US-Kurdish Relations

America’s consideration of the Kurdish question dates back to World War I, when President Woodrow Wilson and the Allied Nations supported the idea of an independent state for Kurds after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The Kurds were given a small homeland when the Treaty of Sevres, which broke up the Ottoman Empire, was signed on August 10th 1920. However, when the Treaty of Lausanne, which redrew the borders of Turkey, was signed in 1923, this small homeland ceased to exist. Thus began the long history of US-Kurdish relations.

Throughout the 20th century, the United States has alternated between supporting and ignoring the Kurds. While the United States supported Kurdish guerilla factions in an attempt to overthrow Iraq’s Ba’ath party in the 1970’s, it abruptly broke off relations in the early 1980’s, which eventually led to Saddam Hussein’s brutal repression of the Kurds during the An-Anfal campaign. (source)

No Fly Zone Over Iraqi Kurdistan

When the Americans launched Operation Desert Storm, and the First Gulf War in 1990, the United States used the opportunity to impose a no-fly zone over Iraqi Kurdistan, preventing further Kurdish repression by Saddam. The United States also played a role in establishing the opposition Iraqi National Congress (INC), based in Kurdistan.

President Clinton and the United States helped bring an end to the Kurdish Civil War between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in 1998 by brokering the Washington Agreement, a peace treaty between the KDP and PUK. (source)

Soldiers Play Soccer in Kirkuk Kurds and U.S. During Iraqi Invasion

When the Turks denied the United States passage into Iraq for the Iraqi Invasion of 2003, Iraqi Kurds took the opportunity to help the United States overthrow Saddam, once and for all. The Kurds also turned to American-led airstrikes to help repel the threat of ISIS in 2014. (source)

While the Kurds still lack true independence, the United States has pledged support for Kurdistan in the form of arms and ammunition, as well as USAID to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). (source)