Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2021

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Intelligence and Security Studies

First Advisor

Shaio Zerba

Second Advisor

David Rutherford

Third Advisor

Wesley Yates

Relational Format



The Kurdish people in the Middle East have played a valuable role in furthering U.S. policy interests in the region. The U.S. has aligned itself with various Kurdish groups in a series of strategic partnerships dating back to the early 1970s, yet has never considered the Kurdish nation an ally. As such, the U.S. has reneged on multiple different pacts with the Kurds and opened the door for state-sponsored conflict against a supposed ally, despite mutual interests between both groups. This thesis aimed to assign a formal role to the Kurds within U.S. foreign policy, and to analyze the function of the Kurdish minority in U.S. policy decisions in the Middle East. A historical process tracing model was utilized to sequence a history of numerous U.S.-Kurdish partnerships into careful description and analysis, namely to identify the relationship foundations and causal mechanisms driving the connection between both groups. Despite numerous different partnerships that proved beneficial to both groups, this thesis has found that the U.S. has in fact benefited from existing Kurdish vulnerability and the continuation of the Kurdish struggle in the Middle East. The ongoing Kurdish struggle has positioned the Kurds as valuable strategic partnerships in multiple different conflicts in the Middle East. Furthermore, this thesis finds that despite the U.S.-Kurdish connection, Kurdish policy goals aim to upset the greatest U.S. interest in the region, which is to secure state stability and ensure regional security. There exists an inverse relationship between Middle Eastern state stability and Kurdish influence and control in the region. Because of this, the Kurds find themselves in opposition to long-term U.S. policy interests in the Middle East, even though they have contributed multiple times to the defense and security of short-term U.S. goals in the region.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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