A collaboration of the Center for American Progress and the Heinrich Böll Stiftung.
The past four years have swept away the old pillars of U.S. policy toward the Eastern Mediterranean. In this context, the potential ramifications of recent developments in Turkey and along its borders have become critical to U.S. interests and the long-term trajectory of the Middle East as a whole. Political and military Kurdish actors have, separately, solidified an autonomous government in northern Iraq and carved out a semi-independent stronghold in northern Syria. Indeed, Kurdish forces in northern Iraq and, to a lesser extent, northern Syria have become a bulwark against jihadi groups such as ISIS and a bastion of stability in a region fracturing along sectarian lines. This reality necessitates a re-evaluation of U.S. policy toward Kurdish political groups and a reinvigoration of Turkey’s peace process with its own Kurdish minority.
This report seeks to advance this policy conversation by outlining the political context in Turkey; summarizing the relevant history of the Kurdish regions; examining the current state of the peace process in Turkey; placing the issue in its regional context, particularly with regard to evolving autonomy in Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish areas in light of the rise of ISIS and the collapse of state authority; explaining the potential consequences of positive or negative outcomes with the Kurds; and evaluating U.S. policy in light of these challenges.
The report is the product of a joint fact finding mission through Turkey and Lebanon in the spring of 2014 by the Heinrich Böll Stiftung and the Center for American Progress, in collaboration with the Heinrich Böll Stiftung offices in Istanbul and Beirut. The positions represented here are those of the Center for American Progress.