THE BLOG
10/11/2014 03:41 pm ET Updated Dec 11, 2014

Save Syrian Kurds From Slaughter in Kobani

ISIS is on the verge of occupying Kobani, the Kurdish city on the Syria-Turkey border. The UN Special Envoy warns that up 700 people, mainly elderly, will "most likely be massacred." Kurdish fighters desperately need arms and ammunition to stave off the ISIS onslaught. The UN Security Council should also authorize a humanitarian corridor so civilians can escape the slaughter.

Turkish tanks are parked on the hills above Kobani, spectators to the slaughter...The Turkish government is content to let ISIS and the Kurds fight it out. Defenders of Kobani include the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been engaged in a decades-long struggle for greater political and cultural rights of Kurds in Turkey. Yasin Aktay, vice chairman of Turkey's governing AK party, calls the Kobani battle a "war between two terrorist groups."

The Turkish parliament authorized military action, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is holding out, trying to coerce the United States into establishing a no-fly-zone and a buffer zone along Turkey's border.

The buffer zone would stretch 200 kilometers from Efrin to Kobani and Jazeera, and extend 20 to 30 kilometers within Syrian territory. Kurds are adamantly opposed. They see the deployment of Turkish troops as an occupation force rather than a sincere effort to protect civilians.

Air strikes intensified last week on ISIS positions in Kobani. However, they slowed but did not stop Islamic State forces who now occupy 40 percent of Kobani.

Kobani's defenders urgently need more weapons and ammunition, The Obama administration could airlift weapons to Kobani's defenders, but it is bending over backwards to avoid upsetting Erdogan.

The Pentagon announced that saving Kobani is not a strategic objective. Is it not a moral imperative? The United States intervened in Sinjar to save Yazidis from genocide. Why not save Syrian Kurds?

Kurds in Turkey have rushed to join the battle. However, Turkey blocks them at the border, refusing their passage into Syria. Iraqi peshmerga have also been blocked by Turkey.

According to the UN Special Envoy, 10-13,000 Kurdish civilians, including 700 elderly, are at-risk. They are surrounded by ISIS fighters, which are launching suicide attacks against the people's protection forces.

UN peacekeepers watched Muslim men and boys murdered in Srebrenica nearly twenty years ago. The international community vowed never again, and the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution enshrining its "responsibility to protect."

Kobani is a test of the international community. Defeating ISIS in Kobani will mark the beginning of the end for the Islamic State. Alternatively, Kobani's collapse will be a stain on the UN and a discredit to US-led coalition.

Mr. Phillips is Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University's Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He is a former Senior Adviser and Foreign Affairs Experts to the State Department under Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama.