Kurds flee IS

The dire plight of an estimated 100,000 Syrian Kurds fleeing Islamic State (Isis) advances across north-east Syria marks the first big test of Barack Obama’s so-far unfulfilled pledge to extend the US-led military campaign against the group into sovereign Syrian territory.

The crisis, centred on the strategic town of Kobani, is also a security nightmare for Turkey, to where most of the Kurdish refugees have fled.

Ankara remains deeply hostile to separatist Kurdish forces on both sides of the border, but now finds itself cast in the role of saviour.

The humanitarian situation on the Syria-Turkey border, and a flurry of new reports of Isis beheadings and other atrocities perpetrated against civilians, will also increase pressure on David Cameron and other western and Arab leaders to get off the fence and commit serious military force to the battle against Isis in Iraq and Syria.

US planners are said to be studying military options in Syria as US and French airstrikes against Isis continue in Iraq.

In neither country, however, is air power best suited to combatting the fast-moving, guerrilla-style ground tactics Isis employs.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, suggested last week that the deployment of US ground troops may ultimately prove unavoidable if Isis is to be defeated.

British military commanders have made similar comments, and were backed this week by Tony Blair.

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