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The Rise of Greater Kurdistan

November 25, 2013 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

The status of the Kurdish people, the largest ethnic group in the world without a homeland, has been a source of instability in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran for decades. But with the onset of the civil war in Syria, a new theater has surged in prominence regarding that issue. For months, Syrian Kurdish militias have battled other — primarily Islamist — factions within Syria’s rebel movement.They have been surprisingly successful, scoring major military victories in the northeastern part of the country against the Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), both affiliated with Al Qaeda. Given the widespread collapse of the authority that Bashar al-Assad’s government exercised in northeastern Syria, the Kurds have been poised for months to expand greatly their power in that area.

Following the latest victories over Islamist forces in late October and early November, Kurdish leaders in Syria finally took the next step. They announced the creation of an “interim autonomous government” for Syria’s Kurdish region. It was quite clear that this was not a temporary measure. The same announcement confirmed that elections for a long-term government would follow shortly.

That development caused uneasiness in neighboring capitals. While Assad seems to have written-off any attempt to regain control of territory in the northeast — at least until he’s able to suppress the larger, Sunni Arab insurgency seeking to overthrow his government, both Ankara and Baghdad are concerned about what the birth of a new, essentially independent, Kurdish political entity might imply for their countries.

Turkish leaders seem increasingly uncertain about how to deal with the Kurdish issue. Ankara has waged an armed struggle for decades against home-grown secessionists, led by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). And Turkish officials were noticeably unhappy when Kurdish forces in Iraq exploited the U.S. decision to impose a no-fly zone over northern Iraq during the 1990s to establish a self-governing region there.

U.S. leaders need to ask themselves whether the existing policy of insisting on a united Iraq and a united Syria is devoid of any connection to realities on the ground.”

But in the past few years, the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made more serious efforts to address Turkey’s domestic Kurdish problems through the political process rather than mere brute force. And Ankara’s relationship with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq has become far …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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