Please see below for information on past and future research-in-progress presentations, hosted by the Centennial Center for Political Science and Public Affairs at the American Political Science Association. All events take place at APSA headquarters.
Questions? Email [email protected]
Wednesday, June 27, 2018, 12:30-1:30 p.m.
Allies or Terrorists? Contradictions in the U.S. Foreign Policy Towards the Kurds, Ozum Yesiltas, PhD
ABSTRACT: After the devastating experience of two costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, externalizing the strategic and operational burden of war to partners and allies has developed into America’s preferred way of maintaining influence in the Middle East under the Obama Administration. One of the major outcomes of the U.S. strategy to delegate war to local players is that non-state actors with regional influence have been increasingly factored into U.S. policy decisions. One such influential non-state actor is the Kurds who have become a crucial U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS. The U.S.-Kurdish alliance successfully kept America out of Syria and brought military victories in Iraq, but as the dust is settling regarding the ISIS situation, Washington’s failure to develop a political vision to define the peace that follows is jeopardizing long term American interests in the Middle East. A fundamental part of this vision must be a clear position on the future of Kurdish-held areas in Iraq and Syria.
Owing to the policy of engaging the Kurds solely as military proxies without a coherent strategy towards their wider political goals, the U.S. is now facing several contradictions in the Middle East. First, Washington wants to preserve its military partnership with the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the fight against ISIS, while seeking to protect its alliance with Turkey which views YPG as a terrorist organization. Second, arming the Kurds in Iraq is vital to block the ISIS offensive, but direct military support for the Kurds strengthens Irbil’s position vis-à-vis Baghdad and conflicts with the U.S.’ “one Iraq” policy. Third, the Trump administration is against Iranian aspirations for regional power, yet the U.S. is indirectly providing military equipment to the Iranian-backed Shiite militia within the Iraqi army to stop Iraqi Kurds’ aspirations for independence. Therefore, the lack of a coherent U.S. policy towards the Kurds is a problem which requires an urgent solution.
BIO: Ozum Yesiltas is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Texas A&M University-Commerce. She earned her BA in Sociology and MA in International Relations from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, and received her Ph.D. in International Relations from Florida International University in 2014. Her teaching and research interests include human rights, nationalism and ethnic conflict, identity politics and conflict resolution with a focus on the Middle East and the Kurdish question. She did extensive field research in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and parts of Europe and published on the issues of ethnic movements, conflict, and democratization in the Middle East.