Kurdish aspirations and the interests of the UK Contents


1.Those who fought against Daesh had a common enemy, but often held different goals for what system of government should replace the rule of the extremists. As the area controlled by Daesh receded, and those contradictions were exposed, new threats of conflict emerged in the Middle East. Kurdish groups’ influence increased as Daesh collapsed, and tensions with regional states—wary of Kurdish aspirations—rose. Past victories risked causing future wars.

2.Our inquiry began in October 2017, when it was clear that regional tensions were threatening to widen the conflict. Armed confrontations had occurred between the forces of the Iraqi Kurds—who had voted a month earlier for independence—and those of the federal government, who re-took most of the territory that the Kurds had taken or saved from Daesh. Our inquiry concluded in January 2018, after Turkey began a military operation against Kurdish-led forces that had—largely owing to the war against Daesh—come to control more than a quarter of Syria. These tensions have pitted some of the UK’s leading allies against Daesh against one another. They have caused new suffering for the people of the region, whose severe humanitarian situation the UK has worked with partners to relieve. And they have given another cause for fighting in a region whose instability threatens the UK through a proliferation of weapons and violent ideologies. The UK’s interests are at stake.

3.The evidence given to us was clear: future conflicts were probable, and Kurdish groups would likely be involved. Given the risk of further fighting, and knowing that Kurdish elements have been given military support by the UK during the war against Daesh in Iraq and Syria, this inquiry1 asked the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to explain: its policies towards Kurdish groups in those countries, how it understood their aspirations, and what the consequences of the UK’s support or opposition would be. We thank all those who participated,2 including witnesses who provided written and oral evidence.3

1 Foreign Affairs Committee, ‘Kurdish aspirations and the interests of the UK—terms of reference’, accessed 6 February 2018

2 The Committee appointed Dr Zeynep Kaya and Mr Robert Lowe, both from the Middle East Centre of the London School of Economics and Political Science, as Specialist Advisers to this inquiry. They had no relevant interests to declare.

3 Foreign Affairs Committee, ‘Kurdish aspirations and the interests of the UK—publications’, accessed 6 February 2018

9 February 2018