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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.

Vera Eccarius-Kelly is Professor of Comparative Politics at Siena College in Albany, New York. She received her Ph.D. in 2002 from the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Her numerous journal articles and contributions to edited volumes examine Kurdish diaspora activism and expressions of Kurdish nationalism. Her monograph is entitled The Militant Kurds: A Dual Strategy for Freedom.

Michael M. Gunter is Professor of Political Science at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tennessee. He authored ten critically acclaimed scholarly books on the Kurdish question and published dozens of journal articles and book chapters. He is also the Secretary-General of the EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC) in Brussels.