As the Syrian city of Kobani is under threat from the IS militants, Syrian Kurd leader and the head of the Democratic Union Party Salih Muslim states that a foreign military intervention in Syria under the pretext of combating terrorism will be considered aggression. Born in Kobani (the city is also known by its Arabic name Ayn al-Arab), Salih Muslim is confident that the Kurds can defend themselves if they are provided with arms and ammunition.
Mr. Salih Muslim, the current situation in the city of Kobani is very tense. Information we receive, is contradictory. First of all, could you tell us what is happening now?
Salih Muslim: There is severe ongoing fighting in Kobani area. We are holding out against the Islamic State offensive. We’ve managed to hold out for 23 days. Militants from the Islamic State have the most advanced weapons. All of this weaponry they gathered here in Kobani. However, our people are maintaining sturdy resistance.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently announced he could deploy ground troops in the north of Syria. What is your position on this issue?
Salih Muslim: Any such intervention of Turkey will be considered an act of aggression against Syria, against our land. It is unacceptable. If he really wants the city of Kobani to stand up, he can, eventually, open the border checkpoints so we could receive humanitarian and military aid. If people of Kobani receive aid, they will be able to defend themselves against the aggression.
Is it true that many were killed, that you suffer heavy losses?
Salih Muslim: Yes, many were killed, both among military and civilians. However, there are losses on both sides. The Islamic State also lost many of their own. We are determined. We will defend our land.
Do you see any benefits from air strikes, carried out by the United States and its allies on the radical group’s positions?
Salih Muslim: Yes, the air strikes are useful. The strikes, carried out over the past two days, were particularly successful. It was a great help for Kobani resistance.
There are already some assumptions that the US ground troops can intervene in Syria under the pretext of combating terrorism. What do you think about that?
Salih Muslim: No. We do not need it. And that's just a pretext. We can deal with it ourselves. We only need weapons supplies. Kobani Kurds have their own armed units. If we are given the same advanced weaponry, we can fully protect ourselves. Turkey says we are sort of unable to defend ourselves, while not allowing to deliver the piled up aid goods across the border. May Turkey open the border to help Syrian Kurds, and then you will see how Kobani people can fight. In that case, we will be able to defend ourselves. Syrian Kurds are now facing a brutal attack, an atrocious and inhumane aggression. We are facing the prospect of annihilation today. And we are forced to defend ourselves by all possible means. We, Syrian Kurds, ask the international community to help us to defend ourselves.
How, in your opinion, can Russia help you?
Salih Muslim: With weapons. Russia can help the Kurds by weapons supplies. We are talking about armor and advanced weapons, in general. For example, our opponents possess tanks.
But where do they have them from?
Salih Muslim: The Islamic State militants have armored personnel carriers and Abrams tanks (made in US - Ed.). They seized them in the Iraqi city of Mosul. They possess T-72 tanks. They captured them from the Syrian army. The Islamic State has the most advanced weapons. Conventional weapons are insufficient to handle this.
Where did the Islamic State militants receive its funding and resources from?
Salih Muslim: Vice President Joe Biden recently told everything by himself. What else is there to add?
You mean Joe Biden’s remark, said during one of his speeches that the Islamic State received much assistance from Turkey and a number of Arab states?
Salih Muslim: Yes. US Vice-President was quite candid when he said it.
Have the Kurds actually begun to use suicide attacks against the Islamic State terrorists in Kobani and other cities?
Salih Muslim: Yes. However, these are not suicide attacks, but acts of self-sacrifice. There have been several cases when our young men and women, having no modern anti-tank weapons, threw themselves under the tanks of terrorists destroying both themselves and the enemy. It happened several times. And it will continue.
Elena Suponina, Head of Center for Asia and Middle East (RISS)