Kurdistan as a Geopolitical Playground

The region often referred to as Kurdistan, split between four areas in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, has long played a role as a conflicted buffer zone between larger states. Within these countries, the Kurdish people have, according to Akin Unver, a professor at Kadir Has University and Cipher Brief expert, “developed multiple political and linguistic identities… a state of fragmentation, which has been amply exploited by adjacent empires in the past.” That age of competition between great eastern empires may be over but, looking at the region today, it would seem that Kurdistan remains cursed to be a geopolitical playground for outside powers.

Driven by competing interests in Iraq’s battle against ISIS and the Syrian civil war, regional, international, and transnational actors have rushed to support or oppose Kurdish groups. Yet two countries stand out for both their proximity to war in Syria and Iraq, as well as strained relations with their own fractious Kurdish populations: Turkey and Iran.

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