A telling moment from the US State Department’s daily press conference on Monday, as spokesperson Jen Psaki is asked why there was only one US airstrike near the Kurdish center of Kobane in northern Syria — even though Islamic State jihadists were on the verge of entering the town after a three-week offensive….
The exchange starts from 10:41:
Psaki does not deal with the logic of the reporter’s question: if the US is really serious about fulfilling President Obama’s promise to “degrade and eventually destroy” the Islamic State, then it might want to prevent Kobane’s fall and possibly the mass killing of Kurdish fighters and civilians.
Instead she reads from prepared notes, ensuring she does deviate from Washington’s official lines:
You’re talking about one strike in the last 24 hours. That was the update, ydestou’re right — that update came from CENTCOM [US military’s Central Command]. That strike destroyed two ISIL [Islamic State] fighting positions south of Kobane.
Other recent strikes have hit two modular oil refineries, an ISIL training camp, an ISIL-occupied building. So this is an ongoing effort.
The reporter tries to interrupt the reading of the notes, “In Kobane’s there is a…”; however, Psaki will not be stopped, even if she struggles to maintain the flow of words beyond her prepared text:
It’s an ongoing effort around, in the same part of the country. I would refer you to DoD [Department of Defense] for their ongoing military strategy, but obviously this is something where we’ve long said from the beginning [that] this would take some time. We’re working, uh, you know, closely, uh, uh, to do everything we can, uh, to help push back, uh, ISIL.
The reporter tries once more, talking about the “different perspective” of Kurdish politicians and Kurdish people on the ground: “Are you waiting for a Turkish deal with the Kurds [before pursuing significant airstrikes]?”
Psaki gives the template reassurance, “Clearly we haven’t held back [with] our own military airstrikes.”
She tries to turn away, but the reporter gets in a “One more thing”: “We’ve seen ISIS degraded in Iraq, but we’ve seen ISIS advancing in Syria. Can you say there are flaws in President Obama’s strategy?”
Psaki assures, “I would not say that,” talking of Iraqi forces regaining and holding areas in their country but noting that US intervention in Syria “has not been happening as long”.
She then returns to reading the notes given to her by the Department of Defense.
She says nothing about Kobane.
Other journalists follow up on the questions, but Psaki holds her ground: “There are no other details I am going to get into.”