Changing US Perception: “How” Have the Syrian Kurds Became A Trustful US Ally?

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Demir T.

BRISMES Annual Conference 2019: Joining The Dots, Interdisciplinary in Middle East Studies at University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom, 24 - 26 June 2019, pp.14

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Leeds
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Page Numbers: pp.14
  • Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University Affiliated: Yes



The Obama administration’s Syria policy was based on non-intervention or minimal presence from the beginning of the civil war. Even though the rise of ISIS led some US policymakers to take a position calling for intervention, the Obama administration stuck to its non-minimal intervention policy. Accordingly, particularly the Pentagon sought a reliable ground partner in Syria to fight ISIS. In the early stage, the Syrian Opposition was considered as the central ground force. However, the Syrian Opposition prioritised the overthrow of the Assad regime instead of defeating ISIS. Although the US approached Turkey for that role, Turkey could not take the risk to fight ISIS on behalf of the US. Yet the US had other options: interactions between US officials and the PYD-YPG Kurds had begun even before Kobane though its direct aid to the PYD-YPG Kurds during Kobane brought the Kurds to the centre stage in US policymakers’ eyes. This paper questions the main reasons behind how the Syrian Kurds have become a reliable US partner. Relying on data from US parliamentary debates, US newspapers and interviews with US policymakers and approaching this from strategic framing theoretical framework, this paper argues that ISIS, which came to be defined as a global security threat, the Syrian Opposition’s divergent priorities and Turkey’s reluctance have forced the US to approach the PYD-YPG Kurds as ground partners in their battle against ISIS.

Key Words: US Foreign Policy, Syrian Civil War, Strategic Framing, Kobane, Syrian Kurds, ISIS