Turkey's Delicate Dance in Iraqi Kurdistan

Jul 24, 2019 | 09:00 GMT

Kurdish officials attend a signing ceremony in Suleimaniyah, Iraq, on May 5, 2019.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan recently reached a final agreement on the formation of a new Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq.

(FERIQ FEREC/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


  • After a brief hiatus following the September 2017 failed independence referendum, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has reclaimed its place at the helm of the Kurdish government in northern Iraq.
  • The return of the political status quo in the region will open the KDP up to deeper diplomatic and economic cooperation with Turkey, its most important external ally.
  • The KDP will continue to grant Turkey leeway to increase its military operations against the Kurdistan Workers' Party in exchange for closer economic and trade ties with Ankara. 
  • But in its effort to curtail an independent Kurdish state, the Turkish government will further irk its own Kurdish population, thus exposing itself to additional security and political risks at home.

On July 17, a Turkish diplomat was shot and killed in eastern Arbil, the capital of Iraq's northern Kurdish region. The assassination was likely perpetrated by a sympathizer of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the Kurdish group that Turkey has been targeting in regional military operations for decades. Ankara's high-risk tolerance will serve it well in the months ahead, as it continues to prioritize building its Iraqi-Kurdish ties -- taking advantage of the economic leverage it wields over the newly formed Kurdistan Regional Government. But just how much violence and political backlash Turkey can endure to prevent the formation of an independent Kurdish state will be tested because the risks in the region, as evidenced by the latest incident, remain as high as ever....

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