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Kurdish Autonomy and U.S. Foreign Policy

Continuity and Change

Edited By Vera Eccarius-Kelly and Michael M. Gunter

This book evaluates U.S. foreign policy patterns towards Kurdish movements in Turkey and Syria and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. In the first section of the collection, U.S. foreign policy approaches are examined by comparing multiple U.S. administrations and their responses to Kurdish demands for autonomy. While Kurds have been used to advance particular policy interests, several contributors also identify challenges to Kurdish independence movements linked to ideological divisions and patronage structures. However, Kurds could benefit from political changes even if U.S. policy preferences favor maintaining established borders.

In the second section, several contributors explore the Kurdistan Regional Government’s unfulfilled expectations and the fallout from the 2017 independence referendum. Consecutive U.S. administrations have been reluctant to destabilize the region, supported efforts by Turkey to co-opt the KRG, and impeded Kurdish movements in Syria and Turkey.

Finally, the third section analyzes the ways in which Kurdish movements have responded to long-standing patterns of U.S. foreign policy preferences. Here contributors examine Kurdish lobbying efforts in the United States, discuss Kurdish para-diplomacy activities in a comparative context, and frame the YPG/J’s (People’s Protections Units/Women’s Protections Units) and PYD’s (Democratic Union Party) project in Syria. Broader power structures are critically examined by focusing on particular Kurdish movements and their responses to U.S. foreign policy initiatives.

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11. Imperialism, Revolution, and the Desire to Lecture the Kurds: How Should We (Not) Analyze U.S.-Kurdish Relations (Huseyin Rasit)


11. Imperialism, Revolution, and the Desire to Lecture the Kurds: How Should We (Not) Analyze U.S.-Kurdish Relations

Huseyin Rasit


←224 | 225→The Kurds in Iraq have been a subject of debate in U.S. foreign policy at least since the days of the Pike Report (a 1976 report of the House Select Committee on Intelligence), as they developed a close, if not always positive, relationship with the U.S. In recent years, the Kurds rose to prominence when they appeared as dependable partners during and after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Interest in U.S.-Kurdish relations peaked with the advent of the Syrian Civil War and the unleashing of the Islamic State (IS). With the Kurds in Syria coming strongly to the fore as the single most effective force against IS, they have increasingly become a central component of American policies related to IS and the Syrian Civil War. A great number of op-eds at prominent newspapers and reports from think-tanks in Washington, DC have evaluated the U.S.-Kurdish relationship since.

As this volume has several chapters that do an excellent job of laying out the details of U.S.-Kurdish relations from a variety of approaches, I follow another route in this chapter. Instead of examining U.S.-Kurdish relations themselves, I explore the specific topic of cooperation between the U.S. and Rojava and then examine several different approaches towards this cooperation. Thus, rather than representing a study of U.S.-Rojava relations, this chapter is a theoretical...

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