Escalating Turkish-Kurdish Hostilities Threaten U.S. Policy in Iraq

Escalating Turkish-Kurdish Hostilities Threaten U.S. Policy in Iraq

Stepped-up hostilities between Turkish forces and Kurdish guerrillas in southeastern Turkey and predominantly Kurdish northern Iraq coupled with a high-powered Iraqi Kurdish campaign to achieve greater autonomy are complicating U.S. efforts to ensure that Iraq remains united once American troops leave the country. The increased hostilities couldn't come at a worse time for the Obama administration, which is preparing for next year's withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

The U.S. had hoped that closer Turkish-Iraqi Kurdish cooperation and Ankara's conciliatory moves toward Turkey's estimated 15 million Kurds -- who account for approximately 20 percent of Turkey's population -- would end a decades-old Kurdish insurgency in Turkey. Instead, Turkish warplanes are targeting PKK bases in northern Iraq with increased regularity, and the Turkish military is re-establishing checkpoints in predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey. The U.S., which has designated the PKK a terrorist organization, is assisting Turkey by providing intelligence to its military and granting Turkish fighter jets greater access to northern Iraqi air space.

The hostilities threaten to jeopardize Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan's efforts to persuade the outlawed PKK to lay down its arms and end fighting that has cost some 45,000 lives, by granting Turkish Kurds greater political and cultural freedom. Despite the fighting and increasingly tough language towards the PKK, Erdogan continues to pay lip service to the notion that the conflict with the Kurds cannot be resolved with military means alone. Yet, with a controversial constitutional referendum scheduled for September, elections due next year and nationalist calls for a harder line towards the PKK, Erdogan will be hard-pressed to respond positively to recent PKK overtures for a ceasefire and a negotiated solution.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review