Can Syria’s Kurds Leverage War Gains Into Political Autonomy?

A Syrian Kurdish sniper looks at the rubble, Kobani, Syria, Jan. 30, 2015 (AP photo).
A Syrian Kurdish sniper looks at the rubble, Kobani, Syria, Jan. 30, 2015 (AP photo).

The breakdown of the Syrian state has been a political boon for Kurdish groups. Failed governance, civil war, jihadi threats and external support have enabled the Kurds’ Democratic Union Party (PYD)—an affiliate of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK)—to advance its leftist-nationalist agenda. Since 2011, the PYD has created new facts on the ground in Syria by expanding territories, assuming de facto control over oil fields, creating three autonomous cantons, and declaring a so-called federal Kurdish region. The PYD has also benefitted from both U.S. and Russian backing in the campaign against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS), support that has bolstered […]

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