, Isis extremists have seized a series of settlements close to the town of Kobani itself, sending as many as 100,000 mostly Kurdish refugees streaming across the border into Turkey. “I don’t think in the last three and a half years we have seen 100,000 cross in two days,” the representative for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Turkey, Carol Batchelor, told Reuters. “So this is a bit of a measure of how this situation is unfolding, and the very deep fear people have about the circumstances inside Syria and, for that matter, Iraq.”
A Kurdish commander on the ground said Isis had advanced to within 9 miles (15km) of Kobani. A Kurdish politician from Turkey who visited Kobani on Saturday said locals told him Isis fighters were beheading people as they went from village to village. “Rather than a war this is a genocide operation … They are going into the villages and cutting the heads of one or two people and showing them to the villagers,” Ibrahim Binici, a deputy for Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic party (HDP), told Reuters.
Juan Cole marvels, “I lived to see the day when thousands of Kurds take refuge in Turkey”:
For anyone who knows the history of the Turkish government’s dirty war against Kurdish separatists in the 1970s and 1980s, it is a startling reversal to see Syrian Kurds flooding for refuge into Turkey. The influx was not smooth and Turkish security did at points try to stem it. But actually Turkey has something like a million Syrian refugees already.
[I]t remains unclear whether America has the popular stamina to take on this group for what clearly will be a years-long struggle. The latest polling from the New York Times and CBS News show clear majorities approving airstrikes against ISIL fighters in both Iraq and Syria, but only 48 percent of Americans are in favor of training and providing military equipment to rebels in Syria—the fighters who would actually have to hold the ground presumably vacated by ISIL. Congress may have given President Obama the green light to arm the rebels, but it’s not clear the American people are behind him.
As the United States expands its air campaign and put more “advisers” on the ground in and around Iraq, will Americans continue to support this effort – and probable casualties? After all, without sustained public support, any extended military campaign is doomed to fail. And people are anxious about the lengthy time horizon: Some 83 percent of Americans are either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” with a long and costly involvement in Iraq and Syria.
Josh Rogin and Eli Lake examine the administration’s “mission to build an ISIS-killing army in Syria”:
Many lawmakers don’t see how training 5,000 Syrian rebels a year, assuming trustworthy, vetted brigades can be found, can defeat an ISIS army that the CIA estimates may already have 31,000 fighters and growing. “The goal is not to achieve numerical parity with ISIL, but to ensure that moderate Syrian forces are superior fighters trained by units,” Hagel said.
Even some lawmakers who support the plan don’t believe the administration’s claims that the Syrian rebels will only fight ISIS after being trained by the U.S., rather than focusing on their real enemy, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. After all, that’s what the FSA is saying openly it plans to do.
Larison rolls his eyes:
No one seriously thinks that arming and training a few thousand rebels will make much of a difference or do much good, but it is the relatively risk-free option (for Americans) that provides a temporary sop to insatiable hawks while also providing cover for fence-sitters that want to be considered “serious” on foreign policy without having to take big political risks by backing more aggressive measures. Finally, many members of Congress endorsed this policy just so that they could get it off the agenda before the elections, so majority support in Congress for arming Syrian rebels may be shown to be illusory much sooner than we might have guessed.
(Photo: Syrian Kurds wait near Syria’s border at the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 20, 2014. Tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds flooded into Turkey on Saturday, fleeing an onslaught by the jihadist Islamic State group that prompted an appeal for international intervention. By Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)