Why You Should Care About the Kurds (Part II of II)

Kurdish Militia Members in Syria

Kurdish Militia Members in Syria

(Part I on the background of the Kurds can be found here)

Why should anyone care about the Kurds? The Kurdish role in the Middle East could drastically change the outcome of the Syrian Civil War, Turkey’s bid to the European Union and the future stability of Iraq. Most importantly for Americans, the Kurds could be a significant force in the long term war against al-Qaeda.

In Turkey, the recent reforms initiated by the government to solidify the peace with the Kurds and address their grievances fell short. Despite all the other obstacles and realities in play concerning Turkey’s accession to the European Union, a revived Kurdish insurgency would spell disaster for Turkey’s PR image. For both the Kurds and Turkey, leaving the negotiating table for the battlefield is a no-win situation.

Just across the border in Syria, Kurds are not getting the attention or credit they deserve for fighting al-Qaeda’s affiliates. The Kurds are not as concerned with who’s in charge of the Syrian government as the Free Syrian Army, so they have less of an incentive to partner with Islamic extremist groups when the going gets tough. Regardless of the outcome of the Syrian Civil War, the Kurds will be in a much more consolidated position to gain significant regional autonomy or seek full independence. With more independent authority, the Kurds would have more of an incentive to drive away violent extremism from the region altogether.

The relationship between the government in Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has continually been tenuous especially concerning oil revenues. Nonetheless, Iraq deteriorating into another sectarian civil war is a scenario that neither wishes to face, and the two may be forced to collaborate against Islamic extremists for the sake of stability.

The Kurds are the only major group in the region that both fought against Saddam Hussein in 2003 and  al-Qaeda in the Syrian Civil War . Although at the surface they seem like the perfect US ally in the region, it’s a very complicated relationship due to American ties with the Baghdad and Ankara. However, the United States may find more incentives in working more closely with the Kurds as Kurdish relations with their host neighbors change.

The Kurds of today are making modest political gains in Turkey, consolidating territory in northern Syria, and making bold moves towards oil autonomy in Iraq. The Kurds of tomorrow could force Turkey to concede further recognition, establish legitimate autonomy or control in parts of Syria and hold more sway in the oil and political affairs of Iraq. US policymakers should seriously consider closer ties with the Kurds while constructively working with both Baghdad and Ankara. The Kurds could definitely use an ally in the US, and the US has a chance to make a new friend in an emerging Kurdistan.

5 Comments

Filed under Iraq, Kurds, Syria, Turkey

5 Responses to Why You Should Care About the Kurds (Part II of II)

  1. Nice job, Emilio! As part of OIF 05-07, our embedded MTT convoyed with the Iraqi 4th MTR from Kirkuk to Sulaymaniyah (Silêmanî – Kurdish) and spent the day with our Kurdish hosts. Our team was treated incredibly well. We discussed America’s leaflet drop in the ’90’s which encouraged the Kurds to rise up against Saddam Hussein, and then discussed our subsequent blind eye when Hussein used mustard gas against the Kurds. They still believed in America. They are a people worthy of our support.

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  3. Alex.K1

    dear Sir , i would like to express my appreciation for your care and recognition of the kurds , As a Kurdish person who used to support and work with US forces in Kirkuk , i have a great faith on the US people and deeply hope that the US law maker will follow your suggestions and correct the mistake that the British did after world war 1 when they split Kurds land into 4 areas and attached them to countries with background of hating Kurds the most which are Arabs , Turks and Persians .
    also would like to remind you about the possible role that Kurds in Iran would to support US policy against Iran’s will and ambitions to become a very powerful country and threaten US and Israel security and economy in the area .

  4. Thank you both very much for your comments. The more I read on the Kurdish situation in the region, the more I see positive opportunities that I feel have not been fully explored or seriously considered. Although there are existing concerns that have made cooperation difficult; the US and neighboring countries, including Iran, have much to gain from collaborating on mutual interests with the Kurds.

    Furthermore, these mutual interests do not have to be incompatible with the interests of the other countries in the region. The most significant threat to many countries in the Middle East today is instability caused by terrorism. Further recognition and support for Kurdish goals in exchange for coordination in fighting terrorism is a great deal for any government willing to take it.

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